Best Video Game Design Colleges

by TBS Staff

Updated September 26, 2022

reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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Best Colleges for Video Game Design

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
  • Drafting
  • Gameplay mechanics
  • Graphic design
  • Programming
  • Sketching
  • Storyline development
  • Writing

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.

Best Online Video Game Design Programs

The Best Online Video Game Design Schools

#1

Savannah College of Art and Design

School Information
Location Savannah, Georgia
Admission Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 70%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Georgia, Savannah College of Art and Design hosts a top-ranked master's in game design program. The MA in interactive design and game development program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. A master's degree helps candidates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in game design. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. Applicants with prior experience in game design or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their area. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Savannah College of Art and Design at a Glance:

Type of school: Private not-for-profit, four-year

Admission Rate: 96%

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Program name: MA in interactive design and game development

Graduate Tuition In State: $38,475

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $38,475

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#2

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

School Information
Location Worcester, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 49%
Graduation Rate 89%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online MFA in game design at Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers high academic quality. The program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for decision-making responsibilities. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum examines advanced theories and practices in game design. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. Applicants who majored in game design or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees work with the program to find internship opportunities in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute at a Glance:

Type of school: Private not-for-profit, four-year

Admission Rate: 49%

Total Online Master's Programs: 11

Program name: Master of fine arts in interactive media and game design

Graduate Tuition In State: $28,188

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $28,188

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#3

American University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

American University, located in Washington, enrolls master's students in its online game design program. The master of arts in game design program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. A master's degree can also prepare candidates for opportunities in new fields.

The master's curriculum emphasizes current research in game design. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. The master's program recommends a background in game design or a related field when applying.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with internship opportunities in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

American University at a Glance:

Type of school: Private not-for-profit, four-year

Admission Rate: 36%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program name: Master of arts in game design

Graduate Tuition In State: $30,351

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $30,351

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#4

DePaul University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in earning a master's in game design can pursue their degree from DePaul University, located in Chicago. The MFA in game design program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. A master's degree also helps candidates pursue new career paths.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in game design.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

DePaul University at a Glance:

Type of school: Private not-for-profit, four-year

Admission Rate: 68%

Total Online Master's Programs: 14

Program name: Master of fine arts in game design

Graduate Tuition In State: $19,584

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $19,584

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Best Video Game Design School Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

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.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

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.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

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.

Undergraduate Certificate in Game Design

Numerous schools offer some variation of this type of certificate program; these programs provide quick, entry-level qualification for potential game designers.

Associate of Arts in Game Development

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.

Bachelor of Arts in Game Design

A common type of game design program, the program approaches game design from a basis in the humanities, merging art and storytelling with programming.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Arts

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.

Bachelor of Science in Comparative Media Studies with a Games and Interactive Media Cluster

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.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with emphasis in Game 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.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design

This program takes the BFA one step further, allowing for an in-depth study of the creative and artistic processes present in game design.

Master of Science in Computer Science with emphasis 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.

Master of Science in Mobile Gaming

This program allows students to focus specifically on game design for mobile platforms and the casual gaming market.

Doctor of Philosophy in Media and Information Studies

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
  • Algebra
  • Algorithms
  • Art history and appreciation
  • Calculus
  • Color theory
  • Computer and gaming hardware
  • Computer graphics
  • Computer programming languages, including C++ and Java
  • Drawing
  • Gaming culture, attitudes, and history
  • Game mechanics
  • Geometry
  • Interactive media
  • Modeling
  • Media studies
  • Operating systems
  • Physics
  • Storytelling
  • Trigonometry

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
  • Producer
  • Software engineer
  • Software project manager
  • User interface designer
  • Video game system designer
  • Writer

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

How Do You Become a Game Designer?

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.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Video Game Designer?

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.

Can I Be a Game Designer if I Can't Draw?

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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