Video Games have become part of the fabric of modern society, both socially and economically. According to Statista, in 2017 the revenue of the Video Game industry in the U.S. was $18.4 billion. This is a dramatic increase since 2013, when video game sales were $6 billion for the year. It’s a large industry to say the least, and it’s still growing. (See our interview with Jeremy Snead, director of the documentary film Video Games: The Movie). This is a ranking of the 57 Best Video Game Design Colleges in the United States.
Video game designers and developers are in very high demand, and higher education is striving to meet this demand as universities increasingly offer video game programs at undergraduate and graduate levels.
For more Video Game Design and Game Art rankings:
1. 10 Best Video Game Colleges Online
2. 10 Best Game Design Programs at Christian Colleges
3. 15 Best Animation and Graphic Design Colleges Online
57 Best Video Game Design Colleges
1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
The University of Southern California, (USC), has a long and illustrious connection to the entertainment industry. Its proximity to Hollywood is why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has always nominated at least one alumni every year since its creation in 1929. This, in conjunction with the fact that USC is the oldest west coast university, boasts an impressive $3.9 billion endowment, over 41,000 students, and is located in one of the world’s cultural epicenters, gives USC significant resources.
But it takes more than just a great university with much history and prestigious sister programs to build a successful, specialized program. A school also needs substantial offerings in the targeted area. USC offers 2 Bachelor and 2 Master’s level programs dedicated to Interactive Media and Game Design. Students focusing on design and production can pursue the Interactive Media & Games degrees through the school of Cinematic Arts, while those more concerned with the technical aspects of game development should choose the Computer Science (Games) degrees through the Viterbi School of Engineering.
USC also offers several official video game design minors. Students have the unique opportunity to network with peers at any other level within these programs. This makes the hands on experience and project development more than just class work, it is also a chance for team building and developing leadership skills.
2. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
There is a reason why major game design companies like EA Sports call Salt Lake City home. The University of Utah’s Video Game Design program combines art orientated students and more technically minded ones in a program that simulates how actual video game design functions. Their students have access to a variety of valuable internship opportunities, and leave with experience similar to typical startup companies.
This is part of the reason why the Princeton Review ranked their undergraduate program 1st and their graduate program 2nd in game design. Undergraduate students average $72,000 annual incomes while their graduate kin start at an even more impressive $97,000. The school runs a highly respected summer program for high school students, and takes the time to interview every promising applicant. This is why the student body comes from such a wide range of nations, with students from India, Russia, China, Mexico, and Indonesia.
3. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
The Interactive Entertainment Academy at the University of Central Florida is part of the school’s Center for Emerging Media. Entry into the Academy is more competitive in comparison to other creative media programs. Students are expected to have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a minimum score of 300 on the GRE, a 3.0 GPA, and a portfolio that showcases their game development talent. Once selected for entry into the Academy, there are three major academic tracks from which to select: Art, Production, or Programming.
With a small 8:1 student to faculty ratio, students may expect a more personalized class experience and a project based gaming education. The Academy has partnered with numerous companies including Microsoft, Disney, Monster Media, and Lockheed Martin, to help form its curriculum. Princeton Review has ranked the Interactive Entertainment Academy as number one in 2016 for the best graduate game design program in the world.
4. Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh, PA)
Carnegie Mellon University has long been known as one of America’s leading science schools. It has in recent years developed the Entertainment Technology Center. This program provides a two year master’s degree in Entertainment Technology offered jointly with the College of Fine Arts and the School of Computer Science, (both of which are top 10 programs in their own respective areas).
Students here have the opportunity to study under industry leaders such as Jess Schell, the first individual to receive the “Game Changer Award”. He is also famous for researching and building games that advance society through everything from helping people discover how proteins fold to teaching kids about HIV. The Entertainment Technology Center also runs a successful summer program for high school students, requires an industry internship, and uses a variety of team based projects to simulate the real world job market.
5. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
DigiPen is more than just another game design program. This school represents just how far the still developing game design industry has come. With substantial support from Nintendo, DigiPen began accepting students in 1994. It is a for-profit degree granting school that exclusively specializes in preparing students to enter the industry as skilled software developers, artists, designers, and computer engineers. The school has branch campuses in Spain, Singapore, and a partnership with Keimyung University in South Korea, in addition to its main campus based just outside of America’s game design hub in Seattle.
DigiPen offers both graduate and undergraduate degrees and runs a substantial k-12 summer program. Students can specialize in subsets of the field, such as real-time interactive simulation, engineering and sound design, digital art and animation, music and sound design, as well as general degrees in general computer science and digital arts. DigiPen has been at the forefront of game design since the dawn age of this commercial field, has spread to several continents, possesses historic ties to arguably the most well-known name in the gaming industry, and has every reason to believe it will continue to grow as the video game industry grows.
6. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
The Savannah College of Art and Design exists somewhere in between the razor sharp focus of DigiPen, which pours all of its attention into digital creativity, and the broad, multidisciplinary approach of major research universities. On the one hand the school has numbers reminiscent of a research university, with over 11,000 students, 23% of which are international, and multiple campuses, (one of which is in Hong Kong).
On the other one hand virtually all of its academic programs are built for budding artists. The school’s interactive design and game development program has been recognized for its achievements by both The Princeton Review and Animation Career Review. It has also won first place two years in a row at the E3 College Game Competition. The program offers both bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, and their master’s level equivalents. In addition to providing their students with first rate courses, Savannah’s Collaborative Learning Center connects students with industry leaders each year.
7. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
Drexel University has over 26,000 students, has been ranked among America’s top 100 universities for five straight years, and has a long history of leading education’s integration of technology. It was the first university to require students to have micro-computers (1983), the first major university to have a fully wireless campus (2000), provided the first mobile web portal for students (2002), and developed the first university portal app across all five major platforms (2011).
This love of cutting edge technology translates well into a competitive video game design program that works in tandem with its computer science and its digital media departments. Drexel students have won numerous awards such as 1st Place in the Microsoft Imagine Cup, the Unity Awards, the GDC’s Narrative Review Competition, and first place in the Adobe Achievement Awards. The school has particular strengths in using games to facilitate learning and even offers a Learning in Game Based Environments Certificate.
8. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
Rochester Institute of Technology is one of the nation’s most well established technical schools and resides in one of America’s premier college towns. It was here that the nation’s first laboratory for social computing was established in 2005, and in 2008 the school opened a campus in Dubai. In addition to its various other departments, Rochester runs its Interactive Games and Multimedia (IGM) department, which is one of the largest of its kind.
This allows the IGM to offer over 150 classes in a given year. IGM is self-consciously seeking world renowned notoriety across its field. Consequently, it offers multiple degrees specifically in Game Design and Development. It helps run programs such as the Global Game Jam, which both invites students to develop their skill set and helps them network with others in the industry, and the image cup Hack a Thon. The Princeton Review has ranked Rochester’s IGM as a top 10 video game design program for four straight years.
9. Hampshire College (Amherst, MA)
Students studying video game design at Hampshire College have arguably the coolest library in the world. Yes, that’s right. Hampshire College runs a Game Lab and Game Library with access to more games than someone can realistically play, contemporary commercial video game systems, experimental systems, (such as Oculus Rift equipped with dev kit 2), historic systems, (like Atari), and all the surround sound and lighting any gamer could ever want.
The school also runs a massive, private computer at the Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility. Hampshire College also benefits from its location. Amherst is considered by many to be the best college town in America. Hampshire is surrounded by other world class universities, think tanks, and institutions, which exponentially expand the opportunities for its students. Aside from these unique resources which give students an advantage over the competition Hampshire also runs game development workshops and programs for women in game design.
10. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)
As its name suggests, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a respected school with a strong representation in the sciences. The school’s insatiable appetite for applied learning has produced 33 research centers and counting. Their Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program specializes in video game related activities, and is divided into two branches. The first branch leads to a Bachelor of Science in games and simulation arts.
This program takes a holistic approach in order to give students the wide skill set they need in such an interdisciplinary field. The second branch consists of several different concentrations that students choose from relevant to emerging subfields in the games and simulation/entertainment industry. Students have access to the Sage Labs, which consists of three subsets. These subsets include the games lab, (where students take many of their courses), the games projects space, (where students can develop their own games), and the VAST Studio, (where students develop advanced animations).
11. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
The Worcester Polytechnic Institute is nationally ranked for its Interactive Media and Game Development, (IMGD), program. This program encourages its graduate to build unique portfolios that will be competitive in the career world through project-based learning. Students are also required to interact at all levels of the game design process, including content creation, programming, testing, and project management. The IMGD program offers digital whiteboard presentations, distributed virtual environments, and performance-based media.
Graduates of Polytechnic Institute have landed successful careers with companies such as Infinity Ward, Irrational Games, and Owlchemy Labs. WPI also offers a week long summer program for 6 – 8th grade students teaching the foundations of video game level design, programming concepts, and interactive media. All undergraduates at WPI, including the IMGD program students, must participate in a group based Interactive Qualifying Project. Here students, “address a problem that lies at the intersection of science or technology with social issues and human needs”. One example of an IMGD IQP is the “virtual joust” now used at the Higgins Armory Museum that allows visitors to experience a joust in a Flash-based game through a Nintendo Wii.
12. Parsons The New School for Design (New York, NY)
People outside the video game industry often perceive the business as purely focused on entertainment. Although that remains the driving economic force behind video game creation, Parsons The New School for Design shows students how to use their skill sets in creative ways for humanitarian ends. For instance, Parsons teamed up with the Red Cross through Pet Lab in order to build games that teach people in vulnerable areas about the importance of climate preparation.
They also work side by side with Games for Change, a non-prophet dedicated towards education. Parsons is also especially sensitive to the recent move in games across multiple platforms such as the ipad, iphone, and Android. In addition to these altruistic projects, Parsons also instructs students in all the traditional areas expected by someone working in the field. Student training culminates in a 12 credit project requiring students to solve a problem with game design.
13. Full Sail University (Winter Park, FL)
Full Sail University’s online Bachelor of Science in Game Design can be taken as an online degree, and focuses on four major aspects of the field: production methodologies, project management,team leadership, and a game capstone project. Production methodologies teaches students the nuts and bolts of game design, from computer code to color theory. Project management covers areas of software production, including asset management and quality assurance.
Full Sail’s team leadership material fills a vital role in the budding game designer’s training. All of these tools come together in arguably the most important part of the degree; the senior capstone. Here students unite in team based projects to build their own games from the ground up. Full Sail guides students through a series of 12 consecutive courses, each one 4 weeks long and worth 3.5 credits. This unorthodox calendar immerses students in one aspect of game design at a time as they rapidly build on previous skill sets in a logical sequence.
The online Bachelor of Science in Game Art can also be taken as an online degree, and lasts 29 months. Courses include Model Creation, 3D Foundations, Game Characters, and Game Animation. This program includes seven Career Modules (each Module is worth one credit), that are woven into the classes, that are intended to help students transition from college to their career in Game Art and Game Design. Full Sail also offers career development advisors to help students find employment after graduating.
14. Columbia College Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Columbia College of Chicago has one of the lowest tuitions of any private arts and media schools in the U.S. With over 10,000 students it is also one of the largest. And all this is provided in one of America’s most significant centers of commerce and research. The Interactive Arts and Media (IAM) department has three concentrations.
Those wishing to apply their understanding of music to game design can choose the Game Sound Design concentration. Likewise, those interested in the visual can study game art, and finally those looking for a more general background can study general game design. In addition to these tracks, students can choose a separate game programing major. Regardless of the concentration or major, all students become familiar with the foundations of game design, which is why IAM graduates are now working at companies like Dreamation, Jellyvision, RedEye Studios, WMS Industries, and Liquid Generation.
15. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT), opened new doors to exploring the video game world when it created the Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab. This think tank was designed to develop video games as more than toys. Instead, it envisioned a world where video games served as a compliment to books as teaching tools. Today the newly rebuilt MIT Game Lab continues the pioneering work of its forefather.
This game lab serves as the interdisciplinary hub for students interested in game design throughout the university. Whereas other schools are increasingly choosing video game specific tracts, MIT draws on its broad resources as arguably the most respected international science research center. Instead of creating a new department to compete with its world class representations in computer science, mathematics, logic, and visual media, MIT has created an organizing think tank that weaves these many departments and all their interdisciplinary background together, all while unifying their endeavors under a humanitarian goal.
16. New York University Tisch School of the Arts (New York, NY)
New York University (NYU) has become a world renowned institution. It has become arguably the leading school in arguably the world’s most influential city. Its Tisch School of the Arts has fully capitalized on its proximity to Broadway and is now one of the most respected creative centers in the world. Furthermore, it recently opened a video game design degree.
NYU’s approach to the fine arts has always been interdisciplinary and included cutting edge technology. Also, its computer science credentials remain unquestioned as the program operates under the world-famous Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and has considerably expanded its faculty in recent years.
17. Shawnee State University (Portsmouth, OH)
Shawnee State University has the small feel of an elite private school, (its total student population is a mere 4,400), and all the research benefits of being an up and coming public university in one of America’s most rapidly developing states. Perhaps this is why 83 percent of graduates from Shawnee find employment in their chosen field within six months of graduation.
This pragmatic approach translates well into a research driven field like game design that also requires substantial interpersonal team based projects. The approach of their BS in Digital Simulation and Game Design is decidedly technical and heavily emphasizes computer science and programing as its core. Nevertheless, they still incorporate artistic elements into their math, physics, and programing curriculum. Shawnee also offers the closely affiliated Game and Simulation Development Arts degree for those more interested in aesthetic, instead of technical, applications.
18. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
Cornell founded its game design undergraduate program in 2001, making it one of the oldest and the first to be founded by an Ivy League school. Also, their interdisciplinary Game Design Initiative at Cornell, (GDIAC), consists of Cornell’s leading science faculty in various computer science and information sciences as well as art and music. Students from multiple academic disciplines ranging from obvious areas of overlap, like computer science, to more distant ones, like English, take part.
Cornell has put graduates in companies like Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Zynga and studios such as Bungie, Valve, and Irrational Games. It has also been at the forefront of social and mobile gaming, and an increasing number of alumni are branching out into their own startup companies. The school also offers an outreach programs for high school students in the local Ithaca area. Although no formal graduate program currently exists, numerous professors and graduate students all benefit from and work within GDIAC.
19. Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
At Michigan State University (MSU) the department of Computer Science, Fine Arts, and Media and Information combined their resources to create the Game Design and Development Specialization. Oftentimes specializations are just toned down minors or slight variations in a pre-existing major, but not so with MSU’s Game Design Specialization. This is a two year program that requires 9 to 11 credits just to be considered for inclusion. Its alumni now work for companies like Red Storm Entertainment, Microsoft Xbox Team, Rockstar San Diego, Microsoft Casual Games, and Sony Computer Entertainment.
Many schools in the top 52 routinely provide some kind of program for promising high school students interested in game design. MSU, however, goes one step further by providing one week programs for high school students with no previous experience in game design. Unlike other schools which largely use their summer programs as ways to advertise and attract the best talent, MSU has the resources to actively generate new talent by drawing a wider range of potential students. This contribution to the field at large allows the university to build an ever expanding network of interested talent.
20. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
The University of Pennsylvania, (U Penn), is one of the oldest and most respected universities in America. Originally founded by Benjamin Franklyn, this school dominates Philadelphia and holds its own amongst the other Ivy League Schools to this day. In 2004 it launched its Masters in Engineering in Computer Graphics and Game Technology, (CGGT). Unlike most of its competition, U Penn is better known for its graduate than undergraduate programs, however undergrads interested in game design can still benefit from its Digital Media BS.
Applicants to the CGGT program are expected to have a degree in computer science or engineering, and often have substantial experience working in industry. The Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), being founded in 1975, is one of the oldest of its kind in the world, and has made the university a leader in computer graphics and human/behavioral simulation. The center has produced the famous “Jack” software and industry leaders such as Nick Foster of PDI/DreamWorks who produced Shrek, and Cary Philips of Industrial Light and Magic. U Penn also runs the SIG Center for Computer Graphics which has produced alumni working for Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Sony, Activision, and Blue Sky Entertainment.
21. Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media, and Design offers training in game design running from undergraduate minors, through bachelor degrees, and up through graduate certificates and degrees. Their program has both a digital arts and a computer science branch. They also run the Playable Innovative Technologies Lab, (a.k.a. the PLAIT Lab). The research at this lab includes work on various topics such as visual analytics, adaptive lighting, and resource management models.
Northeastern applies this hands on approach to its education system as well. Students are exposed to a co-op program that gets them working alongside industry giants. The university partners with Microsoft Game Studios, Zynga, Tencent Boston, Tapwalk, and SAIC Corporation. Northeastern professor Susan Gold became famous throughout the game design community when she launched the first Global Game Jam. These events bring students from across the world together to develop games based on a common theme. This has evolved into a massive event involving 73 countries and thousands of participants. Northeastern’s creativity thus continues to challenge the game design industry.
22. Oklahoma Christian University (Edmond, OK)
As its name suggests, Oklahoma Christian University is a small, private Christian school with just under 2,200 students. Typically people choose to attend this kind of school for a variety of reasons which go beyond sheer academic efficiency, and sometimes the price for a spiritually enriching, extended family atmosphere is lesser access to expensive equipment and resources. But this Christian school’s academics have not suffered.
Instead, Oklahoma Christian University has been recognized by both the Princeton Review and PC Gamer for its considerable reputation within the video game design field, and students have access to an advanced MAC Lab with a plethora of programs necessary for success in the industry. Oklahoma offers both BFAs in Graphic Design and MFAs in New Media. Students compliment the study of essentials like 3d modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, and game production with the history of film and other artistic mediums.
23. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
Most elite video game design programs offer bachelor and master’s degrees, although some only focus on undergraduates, and a few do not provide an official degree in game design. That is why the Georgia Institute of Technology’s PhDs and fellowships are so unique and exciting for the game design industry. By offering such high level research opportunities Georgia Institute of Technology is positioning itself for academic prestige and successful entrapenship.
The school does much of its game related research through the Experimental Game Lab and the Synesthetic Game Lab. It also runs several research centers relevant to game design such as the GVU Center. The school also provides Games and Georgia Tech Corporate Travel Grants. These grants enable students to attend conferences and business opportunities the world over. Georgia has created an educational model that allows those interested in game design access to all the traditional perks available to traditional research programs, and is a testament to how rapidly this field has grown.
24. Cleveland Institute of Art (Cleveland, OH)
The Cleveland Institute of Art, (CIA), is a small, specialized school of 525 students. It recognizes the need for creative expression to embrace the endless possibilities offered by the information age. Consequently, the school has created a game design degree and set about building the infrastructure necessary to foster creativity in this rapidly developing field.
This is why the school converted a vast, former FORD auto assembly factory into its game design headquarters. Now students at CIA have access to an entire game editing suite, a sound editing and recording studio, a green-screen chroma Key studio, not one but two lighting and shooting areas, and a fully stocked game room. But CIA has more than just fancy equipment to play with. It also has some of the top minds in the business, which is why it has been recognized by Animation Career Review.
25. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (Lakewood, CO)
Located at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design was founded in 1963 as a school for the arts. RMCAD offers both campus and online degrees, with the online programs offering degrees in Bachelor’s and Master’s. Degree majors include Game Art, 3-D Animation, Art Education, Fashion Design, and Illustration.
The online Bachelor’s in Game Art consists of 120 credit hours, which, when looked at overall, offers students a well-rounded education through a liberal arts background with an analytic basis. The 51 core credits required for the degree include instruction in 3-D Computer Animation Motion Studies, Game Animation + Motion Capture, Character + Level Design, Lighting and Texture, and Game Shader Development. Standard video game software is used as the basic educational tool. Instructors encourage creativity and innovation.
26. Champlain College (Burlington, VT)
Over the last century education has taken a very academic, book based approach. Under this system students are first exposed to the theoretical underpinnings of their field before they actively take part in advancing it. Most colleges now require students to complete their core, liberal arts classes before they begin studying their major. But at Champlain College the self-consciously “upside down” curriculum gets students studying what they are most passionate about from the first day of class, and this is all the more important for an applied field like video game design.
Here students learn about varied aspects of game design, including systems design, level design, narrative design, game engine design, and studio collaboration. In addition to their successful undergraduate program, Champlain also offers a prestigious master’s degree that focuses on filling a student’s portfolio with substantial projects, and offers many study abroad programs in places like Dublin or Montreal. The school also offers its annual senior show which allows students to showcase their work before an audience well attended by industry leaders.
27. Becker College (Worcester, MA)
Students at Becker College interested in game design can earn a degree in Interactive Media Design. This degree has two distinct concentrations; Game Development and Programming and Game Design. In April 2011, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts designated Becker as the home of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI).
This statewide institute is a productive think tank at the cross section between industry, academy, and government that fully taps into Masseschuest’s favorable location as the 4th largest video game cluster in the U.S. Internship opportunities abound, which is part of the reason why alumni are found in everyone from industry to the Danforth Museum. These resources also give students access to a high performance computer lab, a six camera video motion capture system, 3D design software, and a growing number of additional, advanced technologies. Students leave Becker fully equipped to hunt for careers in the exponentially growing game design field.
28. University of Michigan–Dearborn (Dearborn, MI)
The University of Michigan in Dearborn was founded in 1959 with a gift of over 200 acres of land and a $6.5 million donation from Ford Motor Company. Presently located two miles from Ford Motor Company, U of M Dearborn is a public university that offers 78 Bachelor’s, 33 Master’s, and 4 Doctoral/Specialist degrees. U of M Dearborn is one of two satellite campuses of the University of Michigan.
U of M’s Extended Learning & Outreach branch offers the Graduate Certificate in Game Design on campus and online. For admittance to the Certificate program, students must have an overall G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher in a Bachelor’s degree of Engineering or Computer Science. The Certificate consists of 12 credit hours, and is designed to provide theoretical and real world instruction in programming video games. Core classes include game programming methods. The Certificate’s electives classes are designed to strengthen student’s software engineering and computer science abilities that are relevant to video game programming. For admittance into the program, a student has to already be enrolled in a degree program at the University of Michigan. If not already enrolled at U of M, applicants must apply as non-degree seeking.
29. Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, FL)
Founded in 1931, Ringling College of Art and Design is the oldest private, not-for-profit arts school in the southeastern United States, and the only one of its kind in Florida. Students here enjoy the benefits of a well-developed institution that has had time to mature and also sits in the Sun Coast, one of the most enjoyable tropical climates in the country.
Ringling has a particularly adept gamming art program. The school has been recognized for its successful animation multiple times. In 2013 Ringling students won gold and bronze in the student academy awards, and Ringling alumni were a part of the Oscar winning Frozen animation team. This eclectic arts school turned digital approach also offers its students ample training in all the traditional, technical areas that game designers need such as audio and programing. The school also offers multiple summer art programs and courses for a variety of students.
Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world. Liberty offers many online degrees: 77 undergraduate, 147 graduate, 3 post Master’s, and 20 Doctorates. The Bachelor of Science in Information Technology offers a concentration in Game Design. The course consists of 120 credits, and 30 hours of upper-level courses is required. Classes include instruction in C# Programming, Digital Imaging, and 3-D Graphics.
The online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio and Digital Arts: Graphic Design teaches an overview of art history, and focuses on digital art in particular. This online degree includes instruction in the fundamentals of design, animation, publication design, vector illustration, and typography. Students applying to this program must submit a portfolio for admittance. The degree consists of 120 total hours, which includes 30 hours of upper level courses (50% of these must be taken through Liberty). At least 30 hours must be taken at Liberty (online or on campus, or both). Getting a degree in Graphic Design prepares students for an opportunity to work in the artistic side of video game development.
31. University of Denver (Denver, CO)
Located in the scenic Rocky Mountain region, the University of Denver was established in 1864, making it the oldest independent private institution of higher education in the area. The University is comprised of eight academic schools and colleges which offer more than 100 undergrad programs and over 120 graduate or professional degrees. There are approximately 5,600 undergraduate students and 6,100 graduate students taking advantage of the many opportunities available.
The largest and most diverse unit at the school is the Division of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The more than 70 undergraduate or graduate degrees available through the Division include the Emergent Digital Practices program and the Media, Film and Journalism Studies.
Video Game development is under the Bachelor of Arts in Emergent Digital Practices. This degree requires a total of 60 credits for completion, which includes an eight credit Capstone Course at the end. Students enrolled in this program are required to have a minor, second major, or dual-degree in another discipline. Courses include Game Design: Paper to Digital, Making Critical Games, Making Educational Games, Data Visualization, and Advanced Video Art.
32. Southern New Hampshire University (Hooksett, NH)
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is quickly becoming a leader in online education, with a variety of Certificate through Master’s degrees being offered. 60,000 students are currently enrolled. SNHU is a private, nonprofit school.
SNHU’s Online Bachelor of Art in Game Art and Development degree can be taken online. It is 120 credits, with 30 of those being free course electives. Courses include Basic Design and Color Theory, Illustration, 3D Character Animation, and 3D Art and Design. Students will use Photoshop, In Design, Illustrator, and 3DS Max. Students learn art and design for console web, PC, and mobile game platforms.
The Online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development degree can also be taken online. The course is also 120 credits, with 18 of those being free electives. Specific courses for the major include: Digital Graphic Design for the Web, Cyber Security, Graphics Game Engine, Fundamentals of Information Technology, and Artificial Intelligence. This program teaches video game development, game theory, and e-collaboration across the relevant commercial platforms.
The Online Bachelor of Science in Information Technologies – Game Design and Development degree is also taken online. Combining IT education with game development, students will learn game theory, marketing, design, and other skills across game platforms. 120 credits are required, with 6 free electives. Courses include: Interactive Animation, Cyberlaw and Ethics, Website Design, and Database Design.
Tuition at SNHU is some of the lowest in the US.
Online Game Design Degrees: Click to Request More Information
1. Online Bachelor of Art in Game Art and Development
2. Online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development
3. Online Bachelor of Science in Information Technologies – Game Design and Development
33. University of California (Irvine, CA)
The history of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science began in 1968. As a small department within the University of California the curriculum gradually grew until 2002 when the department became California’s first computer science school. There are currently three departments, Computer Science, Informatics, and Statistics, which offer a total of eight majors.
The Bachelor’s of Science major in Computer Game Science includes classes such as Introduction to Film and Visual Analysis, Computer Games and Society, Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science, and Game Technologies and Interactive Media. With nearly 30 electives to choose from, students may specialize in subjects including mobile games, software design, and world building. Before graduation students must complete a two-quarter capstone course which requires a team effort in designing and implementing a new game from the ground up under the supervision of game designers from the local industry.
34. University of Texas (Austin, TX)
At the University of Texas the Game and Mobile Media Applications Program is a conglomerate certificate program combining the expertise and curriculum points from the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies, the College of Fine Arts, the Computer Science Department, and the Radio-Television-Film Department. Students will gain comprehensive background knowledge from experienced professors and leaders in the field. The degree finishes with a cumulative Capstone Course which assimilates students from all disciplines for a team project. Students must work together to develop a new 2D or 3D game or new mobile app.
The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas was also the first trial program in America led and taught by gaming industry executives Warren Spector and Paul Sams.
35. George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)
Computer Game Design at George Mason University is offered as a Bachelor’s or a Master’s of Arts. For admittance to either program, students are required to submit a portfolio which will be reviewed by faculty. At the undergraduate level, the Computer Game Design degree requires a total of 120 credits including 40 credits for Core courses, 53-54 credits for Major courses, a minimum of 12 credits for Digital Medial Electives, six to eight credits of Visual Art electives, and six to nine credits for General Electives.
The Master’s level required an additional 36 credit hours for graduation including 22 credits for Core courses, nine credits for Electives, and five credits for the Comprehensive Experience. Internships are necessary for both degrees. The curriculum for the Computer Game Design programs has been modeled after the International Game Developers Association’s most recent ‘Curriculum Framework’ for the Study of Games and Game Development.
36. Miami University (Oxford, OH)
Hosting one of the oldest media programs in the United States, Miami University has been home to the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies since 1996. There are a number of programs available for the 300 enrolled students to choose from including a Graduate Certificate in Interactive Media Studies and a Masters in Fine Arts in Experience Design. These are offered in partnership with the Graphic Design department.
There are four focus areas of the Institute: Digital Innovation Centers, Center for Research in User Experience, Game and Learning Lab, and Virtual Reality/John Smale Visualization Lab and Center. The Huge Immersive Virtural Environment, or HIVE, at Miami University is the largest space devoted to a virtual reality system in the world. It features a state-of-the-art position tracking system and over 1,000 m2 of tracking space in which users can walk freely while wearing a head-mounted display.
37. University of California (Santa Cruz, CA)
A small film studies program began at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1973. As the program expanded it gradually initiated further degree tracks, including its M.A./Ph.D. Program in Film and Media Studies in 2005. Shortly afterwards, the program was renamed as the Department of Film and Media Studies. With an enrollment of over 400 undergraduate students, the Department offers class topics such as Race and Gender in Cyberculture,Postcolonial Media Theory,Black Film Criticism, and Hollywood: Anatomy of an Industry.
At the graduate level, the curriculum requires a set of six core courses together with eleven (or five for the Ph.D.-only) supplemental/elective courses. Both undergraduate and graduate courses are designed to be interdisciplinary and international in scope. Departmental affiliations include the Center for Black Studies Research, the Program Director of Race and Technology Initiative, and the Carsey-Wolf Center.
38. The Art Institute Online (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
The Art Institute Online consists of 50 art schools located across the U.S. The Bachelor of Science in Game Art and Design program includes Design Fundamentals, Image Manipulation, Digital Story Telling, Game Modeling, and Game Design and Game Play. 55 courses and 180 credits are required for graduation. Students are given instruction in developing their portfolio and developing their own games.
The certificate program in 3-D Modeling for Games is another option at The AIO. Having an Associate’s degree is a prerequisite, and 13 courses for 39 credits are required for graduation. Courses include Game Modeling, Life Drawing and Gesture, Hard Surface and Organic Modeling, and Environmental Modeling. This certificate is a good option for people who are looking for a professional advancement. The Career Services department at The Art Institute helps students find employment after graduation.
39. DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
DePaul University manages the College of Computing and Digital Media which is comprised of three schools: Cinematic Arts, Computing, and Design. For students interested in new technology, designing and embedding games, or studying social practices, the School of Design is the right choice. There are three undergraduate programs offered, a Bachelor of Science in Game Design, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, or a Bachelor of Science in Interactive and Social Media.
Graduate students have four degree tracks to select from including: MA in Digital Communication and Media Arts, MS in Experience Design, MFA in Game Design, or an MS in Human-Computer Interaction. At the Doctoral level, only the Human Centered Design track is available at this time. Experienced faculty members include Doris Rusch, Brain Schrank, and Allen Turner. Research and creative activity areas include Animation, Human-Computer Interaction, Screen Writing, and Visual Computing.
40. New York Film Academy (New York City, NY)
Veteran producer Jerry Sherlock founded the New York Film Academy in 1992 on the principle of learning by doing with the intention of giving students the practical experience needed for the work force. Welcoming to all students, no previous experience in programming is required to attend the Academy. The range of visual and performing arts programs for more than 7,000 enrolled students includes Broadcast Journalism, Documentary Film-making, Game Design, 3D Animation and Visual Effects, and Screenwriting.
Game Design is one of eight engaging programs managed by the Visual Arts School. There are four tracks to the Game Design program including: Master of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Associate in Fine Arts, or One-Year Conservatory in Game Design. All of the programs maintain a curriculum immersed in the methodology of Playcentric Design. The school at large also maintains several collaborative efforts with museums and major art institutions to expose young adults to the culture of film-making.
41. Indiana University – Purdue University (Indianapolis, IN)
Recently established in 2014, the Media School at Indiana University is comprised of the much older journalism program, film studies, and telecommunications department. The degree tracks offered through the Media School include a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism or Media and a Bachelor’s of Science in Game Design. Graduate studies are also available.
The Bachelors of Science in Game Design is currently the newest degree offered by the University. Its curriculum is a system based approach to Game Design. Students have the option to complete up to three Media School specializations. However, in place of the concentration students may complete up to 45 credit hours of courses focused on the skills and knowledge required of game designers.
Research Centers and Affiliates of the Media School include the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies, the Institute for Communication Research, the IU Cinema, and the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Association.
42. California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, California)
Established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney, the California Institute of the Arts has been recognized as the first degree-granting institution of its kind in the United States. Focusing specifically on the visual and performing arts, admission to the school is competitive and requires a demonstration of artistic merit on the part of the student. Currently there are nearly 1,500 students in attendance within six major schools of study: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater. The average class size is eight students.
Game Design is currently a non-credit program offered through the Online Extended Studies with Fee-based Certificates available. The five-course series covers: Intro to Game Design, Story and Narrative Development for Video Games, World Design for Video Games, Character Design for Video Games, and a Capstone project Defining the Art and Concept of Your Game.
43. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (Orlando, FL)
Affectionately known as the DAVE school, the Digital Animation and Visual Effects School was co-founded by Jeff and Amy Scheetz. The first full class was held in the year 2000 in a custom built trailer on the back lot of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Today the program offers complete immersion in the art and science of computer animation. No previous computer graphics experience is necessary to apply. There are four major areas of study Visual Effects Production, Game Production Program, Motion Graphics, and Production Programming. Faculty members include Roger Borelli, Alexander Llanos, Tom Bremer, and Jessica Kipikasha.
The 15 month Game Production Certificate Program covers five topics: Digital Modeling and Sculpting, Fundamentals of Computer Animation, Video Game Production, Interaction and Game Systems, and the Final Game Project Development. DAVE school graduates have been hired by companies such as ActiVision, EA, Mindwalk Studios, and Naughty Dog.
44. Academy of Interactive Entertainment (Seattle, WA)
With seven campus locations around the world, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment is a non-profit school founded in 1996. The Seattle campus is located right next to the Space Needle. The Academy is best known as being one of the first colleges in the world to offer specialized training in 3-D animation and video game development. Alumni of the Academy have developed well known games including Fruit Ninja, Bioshock, and Mass Effect.
There are two distinct programs for students to choose from, one specializing in Programming and the other in Game Art. The curriculum is purposefully hands-on in a studio-style setting in order to simulate real world work environments. Students in the Programming track will spend two years in intensive study, while students in the Game Art track will spend one year in general study and will have to choose in their second year between Game Art and Design or 3-D Animation and Visual FX for Film.
45. Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA)
Established in 1929, by artists for artists, Academy of Art University has grown to become the nation’s largest accredited private art university offering degrees, personal enrichment courses, portfolio and teacher grants and high school scholarships in 29 unique programs. Academy of Art University operates at the intersection of life and art by preparing working artists and designers for their futures in a creative environment that is both supportive and challenging.
The School of Game Development offers the Bachelor of Science in Game Programming, which is the first BS degree at the Academy. Students can learn 3D modeling, digital drawing, texturing, and engineering and programming for game creation and design, among other skills. Students can also learn to write code and understand the math that goes into programming game creation.
Academy of Art University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), one of the seven regional associations that accredit public and private colleges and schools in the United States. WSCUC is located at 985 Atlantic Avenue #100, Alameda, CA, 94501. Tel. 510.748.9001.
For information concerning graduation rates, median debt of students who finished the program, and other helpful information, please visit their website.
46. Woodbury University (Burbank, CA)
Woodbury University was founded n 1884. Its exponential growth and progressive outlook, among other factors, gained the school recognition as a National College of Distinction. There are more than 20 practice-based professional and liberal arts undergraduate and graduate majors available. The average class size runs at approximately 15 students.
The School of Media, Culture, and Design at Woodbury offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts Game Art and Design program. There are two concentrations within the major: Game Art or Game Design. Students who study Game Art will focus on 2-D and 3-D character and environmental designs, while students studying Game Design will learn play mechanics, scoring systems, and prototyping.
The Game Art and Design programs received Plan Approval from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design in 2012. Full accreditation is granted after the program has graduated its first class.
47. Bradley University (Peoria, IL)
In 1897 the Bradley Polytechnic Institute was established and after years of growth and expansion the Institute was rededicated as a four-year college in 1920 and was granted University status in 1946.
Through the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts at Bradley, students may register for the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Game Design. This undergraduate curriculum concentration exposes students to topics including gameplay, visual and audio media, and storytelling and conception. Students may also have ample opportunity to participate in team work with other professional programmers and artists.
In addition to the Game Design programs, Bradley also offers an Interactive Media Program which works in conjunction with the Departments of Art, Computer Science, and Theater Arts. Concentrations for this program include Animation and Visual Effects, Game Design, and Web and Application Design.
48. Gnomon School of Visual Effects (Los Angeles, CA)
The Gnomon School of Visual Effects is located in in the heart of Hollywood within the Television Center Studio Lot. Founded in 1997 by Alex Alvarez, the school offers over 100 individual courses for professional enrichment which run 1 – 10 weeks in duration, in addition the the full-time two- and three-year certificate programs.
The Entertainment Design and Digital Production program runs for three years and is targeted towards beginners in the field while the Digital Production for Entertainment program is a shortened two year program for those students at an intermediate level.
Resources available to the students include nine computer labs, two cycloramas, one green screen stage, and one gallery. Alumni include Alberto Abril – Animator for the movie Zootopia, Eric Araujo – Effects Artist for the movie Frozen, and Nathan Boyd – Senor Surfing Artist for Blizzard Entertainment. Faculty members include Illustrator Andrea Adams, Sony Software Engineer Yakov Baytler, and Paramount Pictures Pipeline Technical Director Mike Harris.
49. Laguna College of Art and Design (Laguna Beach, CA)
With accreditation from both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, Laguna College has established itself as an elite institution. Founded in 1961, the school was originally known as the Laguna Beach School of Art. There are currently five undergraduate majors and a graduate department which cover the topics of Drawing and Painting, Illustration, Design and Digital Media, Animation, and Game Art/Art of Game Design.
The Masters of Fine Arts in Art and Game Design offered through the Laguna College of Art and Design is a two year program which requires a total of 60 Units before graduation. Students will be exposed to topics such as Mechanic Based Game Analysis, Prototyping, and Specialized Programming. The curriculum focuses on the processes of both the creation and the development of games.
50. Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Recognized as the oldest institute for higher education specializing in the arts in America, the Maryland Institute College of Art was founded in 1826. Originally known as the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, the school is also known for having the most study abroad programs of any art college in the United States.
Today there are more than 1,800 students in attendance. The various programs include 14 studio majors, 13 studio concentrations, two liberal arts majors, six liberal arts minors, as well as various dual degrees. There are a total of 19 programs which lead to the MFA, MA, MBA, MAT, MPS, and post-baccalaureate certificate.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design introduces students to various topics including 2-D and 3-D Game Design, Fantasy Art, 3-D Environments, and UI Design for Games and Apps.
51. Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY)
At Stony Brook University more than 25,000 students are enrolled within four colleges and nine schools. There are over 200 undergrad programs and 140 grad programs are available. The school was originally known as the State University College on Long Island, but since its founding in 1957 the institution has made tremendous progress
The College of Arts and Sciences was formed in the early 1990’s as a merger between the divisions of Humanities and Fine Arts, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Math, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Today the college is comprised of 26 departments and 15 academic centers. Within the College, the Art department offers two tracks: Art History and Criticism or Studio Art. The undergraduate program in Studio Art offers a Digital Arts Minor which requires 21 credits for completion. Students may select Production Courses and Theory and Culture Courses which cover Computer Game Programming, Design of Computer Games, and Video and Computer Game Culture.
52. Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA)
Established in 1918 by Harrison Grey Otis, the Otis College of Art and Design enrolls more than 1,100 full-time students and employs over 400 expert faculty members. Norman Rockwell was an artist-in-residence at Otis College in the 1940’s and it is said that many of his well-known Saturday Evening Postcovers used other Otis College students as models. The College and its programs have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the WASC College and University Commission.
Of the 11 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees offered, it is the Digital Media track which offers concentrations in Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design. The Animation track focuses on storytelling, character design, and acting using both 2-D animation and 3-D computer-generated imagery. Game Entertainment and Design is for students interested in creating the gameplay, environment, story line, and characters of interactive games, apps, and websites. Finally, Motion Design combines typography, graphics, film making, video, images, and sound to communicate ideas.
53. The Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA)
The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California was founded in 1930 as a private nonprofit institution which has been fully accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. There is a current enrollment of approximately 1,900 students. More than 100 full-time faculty members are a part of providing expert information and curriculum studies for 11 undergraduate degrees and seven graduate degrees.
The Entertainment Design program offers two main tracks of study. The Concept Design concentration focuses on the creative skills required of entertainment industry concept designer, while the Character Animation concentration studies the nuances of designing, modeling and bringing to life appealing characters through 3-D and 2-D animation. Each program requires a total of 144 Units to be completed before graduation.
54. Marist College (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Founded in 1929, the Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, offers 47 Bachelor’s programs, 14 Master’s degrees, and 14 Certificate programs. There are more than 230 full-time faculty members dedicating their expertise to the success of each program. More than 6,000 students are currently in attendance.
When it comes to the study of technology, the Marist College has numerous opportunities including specialized facilities such as the Institute for Data Center Professionals, the New York State Cloud Computing and Analytics Center, and the Institute for Leadership Development. Its Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and Production program offers an Interactive Media and Game Design Concentration. Courses for this track include Media Literacy, Ethics and Gaming, Video Production, and 3-D Modeling and Animation.
In addition to the Bachelor’s degree, Marist offers a summer Pre-College program in Game Design for high school juniors and seniors through an online bridge program. Upon successful completion of the Summer Game Institute, each student will earn three transferable college credits for the Marist College course, Introduction to Gaming.
55. Edinboro University (Edinboro, PA)
Edinboro Academy was established as a private training school for teachers in 1857. The institution steadily grew and gained University status by 1983. Today there are more than 6,500 students in attendance and over 350 faculty members on staff. There are five academic schools which manage a total of 22 departments. Degree tracks include 123 Bachelor’s, 16 Graduate, and 10 Certificate programs.
The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences hosts the Art Department. Majors and Programs offered through the department include Cinema, Graphic and Interactive Design, and Illustration. Students enrolled in the Graphic and Interactive Design track will receive background skill sets and knowledge in the first two years. In their junior years students will have a number of specializations to choose from including motion graphics, branding, or design history and theory. The various programs at the University are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
56. Baker College, (Flint, Michigan)
Baker College is a private school in Flint Michigan. Founded in 1911, offering on campus and online degrees, including Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorates, and Certificates. Industry video game developers give insight and guidance to the curriculum, which is updated regularly. Baker offers the Bachelor of Science in Game Software Development online, focusing on software engineering in gaming development and animation.
Students learn the industry standards that are most current and relevant. This online degree prepares students for entry-level positions upon graduation. Classes include Database Fundamentals, 3-D Character Design, C++ Programming, Principles of Computer Science, Game Scripting. 177 quarter hours are required to graduate.
57. Lawrence Technological University (Southfield, MI)
Though formally founded in 1932 as a private institution by Russell E. Lawrence, the Lawrence Technological University can trace its history back to the brainchild of Henry and Edsel Ford. With the key figures of the industrial revolution as inspiration, the University grew to more than 4,000 students enrolled within four colleges: Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management.
The College of Arts and Sciences has three departments main Humanities/Social Sciences and Communication, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Natural Sciences. Degrees available through the departments range from undergraduate certificate through Graduate certificates and Pre-Professional Programs. Under the Mathematics and Computer Science department there are 12 programs including Game Development, Intelligent Systems, Game Art, and Robotics. Experience faculty members include Dr. Patrick Nelson, Professor Glen Bauer, and Dr. Ghassan Azar.
57 Best Video Game Design Colleges
You may also be interested in our 20 Best App Development Colleges ranking article.
As usual at SuccessfulStudent.org, this ranking is from the student’s point of view. Factors that went into consideration of the ranking were factors that are important to students, such as well rounded academics, cost, career prospects in the gaming industry, cutting edge technological instruction, a track record of graduates making an impact in commercial video games, and proximity to video game and entertainment epicenters. The ranking mostly includes Bachelor’s degrees, but there are some Master’s degrees mentioned as well. In cases where the college offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, both programs were considered. This article has been updated from the previous 27 Best Video Game Colleges 2015.