The Princeton Review recently released its seventh annual report on undergraduate and graduate schools with top programs for studying video game design.
And the University of Utah captured the No. 1 spot on the undergraduate list of schools (up from #2 in 2015). The University of Central Florida took the top place on the graduate schools list (also up from #2 last year).
“It’s the way we teach,” says Robert Kessler, executive director and founder of EAE and professor at the University of Utah’s School of Computing, of the program’s success. “We have artists and engineers working together, learning to think like the other side and relying on each other.”
According to CNN Money and PayScale, video game design is the second “best job” in America, with potential for big growth, great pay and satisfying work. What’s particularly appealing about the profession is that the industry is relatively new, so it’s still a very innovative field open to pioneers and creative minds.
“The opportunity to define a new medium of expression comes along once or twice a century and you get to be a part of that,” said video game designer Warren Spector in an interview with CNN Money.
Formerly assigned to a far corner of the computer science department, game design has emerged as a highly respectable, multidisciplinary course of study. And schools hoping to cash in on the growing market for designers are building glitzy new facilities tricked out with cutting edge technology and equipment.
“Game design is the next great design field,” according to the USC website. “Students emerge as thought leaders, fluent in many forms of media, with the sophistication to design and create innovative experiences that expand the state of interactive art and play.”
The Princeton Review together with PC Gamer Magazine selected schools based on a survey of 150 institutions in the U.S., Canada, and abroad offering video game design programs or courses.
The 40-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics from academic offerings and lab facilities to starting salaries and career achievements.
“For students aspiring to work in game design, the 58 schools that made one or both of our 2016 lists offer extraordinary opportunities to learn and to hone one’s talents for a successful career in this burgeoning field,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Senior VP-Publisher. “The faculties at these schools are outstanding. Their facilities are awesome. And their alumni include legions of the industry’s most prominent game designers, developers, artists, and entrepreneurs.”
Although relatively new, George Mason University has a well-respected local video game design program and has received recognition, along with the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) as a one of the 50 best game design schools and colleges by gamedesigning.org. Using slightly different criteria from that used by Princeton Review, GameDesigning ranks the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Utah as the top programs in the field.
And for the record, the Princeton Review’s top 20 undergraduate schools to study game design for 2016 are:
- University of Utah, UT
- University of Southern California, CA
- Rochester Institute of Technology, NY
- DigiPen Institute of Technology, WA
- Becker College, MA
- The Art Institute of Vancouver, British Columbia
- Hampshire College, MA
- Michigan State University, MI
- Drexel University, PA
- New York University, NY
- The University of Texas at Dallas, TX
- Northeastern University, MA
- Champlain College, VT
- Vancouver Film School, British Columbia
- Bradley University, IL
- Ferris State University, MI
- Lawrence Technological University, MI
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY
- Cogswell College, CA
- Shawnee State University, OH
Keep in mind that like any other “ranking,” this list represents one organization’s opinions and should provide little more than “food for thought” or a starting place for a more thorough investigation of a whole range of video game design programs.
NOTE: George Mason University will be holding Game Design Open Houses on April 9 and April 23, 2016. This could be a great way to learn about game design in general and the George Mason program in specific. Interested students can reserve a space by emailing Mary Bean (firstname.lastname@example.org) or calling 703.993.5734.
Disclosure: Nancy Griesemer is a member of the Princeton Review National College Counselor Advisory Board, 2015-16