Here are 25 of the leading colleges and schools for game design, programming, and management.
1.University of Southern California
If you’re looking for one of the best schools in the field, look no further than a school strategically located right around the corner from Hollywood. The University of Southern California (USC) has strong ties with the entertainment industry and continuously produces outstanding professionals in the field. In fact, at least one alumni from USC is nominated yearly by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ever since the school was opened in 1929.
USC offers students the chance to choose from two different Bachelor’s degrees and two different Master’s degrees in interactive media and game design. There are also several minors offered in video game design. Irrespective of the degree type you choose, students will engage in hands-on work and have the chance to work with and network with peers and professionals in the field.
USC also happens to be the oldest university in the west coast and has a student body of over 41,000. This dynamic university, located right in the hub of one of the biggest cultural epicenters in the world, is an excellent place to pursue game design.
2.Full Sail University
Full Sail University is another leader in the field of game design. The program at this university is centered on four of the major aspects in the field of game design. These include:
Game capstone project
Students can expect to learn all of the fundamentals of game design, computer coding, as well as color theory. They will also be taught the ins and outs of software production as well as quality assurance in games. Furthermore, due to the highly social and interactive nature of game design, students can expect to engage in many different team activities to build these vital skills. The program culminates in a capstone project in which students will work in teams in order to make their very own games.
3.Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
The Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media, and Design offer a number of different degrees in game design including bachelor’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates and degrees. The programs have two different concentrations that students may choose from: the computer science aspect or the digital arts aspect.
The university is also famous for its PLAIT Lab, or the Playable Innovative Technologies Lab, in which research is constantly being carried out on different aspects of game design. This includes resource management, visual analytics, and adaptive lighting.
Students can expect to take a hands-on approach to learning and work collaboratively with their peers as well as professionals in the field. There are also co-op programs available at the school in which students can work with companies such as Zynga, TapWalk, SAIC Corporation, Microsoft Game Studios, and Tencent Boston.
Northeastern also hosts the Global Game Jam which was launched by Susan Gold, a professor at the university. This event brings students together from all over the world to develop games based on common themes.
4.Rochester Institute of Technology
One of the most well-known and respected technical schools in the country is the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Interactive Games and Multimedia (IGM) department is one of the largest departments of its kind and is world renowned. In fact, The Princeton Review has ranked Rochester’s IGM as a top 10 video game design program for four straight years. In a year, the department offers over 150 classes and multiple degree programs in game design and development. It also hosts the Global Game Jam as well as the Imagine Cup Hack-a-Thon!, both of which gives students the opportunity to network and work together in teams to achieve a common goal.
5.Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA)
The Academy of Art University in San Francisco was founded in 1929 and offers one of the first degree programs in game design. Students have the option to enroll in a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Game Development, Visual Effects, or Animation. In these programs, students can expect to learn a variety of things including:
With regards to game development, students can expect to learn all about pre-production and different types of production environments, and different game engineering technologies. There is also an option for students to learn about music production and sound design for visual media.
6.University of Utah
The University of Utah’s Video Game Design program is one of the leading reasons why Salt Lake City is home to so many big name game design companies. The program combines two integral aspects of game design, the arts as well as the more technical side. Their undergraduate program has been ranked number one by the Princeton Review and their master’s degree program has been ranked number two.
Students get the chance to take part in a number of internships which is valuable to them by giving them hands-on experience in the field.
7.Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
Cornell University is a highly respectable institute that began its undergraduate program in game design in 2001. This was the first program of its kind established by an Ivy League. Cornell also has an interdisciplinary Game Design Initiative (GDIAC) which features faculty from a number of different departments including information sciences, computer sciences, music, and art. Students who have graduated from Cornell’s game design program have gone on to work in major companies such as Zynga, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, as well as studios such as Irrational Games, Bungie, and Valve.
8.Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh, PA)
Carnegie Mellon University is widely known as one of the best science schools in America. With the recent founding of its Entertainment Technology Center, the university now offers a two year master’s degree program in entertainment technology. This prestigious degree is offered in conjunction with both the College of Fine Arts and the School of Computer Science, two schools with top 10 programs in their own respective areas.
Throughout the program, students can expect to learn all about entertainment technology including game design, work with leaders in the industry, and build games with collaborative teams. The university also offers a summer program for high school students who may be interested in entertainment technology.
9.Becker College (Worcester, MA)
Becker College offers a degree in Interactive Media Design which is perfect for those individuals interested in game design. There are two concentration options available, Game Design and Game Development and Programming.
As of 2011, Becker College became home to the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), a statewide institute which functions as a think tank between different industries, academy, and the government. The university also offers its students the chance to use some of the best resources and equipment in the profession. These advanced technologies include a high performance computer lab, 3D design software, and a six camera video motion capture system. Therefore, those students who choose Becker will benefit from advanced training and exposure in the field.
Parsons School of Design – The New School (New York, NY)
Parsons is a school which takes a very different and interesting approach to the world of game designing. For most people, the video game industry is driven by entertainment. While that may be true, Parsons introduces its students to a new methodology.
At Parsons, students are encouraged and taught to use their skills in creative and innovative ways to further humanitarian ends. An example of this was when Parsons joined forces with the Red Cross and used Pet Lab as a means to build games which could teach people living in third world countries and vulnerable areas how to be prepared for climate crises. Parsons has also collaborated with Games for Change which is a non-profit organization that promotes education.
Students at Parsons learn all the fundamentals of game design and how to take their knowledge one step further by applying it to altruistic projects.
11.Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
With the creation of the Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) officially began to explore the world of game design. The Lab is a think tank which was intended to develop complex video games which could be seen as more than just entertainment. Its intention was to create video games which could be used as educational tools, to be used alongside books as well as other teaching materials and tools. The new MIT Game Lab, which took the place of the original lab, is considered as an interdisciplinary hub for MIT students who are interested in the world of game design.
The benefit of choosing MIT as the place to study game design is that the university has one of the most internationally renowned science research centers. With its background in computer science, mathematics, visual media, and logic, MIT aims to take a far more technical and holistic approach towards game design. The think tank that it has created serves as a place where students can integrate all of MIT’s resources and academia to produce cutting edge research in the world of game design.
12.DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
The DigiPen Institute of Technology is a university which offers more than just your standard game design degree. To reflect the dynamic nature of the gaming industry, DigiPen receives a great deal of support from leaders in the gaming industry such as Nintendo.
At DigiPen, you enroll in a for-profit degree that is designed to prepare you to enter the gaming industry as a skilled designer, computer engineer, software developer, or artist. DigiPen has campuses in Seattle, Singapore, South Korea, and Spain.
Game design is offered at DigiPen at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students are also given the opportunity to specialize in a specific aspect of the field such as:
13.Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, FL)
The Ringling College of Art and Design is one of the oldest institutions in the southeastern United States. This private, not-for-profit school offers one of the best gaming art programs in the country. The program has been around for many years and has established itself as one of the best in the field. The students from Ringling have also been recognized on numerous occasions for their incredible animations.
To add to their impressive track record of accolades, in 2013 Ringling students were part of the Oscar winning team that created Disney’s Frozen, and they also won gold and bronze at the Student Academy Awards.
In addition to its focus on animation, Ringling also teaches students other essential aspects of game design including audio and programming.
14.Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Woodbury University was established in 1884 as “Woodbury Business College.” The college was originally located in a Los Angeles storefront situated in the city’s historic center. Today, Woodbury University is located on a 22.5-acre campus in Burbank California, with a satellite campus in San Diego. The school is now home to more than 1,500 students, enrolled in over 20 academic programs, throughout four schools.
The School of Media, Culture & Design offers eight popular majors. Among them are BFA programs in Game Art and Design, Animation, Graphic Design, and Filmmaking. The Game Art and Design BFA offers two concentrations – Game Art, which focuses on “character and environmental design and animation,” and Game Design, which focuses on “elements of design such as game conceptualization, play mechanic creation, and prototyping.”
Because Woodbury University is located near many studios, the school offers access to a number of excellent internship opportunities. Students have interned at DreamWorks, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Feature Animation, and Warner Brothers Animation.
15.Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
Michigan State University has created an interdisciplinary specialization in Game Design and Development. This two year program is composed of anywhere between 9 to 11 credits and thoroughly equips students in the essentials of game design and development.
Graduates from this program have gone on to work with well-known companies such as Microsoft, Red Storm Entertainment, Xbox, Sony Computer Entertainment, as well as Rockstar San Diego.
16.University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
The University of Central Florida offers a variety of degrees in video game design including:
Bachelor of Arts
Master of Fine Arts
Master of Arts
Master of Science
The video game program at UCF is multidisciplinary and thorough. In 2011, the Princeton Review and GamePro Media ranked The University of Central Florida’s video game graduate program No. 2 in all of North America.
17.Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
Laguna College has a 94% placement rate and is considered one of the top game design colleges in the country. Students enrolled in the Game Art program will benefit from a program which is both highly collaborative and project based. This is in addition to receiving “a foundation in classical training.” As part of the program, students receive training using state of the art industry software and the program partners with USC’s graduate program, GamePipe.
Students can choose from the following concentrations:
Drawing and painting
The school also offers a master’s of fine arts degree in drawing and painting.
18.New York University Tisch School of the Arts (New York, NY)
The Tisch School of the Arts is one of the leading schools in the field of game design. Located in the heart of New York, this prestigious and world renowned school is situated in a city known for creative expression. As of 2015, the school offers a video game design degree. New York University (NYU) is known for its interdisciplinary approach in the realm of fine arts. Couple that with the cutting edge technology that they have at their disposal and you have a powerhouse of an institution for such a degree.
19.Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
The Savannah College of Art and Design merges together two different approaches to game design. One of those approaches is reminiscent of the sharp, dedicated focus and attention to detail that is found in digital creativity and the other is a broader multidisciplinary approach to the field.
The school has a student body of over 11,000 many of which are international students. Its academic programs are structured in such a way that they cater to budding artists.
Its design and game development program is very interactive and has been recognized by both The Princeton Review and Animation Career Review as being fantastic. At the E3 College Game Competition, Savannah has won two years in a row.
Students can enroll in this program at the undergraduate (Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts) and graduate levels (master’s degree). In addition to offering students fantastic courses in the field, Savannah also makes it a point to connect its students with leaders in the industry.
20.Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
Drexel University has, over the last five years, consistently ranked among the top universities in the United States. Additionally, this school has always been a pioneer when it comes to integrating education with cutting edge technology. In other words, Drexel always seems to be ahead of the curve.
Through its consistent commitment to incorporate technology into its curriculums, Drexel proves that it is an excellent choice for degrees such as game design. Competitive video game designing is something which works best in an environment which is tech-savvy. Drexel does all of this.
Students from Drexel have also won numerous prestigious awards and accolades including winning first place at the Unity Awards, the Adobe Achievement Awards, the Microsoft Imagine Cup, and the GDC’s Narrative Review Competition. Drexel has also in the past used video games to bolster learning. In fact, students can even enroll in Certificate in Learning in Game-Based Environments.
21.Hampshire College (Amherst, MA)
Have you ever heard of a Game Library? Well, if you enroll at Hampshire College, you’ll get to have access to this one of a kind and unbelievably cool library. Hampshire College has an advanced Game Lab as well as Game Library which together house the most comprehensive video game material out there. Here you’ll find all the games, gaming systems (both old and new), as well as new experimental systems such as the new Oculus Rift. You can play and try out all of these games and pieces of equipment in an unbelievable environment fully equipped with surround sound and lighting. Now that sounds like a slice of heaven for video game fans.
Hampshire College also has its very own high-performance computer cluster, which is located at the Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility. In addition, the school offers programs for women in game design as well as game development workshops. Therefore, in terms of great resources and unique opportunities, Hampshire College is the place to be for any video game fan.
22.Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a prestigious school which focuses heavily on the sciences. With a continual commitment to applied learning, this institution has over 33 different research centers and that number continues to grow.
Rensselaer offers a Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program which is focused on all video game related activities. Applicants can choose from two different routes in this degree program. The first route is more holistic in nature and results in a Bachelor of Science degree in games and simulation arts. The second route is more concentrated and allows students to choose a particular area of focus for their degree.
Students will also have access to the Russell Sage Laboratory, which have three sections:
Games lab – This is where students will be taking many of their courses
Games project space – Students can develop their own games here
VAST studio – This is where advanced animations are made
23.Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood California
For aspiring game designers, animators, and visual effects artists, The Gnomon School of Visual Effects offers one of the largest selections of courses to choose from. Students can choose to enroll in over 170 courses at different levels.
These courses are divided into four categories:
Digital on campus
Traditional on campus
Maya Fast Track
Courses can take between 1-3 years to complete.
Students who enroll at this school will benefit from the fact that Gnomon is well respected in the industry and each one of its courses is recognized. The school has a 96% placement rate and has even helped its graduates land positions at Walt Disney Entertainment, Blizzard, Sony Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic, Disney Interactive Media Group, and more.
The faculty members at Gnomon are well respected because they have worked or consulted for industry giants such as DreamWorks, Rock Star Games, Sony Pictures, Digital Domain, Sony Interactive, etc.
24.University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is an Ivy League institute and is one of the oldest and most well-known in the United States. In fact, the school was originally founded by Benjamin Franklin. As of 2004, UPenn offers a Master’s degree in Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT). For those interested in an undergraduate degree in game design, UPenn also offers a Digital Media Bachelor of Science Degree.
Those individuals who apply for the masters degree program at UPenn are expected to have an undergraduate degree in engineering or computer science, as well as ample experience in the field.
At UPenn, students will get to work at The Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS). This center alone has made UPenn a leader in the realm of computer graphics and human and behavioral simulation. The university also has the SIG Center for Computer Graphics. Notable alumni from UPenn have gone on to work at Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Microsoft, Blue Sky Entertainment, Sony, and Activision.
25. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
The Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD) program offered at The Worcester Polytechnic Institute is nationally ranked very high. Students learn through participating in project-based programs. Students are also encouraged to make unique portfolios, which are incredibly useful during job hunting.
Through this program, students are taught distributed virtual environments, digital white board presentations, and performance based media, etc. For all undergraduate students, a mandatory group based project called the Interactive Qualifying Project must be completed. In this project, students must “address a problem that lies at the intersection of science or technology with social issues and human needs”. One such project is the “virtual joust” which is now used at the Higgins Armory Museum that allows visitors to experience a joust in a Flash-based game through Nintendo Wii.
Notable graduates from Worcester Polytechnic have gone on to work at Infinity Ward, Owlchemy Labs, and Irrational Games, etc.