It's not just a world of Battlefield 3, World of Warcraft, and MineCraft anymore. Students can now enroll in a variety of games and gaming programs at schools that could help them come up with some of the newest ideas out there. If you want to pursue a gaming career, consider how some of the college programs in game design, game development, or game programming could be beneficial. According to an August 2012 press release from the Entertainment Software Association, every state in the U.S. now offers at least one college level program in gaming. That comes to more than 380 programs available nationwide, with some 70 programs located in California and another 24 located in Texas. (See: Online Colleges in Texas)
"The expansion of higher education academic programs across the nation reflects the growing importance of our industry to the way Americans live, work, learn and play," said Michael Gallagher, president and CEO at ESA in that press release. "These programs prepare tomorrow's creative and innovative minds for jobs of the future that will continue to revolutionize our entertainment experiences and benefit science, education, health and business."
Let's take a look at some of the institutes and universities offering programs in game design. Offerings may vary from minors all the way up to advanced master's degrees.
10 Colleges for Video Gamers
- Cornell University offers a Minor in Game Design through its Department of Computer Science. The bulk of this minor is made up of Game Design I and Game Design II classes as well as other selective courses, such as the Psychology of Gaming, Human-Computer Interaction or more. The minor is open to those within the Computer Science field, but also to some of those pursuing degrees outside of computer science. A group of students, faculty and others at the school has also formed an organization called The Game Design Initiative at Cornell University, or GDIAC, which features games designed by students each year in their annual showcase.
- Drexel University, located in Philadelphia, offers a number of programs related to game design. The school offers not only a Bachelor of Science in Game Art and Production, but also a Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development as well as a graduate certificate called Learning in Game Based Environments. The school also made the 2012 Top 10 Graduate Schools List put out by The Princeton Review for places to study game design.
- Michigan State University in Lansing offers a Specialization in Game Design and Development. This specialization is available to students following three different degree paths at the school. Students will need to complete a number of prerequisites to be eligible to start the coursework, which features 12 credits or four courses overall: Game Design and Development I, Game Design and Development II, Game Design Studio and Collaborative Game Design.
- North Carolina State University offers an Undergraduate Concentration in Game Development. The concentration is available to students majoring in computer science and has a number of required courses, such as Computer Graphics, Game Design and Development, and others. The school even offers a class schedule all the way from the freshman through senior year laying out the various coursework that needs to be completed each year.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. offers its Bachelor of Science in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences to interested students. The program has two aims: 1) to give students the skills necessary to become leaders in the field and 2) to allow them to pursue a concentration in an area, such as the electronic arts, human computer interaction, and others. The program features 36 credits in the major, 24 credits in the math and sciences, 36 credits in the concentration and two other components requiring credits.
- Rochester Institute of Technology has a School of Interactive Games & Media that offers several gaming programs. These include the Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development, the Master of Science in Game Design and Development as well as the Bachelor of Science in New Media Interactive Development. Requirements for the various programs vary, but potential students can learn more about these and even about the School of Interactive Games and Media itself by heading to the site's home page.
- Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, offers students its Interactive and Game Development Program. The training can be pursued as a concentration through a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts, and is even available through a Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, or via a certificate. Students can also choose to pursue training through a minor. This Georgia-based school has multiple campuses and offers all of its game dev programs online except the Bachelor of Arts. The school also uses Unreal Technology to train its students in gave development.
- University of California Santa Cruz The Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Computer Game Design at the University of California, Santa Cruz begins with a focus on game design from year one. As freshmen, students take Introduction to Game Design; by year two, they are receiving game programming experience. By their final year, they work in a game design studio as part of a team to develop a video game. As a side note, students from California's community colleges can transfer into this program in their junior year; they don't have to be there from year one.
- University of Southern California offers a Minor in Video Game Design and Management. Completion of 24 credits is required to start this minor, but students may also need to complete prerequisites. Classes include Introduction to Game Development, Intermediate Game Development, Game Design Workshop and others. During completion of the minor, students create their own working version of a game.
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers both major and minor interactive media and game development programs for undergraduates and a Master of Science in Interactive Media and Game Development, or IMGD, for graduate students. At the undergraduate level, these programs promote education across disciplines and project-based learning while at the graduate level they offer design at an in-depth level.
Design for the future
According to O*NET Online, operated by the U.S. Department of Labor, video game designers earned median annual wages of $83,410 in 2014. Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the mean annual wages earned by multimedia artists and animators, which includes video game designers, were $69,410, as of May 2014. Of course, there is no way to predict a future salary, but those interested in gaming and game design could find a college education beneficial.
- Multimedia Artists and Animators, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271014.htm
- "Video Game Courses and Degree Programs Hit All-Time High at U.S. Colleges in All 50 States," http://www.theesa.com/article/video-game-courses-degree-programs-hit-time-high-u-s-colleges-50-states/
- Video Game Designers, O*NET Online, 2014. http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1199.11#WagesEmployment