And the University of Southern California captured the No. 1 spot on the undergraduate list of schools (up from #2 in 2016). Southern Methodist University (SMU) took the top place on the graduate schools list (also up from #2 last year).
“USC Games represents an exciting collaboration between the School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games Division and the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science,” explains the USC Games website. “Incorporating elements of design, artistry, production and engineering, USC Games offers an utterly unique educational experience for students, and serves as the launching pad for them to play significant roles in the game design field.”
According to CNN Money and PayScale, video game design is in the top third of “best jobs” in America, with potential for substantial growth, great pay and satisfying work. What’s particularly appealing about the profession is that the industry is relatively new, so it’s still an innovative field open to pioneers and creative minds.
Formerly assigned to a far corner of the computer science department, game design has emerged as a 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.
The Princeton Review 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.
“Game design is an exciting field and programs are springing up in colleges all over the world, said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Editor in Chief. “The top schools on our lists have outstanding faculties and great facilities which will give students the skills and experience they need to pursue a career in this dynamic and burgeoning field.”
Although relatively new, George Mason University has a well-respected game design program in the Washington metropolitan area and has received recognition, along with the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) as among 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, the University of Utah, and DigiPen Institute of Technology as the top three programs in the field.
And for the record, the Princeton Review’s top 25 undergraduate schools to study game design for 2017 are:
- University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
- Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
- University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
- DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
- Becker College (Worcester, MA)
- Hampshire College (Amherst, MA)
- New York University (Brooklyn, NY)
- The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, British Columbia)
- Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
- Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
- Vancouver Film School (Vancouver, British Columbia)
- Bradley University (Peoria, IL)
- Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
- Champlain College (Burlington, VT)
- University of Wisconsin-Stout (Menomonie, WI)
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
- The University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)
- DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
- Abertay University (Dundee, Scotland)
- Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI)
- University of California-Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
- Shawnee State University (Portsmouth, OH)
- Cogswell College (San Jose, CA)
- Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
- Miami University (Oxford, 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 8 and April 22, 2017. 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 (email@example.com) or calling 703.993.5734.