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Game Design Schools

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 by TACP Staff

Game design degrees and programs have been evolving as the industry has demanded more and more specialization. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) found that about 50% of developers say they have had formal education. Furthermore, nearly 3 out of 4 developers have a bachelor’s degree in either computer science or engineering, and most respondents said their formal schooling has helped them get jobs specifically in the video game industry.

This post will explore the various pathways to a career as a game designer if you want to pursue formal education. We’ll examine graduate degrees and certificate programs offered at universities nationwide, as well as online programs. We’ll also discuss various ways that non-traditional learners can take on this challenge without degrees by learning through independent gameplay or research.

What Is Game Design?

The fundamental purpose of game design is to create a compelling experience that provides enjoyment for players. This can be accomplished through many different aspects such as aesthetics, storytelling, rules, mechanics, music, and sound effects. Game designers are responsible for all aspects of designing and developing computer and video games —from concept creation to game testing, graphic design, marketing, and promotions.

Game design is one of the most popular career paths for aspiring developers because it allows them the unique opportunity to be involved in all aspects of game development. With games becoming more expansive and complicated than ever before, there’s never been a better time to take up this creative pursuit.

Game Design Degrees and Programs

The gaming industry is one of the largest, most vibrant, multifaceted, and fastest-growing media industries in the world. As a student of game design, you will receive a well-rounded education in the arts and sciences and experience the entire cycle of game development – from creating concept art, 3D modeling, animation, game programming, and virtual reality experiences. You will develop skills and learn industry practices that prepare you for cutting-edge careers and master the latest software and equipment you will use when you enter the workforce. 

Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design

Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in game design are well-positioned to enter a career in the game industry. A bachelor’s degree in game design provides students with a broad education that will prepare them for studio positions in the interactive gaming industry or careers as independent game designers.

Game design curriculum is designed to encourage students to think critically about the technical aspects of game design, art direction, and audio design. Degree programs will provide students with a solid foundation in the technical skills required to participate in all aspects of game production, as well as an understanding of the artistic and technical aesthetics surrounding games in modern society.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

A bachelor’s degree in computer science is a degree that teaches students the basics of computer science principles, such as how to program in Java or C++. Students also learn about computer systems architecture, information security, and artificial intelligence. It’s a versatile field with many options for future careers from web developer to head of IT to lead game designer.

In the gaming industry, computer science-related degrees are becoming more prevalent thanks to the popularity of video games. For example, video game engines were inspired by software engineering principles, and thus include elements of computer programming such as object-oriented programming (OOP). While the gaming industry has made good use of software engineers and programmers in recent years, degrees in computer science have generally become more valuable.

The 15 Best Game Design Schools in the U.S.

Today’s video games have come a long way since the early days of Space Invaders and Pong. Advancements in design technology over the past few decades has facilitated exponential growth within the industry and brought an experience to the consumer that could hardly be imagined in the days of one-dimensional gaming. Competitive gamers and novices alike seem to have an insatiable thirst for gaming features and content that push the limits of the creative mind. The introduction of mobile devices and consoles, along with improvements in the quality of a visual display, have also fueled explosive growth and consumption across the world.

Our School Rankings

Because of competition and growth within the video game industry, consumers expect innovation from the games they play. Not surprisingly, the video games produced today are more dynamic and feature a more robust design than ever before. As a result, rising video game designers must not only harness their creative ability but also master the increasingly demanding technical requirements of game design. In our rankings below, we provide a list of the nation’s best video game design schools, who are consistently recognized for their high-quality curriculum and rate of graduate success.

1University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA
2University of UtahSalt Lake City, UT
3DigiPen Institute of TechnologyRedmond, WA
4Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester, NY
5Savannah College of Art & DesignSavannah, GA
6Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PA
7Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PA
8Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroy, NY
9Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing, MI
10New York University New York, NY
11Full Sail UniversityWinter Park, FL
12University of Central FloridaOrlando, FL
13Hampshire CollegeAmherst, MA
14Champlain CollegeBurlington, VT
15Parsons School of DesignNew York, NY

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