The Top 20 Colleges And Graduate Schools For Studying Game Design In 2017
Mention “video games” and people’s minds tend to conjure different images. Some may picture a chubby teen, lazily slung across a couch, mashing his fingers into a controller amidst greasy pizza boxes and empty Mountain Dew cans. Other people may imagine a digital world of mysterious alternate realities to explore, like a film with which you can interact. Some folks might think of multi-colored puzzles played on their phones that they turn to in spare moments.
Another image that might come to mind is a giant pile of money, perpetually growing. It’s an appropriate picture: though different figures have been bandied about, the global video game industry brings in revenue of roughly $100 billion, give or take a few.
With that sobering reality in mind, we looked at the most recent report from The Princeton Review on the best colleges and graduate schools at which to learn game design. We wrapped the top-20 best undergrad programs up into a slideshow, which you can view below. The list of top-20 graduate programs is listed further down in this article.
“USC is a usual suspect on both the graduate and the undergraduate lists,” says David Soto, Director of Content Development at the Princeton Review. “Their grads are making about $64,000 upon graduation; all students have a plan to develop a game after graduation. They’ve got some really great faculty among game design schools—60% of their faculty have either worked for a game design studio or started a game design studio, so I think there’s a lot of great practical experience there.”
Applying game design techniques to cinematic arts and animation – as well as being located in the vast entertainment and tech hub of Los Angeles – is also a boon to USC students in the space. To date, 172 different gaming studios have hired students from the school’s program, says Soto.
Topping the graduate program list this year is Southern Methodist University, in Plano, Texas. “Almost 90% of the grads have a job lined up upon graduation,” explained Soto. “Those grads make, on average, $65,000 upon graduation. They have 270 game design studios that have hired students after graduation.” Also, 93% of Southern Meth’s game program faculty has practical experience in the industry, he added.
Sign up here to get top career advice delivered straight to your inbox every week.
The Princeton Review’s Top Game Design Graduate Programs For 2017
1. Southern Methodist University (SMU) (Plano, TX)
2. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
3. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
4. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
5. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
6. New York University (Brooklyn, NY)
7. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
8. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
9. Abertay University (Dundee, Scotland)
10. DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
11. Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
12. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
13. University of California—Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
14. The University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)
15. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
16. American University (Washington, DC)
17. Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)
18. Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT)
19. The Ohio State University—Columbus (Columbus, OH)
20. University of Wisconsin-Stout (Menomonie, WI)
A lot has been discussed regarding gender makeup in the realm of tech. Game design shares those issues of imbalance. “Traditionally you think of game design as a very male-dominated and male oriented field,” says Soto. “The numbers seem to bear that out. What we did see is that in some schools it seems to be evening out and there seems to be more women entering game design education.”
Some schools with a positive trend in this category include American University (#16 on the graduate program list) which boasts a program that is 67% female. At Michigan State’s program (#11), 60% are female, as is the case at the University of Miami. Women make up 50% of the program at Texas A&M. A positive result, to be sure, for those institutions, but those are the only four schools on The Princeton’s Review’s game design lists that have at least 50% female enrollment. “But I think that trend will continue to tick upward for females within game design,” says Soto.
In putting together its ranking of game design programs– its eighth annual such list to date – The Princeton Review evaluated the various programs as it does any other, taking various factors into account. Says Soto: “One is the academics of it—the type of course offerings that they offer, the breadth of course offerings that they offer, whether the student can get a full degree concentration within game design. The research opportunities—we ask both the students and the faculty whether there is funded research in game design.”
Other factors include quality of faculty. For instance, how many on staff have actually worked in the game design industry. There’s also emphasis on technologies used within each program – i.e. virtual reality or other state of the art tools – as well as whether students are able to find jobs once they graduate and how many game studios visit campuses to recruit talent. “Pixar, Disney, Google, EA, Ubisoft—any big game design firm that you can think of is likely recruiting at a top game design school,” says Soto.