We use our proprietary methodology to produce these rankings. Learn more →

Top Game Design Colleges in California - Bachelor's Degrees

Top Game Design Colleges in California
Top Game Design Colleges in California - Bachelor's Degrees
Rank School Location
1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, California
2 New York Film Academy Burbank, California
3 University of California-Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, California
4 California State University-Chico Chico, California
5 University of California-Irvine Irvine, California
6 Los Angeles Film School Hollywood, California
7 Woodbury University Burbank, California
8 Academy of Art University San Francisco, California

We have researched the top game design colleges in California for bachelor's degrees. This research guide is designed and intended for prospective students, parents, high school or career guidance counselors, or anyone looking to get a bachelor's degree in Game Design in the sunshine state.

California is home to many professional companies in the gaming industry. These include Naughty Dog, Riot Games, and PlayStation Studios, Mythical Games, MobilityWare, Electronic Arts (EA), and many others. This means that there are potentially more career opportunities than in many other states in the U.S. for graduates who want to work in the gaming industry.

California offers many online and on-campus bachelor's degrees for students who want to study game design and game art.

Research and ranking methodology:

To create this ranking we used data from the National Center of Education Statistics, and the academic influence in publications related to Game Design. For more information, see our Ranking Page.

Top Game Design Colleges in California - Bachelor's Degrees


University of Southern California

School of Cinematic Arts

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

USC is a leading university in many subjects, including Game Design and Game Art.

The USC School of Cinematic offers game design programs through their Interactive Media & Games Division.

Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Art
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Development and Interactive Design

Both degrees require 128 units (56 units within the major).

The BFA in Game Art teaches game industry skills and proficiencies, with a foundation in liberal arts. Concentrations can include:

  • Character Animation
  • 3-D pipelines
  • Environmental Design
  • Interactive Animation
  • Visual Effects

Required Courses include:

  • 3D Modeling for Games
  • Digital Media Workshop
  • Game Design Workshop
  • Intermediate Character Animation for Games

The BFA in Game Development and Interactive Design teaches students a liberal arts foundation with industry-specific technical skills.

Required courses include:

  • Game Development Fundamentals
  • Advanced Games Crew
  • Game Design Workshop
  • Business and Management of Games

Master's degrees:

  • Master of Arts in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts, Games and Health)
  • Master of Science in Game Design and Development
  • Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media & Games
  • Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media (Games and Health)

In addition to these degrees, USC offers these undergrad Minors:

  • Game Animation
  • Game User Research
  • Game Design
  • Game Audio
  • Game Studies
  • Game Entrepreneurism

Students have the unique opportunity to network with peers at any 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.


New York Film Academy

Burbank, California

New York Film Academy

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus offers three programs in game design:

  • Associate of Fine Arts in Game Design
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design
  • Master of Fine Arts in Game Design

Students in the Associate's in Game Design learn programming, story development, game analysis, and programming while creating original games for their game portfolio.

The BFA in Game Design teaches industry-relevant skills in storytelling, art, design, technology, and includes business instruction of the gaming industry.

The MFA in Game Design uses project-based learning, where students learn business, ethics, history, and develop a playable game during each semester, which can build their portfolio.


University of California-Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California

University of California Santa Cruz

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 and was soon renamed as the Department of Film and Media Studies. Available degrees include:

  • BA in Art and Design: Games and Playable Media
  • BS or MS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design
  • BA, MFA, or PhD in Film and Digital Media

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 and the Program Director of Race and Technology Initiative.


California State University-Chico

Chico, California

California State University Chico

California State Chico offers the undergraduate Computer Animation and Game Development program. As the name implies, this program focuses on game animation and game development. This includes learning 3D modeling.

Students collaborate with other students in groups to understand game design processes and produce games.

This also includes learning how to create games for mobile platforms. A minor in Video Game Design is also an option.


University of California-Irvine

Irvine, California

University of California Irvine

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science began in 1968. In 2002 it became California's first Computer Science school.

This program is offered through the Department of Informatics.

The Bachelor's of Science in Game Design and Interactive Media includes classes such as:

  • Games Entrepreneurship
  • Data Analytics for Games and Interactive Media
  • Capstone Game Project I
  • Storytelling for Interactive Media

Students learn these industry-relevant game design skills:

  • world-building
  • game studies
  • game programming
  • game design and development

The large number of electives available help the students to be able to tailor their education to their interests and career goals, and build their portfolio how they want.

According to the university's website, there are opportunities to access to game design-relevant industries, including:

  • Age of Learning
  • Blizzard
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney
  • Electronic Arts
  • Obsidian Entertainment
  • Riot
  • Tencent

Los Angeles Film School

Hollywood, California

Los Angeles Film School

Los Angeles Film School offers the Bachelor of Science in Animation - Game Art concentration.

Credits: 120

Time to completion: 36 months (3 years)

This program teaches students a hand-on approach to the art of game creation, which includes creating characters and the environments in the worlds that make up the game settings.

Courses include:

  • Environment Art
  • Portfolio Preparation
  • Technical Game Arts
  • Art Creation for Games
  • Contemporary Art
  • Lighting and Rendering

Students interested in working in the artistic side of the game industry should consider this program.


Woodbury University

Burbank, California

Woodbury University

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 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.


Academy of Art University

San Francisco, California

Academy of Art University

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.

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 3-D 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.

Career Information for Game Designers:

Game Designers earn an average salary of $95,298 per year, according to Indeed.com.

Game Designers at the low end of the average salary distribution earn approximately $62,000, whereas the designers at the high end of the average salary range earn approximately $146,000 per year.

The highest paying city in California for game designers is Redlands, according to the salary information gathered by Indeed.com, at $250,000 per year, with 9 salaries reported.

More resources:

Rankings by state: