Best Schools for Video Game Design 2021
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With an online degree in video game design, you can participate in the growing international industry.
E-sports — professional competitive gaming for titles and prizes — draw huge crowds, and even televised coverage, at large events all over the world.
With a large variety of degree and non-degree programs available at video game design colleges and universities of all sizes, potential game designers of all backgrounds can bring their passion for creative arts to the program that fits their needs and interests, qualifying them for a variety of careers in the field.
A Bachelor of Science in Game Design degree can provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to start designing games professionally, but so can a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, or a Master of Science degree.
With such a wide variety of options for study, including online Game Design degrees, and so many ways to enter and specialize in a rewarding career in the video game industry, potential students have a difficult task figuring out where to begin. Our list of the 50 best video game design schools in the U.S. makes the task easier. The list includes programs that fit the individual needs of everyone.
What Do Video Game Designers Do?
In short, video game designers make ideas come to life. They work with other designers to flesh out the concept of a game, draft it, identify how it should play and what demographics it fits, and get their company to give the “go-ahead” on it. As an inherently interdisciplinary career, game designers must be creative, adaptable, and able to comfortably occupy several roles at once. The job includes:
- Artistic development
- Character development
- Concept development
- Control interface design
- Gameplay mechanics
- Graphic design
- Storyline development
Working with a team composed of members with various specializations, video game designers develop a game from top to bottom, start to finish, program to package.
Featured Online Video Game Design Programs
The Best Online Video Game Design Schools
UT Dallas offers a bachelor of arts, technology, and emerging communication with animation and games concentration. The program introduces students to game design and development through its games research lab, critical studies, and innovative research applications. The school also hosts talks and panels from major industry players for networking opportunities.
The 120-credit program offers coursework in animation, project management, digital audio, and computer animation. A senior seminar or capstone project completes the degree.
UT Dallas automatically admits first-year Texas applicants who graduate in the top 10% of their class from an accredited Texas high school and reach minimum SAT/ACT scores. Transfer students may apply credit to coursework.
Taught through its Media School, IU's bachelor of science in game design looks at gaming through a social systems lens. The program emphasizes the creative connection that happens when designers combine the art of storytelling with cutting-edge animation and media platforms.
The curriculum includes a three-semester intensive where students develop and publish an original game. Students may select from six tracks and concentrations, including art, programming, sound, and games and the mind.
First-time students must submit official transcripts (3.6 minimum GPA) and show an ACT composite score of 27 or an SAT combined score of 1280. Transfer students must submit transcripts from previously attended institutions (minimum 2.3 GPA for Indiana residents, minimum 2.5 GPA for nonresidents).
Taught through MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences, the serious game design and research graduate certificate offers a fully online or in-class hybrid curriculum. For undergraduates, the school also offers a bachelor's with a concentration in game and interactive media design and a minor in game design and development.
The master's certificate program gives designers, teachers, and other professionals insight into game theories, design, and development. Studies include foundations of serious games, theories of games and interaction design, and understanding users.
Certificate applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and apply as graduate certificate students. The program is available to students enrolled in an MSU graduate program and as a stand-alone, three-course graduate certificate program.
UCI's bachelor of science in game design and interactive media prepares students as innovative designers, developers, and industry leaders of games. Internationally recognized faculty and experts teach programming, visual design, and interactive storytelling. The Silicon Beach location provides access to industry partners including Electronic Arts, Disney, Tencent, and the Cartoon Network.
Coursework includes multiplayer game systems, modeling and world-building, algorithms, and human-computer interactions. In-state first-year applicants must submit high school transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA minimum (3.4 out-of-state) and complete A-G course minimum. California transfer applicants must earn a 2.4 GPA in transferrable coursework (2.8 out-of-state).
ATU offers a bachelor of fine arts in game and interactive media design accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The program introduces students to the latest in visual communication arts interactive digital technology sciences.
Studies focus on game development, design theory, digital art, and animation techniques. It also covers general education courses in English, math, and social sciences.
First-year students must submit high school transcripts (2.0 GPA minimum) and ACT (minimum 19 composite) or SAT (minimum 1010 composite) scores. Transfer submission requirements include transcripts from previously attended institutions (2.0 GPA minimum).
The bachelor of fine arts in game design and development offered through UW-Stout teaches core skills in art and design, such as drawing, 3D modeling, and animation. Students learn about concept art, characters, and level design.
Required classes for the 120-credit program come from the game design core (games design and development), studio requirements (drawing and graphic design), and studio "selectives" (art and design coursework).
First-year applicants must submit official high school transcripts. Transfer applicants must submit transcripts from high school and previously attended institutions (2.0 minimum GPA). Test scores are optional.
DU's bachelor of science in computer science-game development targets those interested in careers as game developers and students who want to pursue graduate work in computer science or a related digital media field.
The program requires computer science and mathematics courses, with additional credits in game development (computer animation and multimedia storytelling) and media arts.
Submission requirements for first-year students include official high-school transcripts and either SAT/ACT scores or a 250-500-word essay. Transfer applicants must submit high school and previously attended college transcripts. SAT/ACT scores may also be required.
SCAD offers a bachelor of arts in digital media with a concentration in interactive design. In addition to learning from experienced faculty, students have access to AR/VR labs, game showcases, and competitions.
The 180-credit BA degree requirements include foundation and general education coursework and the concentration (including game art, interactive design, and digital design aesthetics). SCAD also offers internships.
First-time applicants must submit official high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores. Transfer applicant requirements include official transcripts from previously attended institutes. All applicants must submit portfolios.
Northeastern offers a 120-credit bachelor of fine arts in game design that teaches students to communicate ideas through interactive media. The degree explores games as an aesthetic form through critical analysis and creative practice.
Students learn a wide variety of genres and contexts and are encouraged to think up innovative new approaches to game content. The program groups courses into game studies, design, development, aesthetics, and critical play. Graduation also requires a game design capstone.
Submission materials for first-year applicants include high school transcripts and teacher/counselor recommendations. Transfer applicants must submit high school and college transcripts and an academic evaluation. College courses with a 2.0 GPA or higher might be considered for transfer credit. Portfolio submissions are highly encouraged.
SAU's bachelor of fine arts in game, animation, and simulation teaches students to apply technical and theoretical skills to problem-solving with open source and software applications.
In addition to general education requirements, the 121-credit program's core curriculum includes studies in game design management, physics of animation, concept art, and virtual reality.
First-year applicants must be high school graduates with a 2.0 minimum GPA and ACT scores of 16 or higher. Transfer applicants must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. Official transcripts are required.
Embry-Riddle's Prescott branch offers a bachelor of science in simulation science, games, and animation. The program focuses on mathematical algorithms and technologies underlying aviation simulators, computer-aided design systems, and animation software.
Requirements for the minimum 124-credit program include game design workshops, graphics processing, social science/psychology, and world-building. Additionally, students undergo hands-on lab work to gain proficiency in computer languages.
Applicants must submit official transcripts or GED scores from previously attended institutions. Recommendation letters, standardized test scores, and resumes are optional for both.
The WPI bachelor of science in interactive and media game development covers engagement apps and computer-based game development. Students may concentrate in game studies, digital painting, audio arts, and the social impact of games topics.
Coursework focuses on math and engineering, game development and design, interactive experiences, and cultural narratives. Additional classes target artificial intelligence, computer networks, and operating systems.
Submission requirements for first-year applicants include high school transcripts and recommendation letters from school counselors and teachers. Transfer applicants must submit official high school and college transcripts and a recommendation letter.
Chico State offers a bachelor of science in computer animation and game development that prepares students in animation production, game scripting, virtual reality, and photogrammetry. The program also offers a master's fast-track offering both BS and MS degrees in five years.
In addition to general education pathway requirements, classes for the 120-credit degree include digital texturing, computer graphics programming, internet media design, and digital audio. Students may select additional options in animation production or game development.
First-time applicants must submit high school transcripts (2.5 minimum GPA). Requirements for transfer applicants vary based on status (upper- or lower-division).
DSU offers a bachelor of science in computer game design that builds communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Graduates come away with knowledge in programming languages, 3D modeling, 2D graphics, and an ability to craft effective player experiences.
Required classes include computer design, project development, game programming tools, and world-building. Students may also select an emphasis in game art, narrative design, or software development.
All applicants must submit transcripts. First-year applicants need to show either a minimum 2.6 high school GPA, ACT 18, or SAT 950. Transfer applicants must have a cumulative college GPA of 2.0 or higher.
American University's master of arts in game design helps students stretch their capabilities as designers, developers, and game administrators. Award-winning faculty share real-world experiences, training participants in game design theory and multi-disciplinary development.
The 36-credit program goes beyond traditional design, instructing students how to build educationally based games and play. Courses include rhetoric, design, 3D static modeling, and 3D animation. Other coursework covers tools and techniques and research methods.
Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Required submission materials include a statement of purpose, transcripts, recommendation letters, and a resume.
The bachelor of science in computer game design and development at KSU equips students with the skills to apply computing and software engineering techniques to digital media production and design. Studies build on expertise in hardware and software to create immersive multimedia systems.
The program consists of general education and lower-division major requirements and major courses. Classes include computer graphics, software testing, digital media and interaction, and casual game development. Students may select from seven different tracks, including simulations-informatics, creative content, and a custom option.
KSU requires a high school diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must submit transcripts with a minimum GPA of 2.0.
UNO's bachelor of science in computer science, game programming concentration teaches introductory knowledge of 2D and 3D game programming, resource management, design concepts, and general graphics theory.
Required courses focus on computer graphics and game programming. Electives include artificial intelligence, robot algorithms, video game design, and human-computer interaction.
For assured admission, first-year applicants must submit an official high school transcript showing a 3.0 minimum GPA, a minimum 20 ACT or SAT equivalent, and rank 50th percentile in their graduating class. Transfer applicants must submit college transcripts with a 2.0 minimum GPA.
St. Andrews offers a bachelor of arts major in visual performing arts with a concentration in game art and design. Concepts include creating advanced character models, multiple layer textures, lighting, and animation.
Coursework includes character rigging and animation, textures, and level development. Graduation requires both a portfolio and a demo reel.
First-year applicants must submit official high school transcripts, but no minimum GPA or test scores are required. Transfer applicants must submit transcripts from previously attended institutions with a 2.0 minimum GPA. Up to 90 credits may be transferred.
The bachelor of fine arts in game art offered through Ringling College emphasizes visual art for computer and virtual reality games. Participants learn artistic techniques and game design mechanics with the ultimate goal of "hyper marketability."
Ringling College gives students the opportunity for real-world experience through its Collaboratory Commitment. Undergrads can pair with local businesses to develop innovative approaches to design and branding and understand the entire creative process. Students must also prepare thesis projects during the program's final year.
Admission requirements include official transcripts (2.0 minimum GPA), recommendation letters, and portfolios.
HPU's bachelor of arts in game and interactive media design teaches theoretical concepts and understanding game design principles while applying best practices to game development. Students graduate with a completed portfolio.
Studies for the 128-credit program include communication, media law, and game culture, development, criticism, and theory.
Application requirements for first-year students include an official high school transcript, recommendation letter, and school report form. Transfer applicants must submit official transcripts from previously attended institutions (2.5 minimum GPA) and a transfer essay. Up to 90 credits may be applied to the degree.
Taught through its Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, DU's bachelor of arts in game development prepares students to be modern game designers. Students learn computer science foundations while building skills as creative artists.
Studies blend general classes with electives and game-specific coursework, such as 3D modeling, game programming, and a two-semester capstone.
Submission requirements for first-year students include official high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. While no minimum GPA is specified, successful candidates show a 3.6-4.0 GPA range. ACT and SAT scores average 1280 and 29, respectively. Transfer students must submit transcripts from previously attended institutions (3.0 GPA or higher).
Webster's bachelor of arts in games and game design emphasizes preparation for "serious games." Studies blend game design principles with hands-on tools and techniques for creating levels and modules.
Coursework ranges from conceptualizing different gameplay experiences to building multilevel games. The program also covers professional ethics and cultural understanding, preparing students for the global marketplace. Topics include interactive digital media, screenplay writing, VR, and simulation.
Webster favors applicants showing a minimum 3.0 cumulative in the top 50th class percentile and minimum test scores of ACT 21 or SAT 1000. Admission also requires recommendation letters, a school/community activities resume, and an essay. Transfer student submission requirements include official transcripts from previously attended institutions and a minimum 2.5 GPA.
The bachelor of science in game design offered through Fitchburg State develops independent thinkers with robust problem-solving skills. Students learn to create powerful, thought-provoking games with solid mechanics, aesthetics, and engaging stories.
The curriculum consists of liberal arts and game design, programming, writing, and art classes. The player-focused program also teaches participants how to manage time, resources, and people and testing, iterating, and collaboration. A capstone requirement may be met by game study or internships.
First-year applicants must submit official high school transcripts (3.0 minimum GPA) and essays. Optional materials include letters of recommendation, a resume, and ACT/SAT scores. Transfer applicant requirements include official college transcripts (2.0 minimum GPA). Up to 90 credits may be applied to the degree.
DePaul's bachelor of science in game design prepares students to become storytellers, critical thinkers, and leaders in the gaming industry.
The curriculum focuses on game, animation, and liberal arts studies. Classes include game design and development, design and modeling, games literacy, and sound design. Graduation requires a complete portfolio.
First-year applicants must submit official transcripts or GED equivalent and a common application school report from a high school counselor. Transfer applicant submission requirements include official transcripts from previously attended institutions. Standardized tests are optional.
Taught through its Multimedia and Interactive Technology program, SVC's game, app, and web development certificate trains students to create stunning visuals for games and world-building.
The 44-credit program includes studies in video game development, web design, and training in Adobe Creative Suite apps, such as Animate and Dreamweaver.
First-time applicants must demonstrate proof of high school graduation and attend an advising session before registration. Interested transfer applicants should contact the admissions staff for additional information.
Best Video Game Design School Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.
Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.
While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.
Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.
Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
About Our Ranking Factors
Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.
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Video Game Designer Education Requirements
According to Sokanu.com, professional video game designers most commonly hold Bachelor degrees in Game Design. While a variety of degrees at different levels and with specific focuses can prepare students for careers as video game designers, students should make sure the program they select provides a well-rounded foundation that incorporates concepts and coursework from a variety of fields.
Types of Video Game Design Programs
With so many programs available, students have the flexibility of earning a wide variety of educational qualifications, with everything from undergraduate certificates, to full-blown Ph.D. programs, which meet different personal interests and needs.
Numerous schools offer some variation of this type of certificate program; these programs provide quick, entry-level qualification for potential game designers.
A common, two-year game design program, an AA in game development prepares students in a short timespan to enter careers in game design, and later pursue Bachelor degrees.
A common type of game design program, the program approaches game design from a basis in the humanities, merging art and storytelling with programming.
The program provides an aesthetic and artistic basis for game design, treating the field as an intersection of art, culture, and computer science. The program focuses on the cultivation of the creative process in students.
The program provides a critical approach to games in a new media context, examining the theory of games in a cultural context, beyond just their design.
A common bachelor degree for game design, the program provides a well-rounded approach to game design with a heavy foundation in computer science.
This program takes the BFA one step further, allowing for an in-depth study of the creative and artistic processes present in game design.
Another common game design program, and the next logical step after a BS, this type of program maintains a computer science focus as the basis for game design, but with graduate-level depth and specificity.
This program allows students to focus specifically on game design for mobile platforms and the casual gaming market.
The program allows students to take game design, theory, and criticism to the highest academic level, even opening the possibility for them to become professional academics of video game studies.
Subjects Video Game Design Programs Cover
Video game design requires an interdisciplinary approach. Video game design programs, at any level, cover a variety of subjects, including:
- 2-D and 3-D animation
- Aesthetic theory
- Art history and appreciation
- Color theory
- Computer and gaming hardware
- Computer graphics
- Computer programming languages, including C++ and Java
- Gaming culture, attitudes, and history
- Game mechanics
- Interactive media
- Media studies
- Operating systems
Video Game Design Salary
According to PayScale, as of October 2021, the median yearly salary in the US for video game designers is $66,362. Entry-level video game designers make about $55,963, and experienced designers make about $98,639.
Video Game Designer Careers
Video game design programs prepare students to pursue general or specialized video game design careers, including:
- Artificial intelligence programmer
- Audio engineer
- Character designer
- Creative director
- Environment designer
- Game animator
- Game artist
- Game designer
- Game programmer
- Game tester
- Software engineer
- Software project manager
- User interface designer
- Video game system designer
Video Game Designer Job Outlook
The BLS does not offer specific data about video game design, but it does project that special effects artists and animators — many of whom work in game development — could see a 16% growth in job opportunities between 2020-2030. That's much higher than the average for all occupations in the U.S.
Header Image Credit: luza studios | Getty Images
Frequently Asked Questions About Video Game Design Careers
Earnign a degree in video game design and pursuing and internship is a great way to get started. Many video game designers also start by playing video games competitively.
Narrative sense, game theory, and collaborative communication are all key skills for a video game designer. Depending on what role you pursue — like coder, writer, or graphic artist — you will also need specialized, role-specific skills.
Yes. There are plenty of roles in game design that do not require drawing abilities, such as coding, writing, or project management positions.
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