Our 2015 list of the Top 50 Game Design/Development School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, California (top 5% of schools considered)
Established in 1880, the University of Southern California is home to 43,000 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors across 18 colleges and schools. USC Games offers four degree programs and four minors for aspiring game designers through the School of Cinematic Arts and Viterbi School of Engineering. School of Cinematic Arts degrees include a BA in Interactive Entertainment and an MFA in Interactive Media. Viterbi School of Engineering degrees include a BS in Computer Science (Games) and an MS in Computer Science with a Specialization in Game Development. Minors include Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Design, and Game Entrepreneurism.
USC Games also produces Demo Day. According to USC, Demo Day is "the final showcase for USC Games’ joint advanced games class, a year long capstone project that brings together students from the Interactive Media & Games program, the Computer Science Games program, the Art and Music Schools, Animation program and more."
2. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (top 5% of schools considered)
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) was founded in 1900. It is home nearly 13,000 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across seven colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts-Integrative Design, Arts and Technology Network (IDeATe), and the School of Computer Science-Computer Science Department offer a Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) with a Concentration in Game Design. IDeATe Collaborative Studios include Game Engine Programming offered by the Robotics Institute, Research Issues in Game Development offered by the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at CMU, and Programming for Game Designers—also offered by the ETC.
A Minor in IDeATe and a Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) are also on the menu. The MET is “jointly conferred by the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.”
3. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1885 as Mechanics Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is home to 18,063 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Urban Community Studies. The B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development. A Minor is also on the menu.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1861, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is home to 11,319 students enrolled in more than 100 majors and minors across five schools including the School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences (HASS), MIT Sloan School of Management, and the School of Science. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also home to the MIT Game Lab, the MIT Education Arcade, and the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.
Together, the labs offer the opportunity to study, design, and develop games as a supplement to several degree programs. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster,” an MS with a Specialization in Games, and a Minor in CMS. These programs are available through the HASS Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.
5. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1850, the University of Utah is home to 31,000 students enrolled in close to 100 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs. The school houses 17 colleges and schools, and close to 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts offer the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). Tracks include Arts, Engineering, Technical Arts, and Production. According to the Studio, “all students in each of the tracks have a series of common classes including Game Design, Rapid Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Final Project.” In addition, students will “develop and enhance a professional game portfolio” and they will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the game industry.
Other offerings include a BA in Film and Media Arts and a BS in Computer Science. Both programs offer an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE). The BA is available through the School of Computing, Department of Film and Media Arts, and the BS is available through the School of Computing.
6. Digipen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington (top 5% of schools considered)
DigiPen Institute of Technology was founded in 1988. It is home to around 1,028 students from all 50 states and 45 countries. Digipen offers 10 graduate and undergraduate programs in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Game Design, a BS in Computer Science and Game Design, a BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation (BS in RTIS), a five-year BS in RTIS/MS in Computer Science, and a Minor in Game Design.
Please note that although the BS in RTIS offers “extensive training in mathematics and physics,” according to DigiPen, students in the program also “work both individually and collaboratively to learn the fundamentals of Game Design, Production, and Programming. Additionally, they write game design documents and technical design documents, learn how to schedule tools and techniques, and participate in the full production of several games.” The Game Design programs at Digipen Institute of Technology are offered through the Department of Game Software Design and Production.
7. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Georgia (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to more than 11,000 students enrolled in 40-plus majors and more than 60 minors. The school has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong, which offer a variety of degree programs for aspiring game designers. SCAD’s School of Digital Media offers a BA, BFA, MA, and MFA in Interactive Design and Game Development. A Minor in Interactive Design and Game Development is also on the menu as well as a Certificate in Interactive Design.
8. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic is a collection of five schools offering more than 145 programs to a population of 7,028 students. The School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) offers a BS in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS). Students may choose a concentration or dual BS degree from the following options: Arts (Electronic Arts), Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Science, Management/Entrepreneurship, Cognitive Science, or Writing for Games.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute also offers several advanced degree programs for aspiring game designers. Graduate offerings include MFA and PhD degrees in Electronic Art (EART). Offered through the Department of Arts, both degree programs allow students to explore areas of interest ranging from Gaming and Animation to Communication Technologies.
9. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California (top 10% of schools considered)
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. It is home to 43,239 students enrolled in more than 125 programs across 12 colleges and schools. The School of Arts and Architecture is home to the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers a BA in Design Media Arts. With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab.
According to UCLA, the Game Lab “supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres.” In addition to producing games and research, the lab “functions as a center that develops public programming around critical issues in gaming, including: public lectures, workshops, exhibitions, a visiting artist program, and an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum.”
10. New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York (top 10% of schools considered)
Tisch School of the Arts was founded in 1965. It is part of New York University (NYU) and home to the NYU Game Center – Department of Game Design. According to Tisch, the Game Center is "a nexus for the New York City game community." It offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BFA, MFA, and a Minor in Game Design. Classes and events take place at the Media and Games Network (MAGNET) at the NYU Brooklyn campus. MAGNET also houses the Game Center Open Library, which is "the largest collection of games held by any university in the world."