Game Design Schools

In the world of video game design, a little bit of imagination and creativity can go a long way. Game design programs introduce students to various computer programs that facilitate the creation of the games we know and love. Using state-of-the-art technologies, drawings and illustrations, game designers bring their ideas to life -- sometimes in ways you'd never expect.

Many game design students choose a specialty or focus within their field, such as 3-D Modeling and Animation, Game Audio, Creative Writing, Japanese Culture, Game Programming, or Art and Design Techniques. In many cases, choosing a specialization and completing the related elective courses can even count toward students' game design degree requirements.

How do you train to become a game designer?

Since the art of game design involves building characters and worlds from the ground up, becoming a game designer requires a certain level of artistic ability and creativity. Those working toward on-campus or online degrees in game design need to learn how to harness those artistic skills to build every aspect of a game. Multimedia artists and animators and software developers typically need at least a bachelor's degree in order to gain employment in the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, it's also common for students to earn an on-campus or online masters in game design or a computer-related field in order to increase job prospects and gain additional experience.

Candidates with a bachelor's degree or master's degree in game design or computer science are not required to be certified. However, they may improve their job prospects by becoming certified in certain computer software programs such as Java or C++. In order to be considered for employment, game designers typically need to build a solid portfolio with evidence of finished games, scenes and levels. Since game design is a technology-based field, there are a variety of opportunities to earn online degrees in game design, in addition to the programs available at brick-and-mortar schools. The Princeton Review publishes rankings of the top undergraduate and graduate game design programs. Among others, that list includes the following schools:

  • Becker College
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Utah
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • New York University
  • De Paul University
  • University of Miami
  • St. Mary's University
  • Hampshire College

Are there financial aid options to help pay for on-campus or online degrees in game design?

Game design students are usually encouraged to apply for student aid through the federal government. They can begin this process by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which determines their eligibility. The types of federal aid that might be available can include:

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
  • Federal Work Study
  • Pell Grants
  • Perkins Loans
  • PLUS Loans for Parents
  • Stafford Loan

Each year, Penny Arcade hands out a $10,000 scholarship to a game design student singled out as having enormous potential. Anyone who is enrolled in an accredited college or university is eligible to apply, and the winner is announced each summer. The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences also offers the Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund and Mark Beaumont Scholarship Fund to students pursuing on-campus or online degrees in game design, as well as other interactive entertainment industries.

Specific schools may offer their students additional opportunities for financial aid or merit-based scholarships, making it important for students to contact their prospective schools for more information.

What is the job outlook for game designers like?

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide specific employment data for video game designers, it does project certain trends in the overall industry. For example, the BLS predicts that employment for multimedia artists and animators and computer programmers will increase 8 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022. According to the BLS, software developers should expect employment to increase 22 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022, mainly due to an overall demand for computer software.

According to state-by-state labor department data aggregated by Projections Central, some states are even expected to see an even more dramatic surge in employment for software developers. The states and territories with the best employment projections through 2020 are:

  • District of Columbia: 45.7%
  • Alabama: 40.9%
  • Virginia: 39.8%
  • Utah: 39.8%
  • Montana: 38.5%
  • Louisiana: 35.3%
  • Washington: 34.4%
  • Puerto Rico: 34.3%
  • South Carolina: 31.1%
  • Indiana: 30.2%

Where can you find more information about on-campus and online game design programs?

Although there aren't any certifications created solely for game designers, some organizations provide the opportunity for collaboration and camaraderie within the industry, and these groups can potentially be helpful when it comes to choosing an educational path. Students interested in learning more should check out the International Game Developer's Association, the Entertainment Software Association, and the Digital Games Research Association. Students can also contact their prospective schools to request additional information about their game design programs.

Sources:

Academy Foundation Scholarships 2014, Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences,
http://www.interactive.org/foundation/scholarships.asp

Multimedia Artists and Animators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm#tab-1

Computer Programmers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm#tab-1

Software Developers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-1

International Game Developers Association, 2014,
http://www.igda.org/

Long Term Data for Software Developers, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

The Penny Arcade Scholarship, Penny-Arcade.com, 2014,
http://penny-arcade.com/scholarship

"Top Game Design Programs," The Princeton Review, 2014,
http://www.princetonreview.com/game-design.aspx