Game Design Degrees & Courses
The increased number of gaming degrees being awarded parallels the soaring popularity of the multi-billion dollar video game industry. New technologies, increased graphics capabilities, and the proliferation of mobile devices are changing the way we game, creating a new world of career opportunities for creators.
College degrees in video game design focus on three main disciplines - design, art, and programming. Some universities offer certificates and degrees that fit neatly into a single discipline, while others combine two or even all three gaming domains for a more well-rounded education. Your personal interests and career goals will determine which program is right for you. Jump ahead to compare programs or read on for more information on how to choose the best game design degree for you.
Choosing a Game Design Degree
These are the key factors you should consider when picking a college degree program in video game design:
Curriculum -- the tools, techniques and technologies you will learn over the course of the program -- is the most important factor when choosing a game design degree. Look for a curriculum that covers as many of the following topics as possible within your desired role. Remember, it's good to have skills from peripheral game design disciplines as this makes you more versatile and valuable to employers, especially at a small studio where responsibilities overlap.
Here are the classes you should take to become a video game designer, broken down by job role:
Game designers are responsible for crafting the story and rules of a video game. They also create the characters and universe in which the game takes place. A college degree for a game designer should include the following subjects:
- Technical and creative writing inc. storytelling and storyboarding
- Character design using classic archetypes, philosophy and mythology
- World design including the creation of levels, maps and puzzles
- Game mechanics including pacing, conflict resolution & reward systems
- Project management, leadership and effective communication skills
- Coursework in physics and math (especially algebra) will be useful
Game programmers take the elements of a video game and turn them into the actual code that makes it all work. Game programmers (aka game developers) should pursue a curriculum with the following courses:
- Mobile app development using Java or Kotlin (for Android games) & Objective-C or Swift (for iOS games)
- Game engine programming, algorithms, and physics system development
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming
Game artists create the visual elements of a video game, from the way a character looks to a tree waving in the breeze in the background and everything in between. The course curriculum in a game art degree should include:
- Strong foundation in visual arts, 2D drawing and multimedia design
- Graphic design using popular software like Adobe Creative Cloud
- 3D computer animation including modeling and texture design
- Motion-capture shooting, tracking, enhancement and correction
- Exploration of shading, lighting, reflection, mood & atmosphere
Top-Rated Game Design Programs
These courses and college degrees best capture the skills needed to become a professional video game designer.
Bachelor of Arts in Game Art & Development
Students in this specialized bachelor's degree will learn the tools, techniques and programming languages to pursue careers such as video game designer, 3D modeler, game artist and character animator.
- Design Visually-Stunning Characters, Worlds, and Creatures
- Create User Interfaces inc. Game Menus & Heads-Up Displays
- Computer Animation, Image Capture, and 3D Modeling
- Visual Arts foundation inc. Design and Color Theory
A.A.S. in IT: Programming & Software Development
- Application Development using Java, Objective-C, C# & HTML5
- User-Interface (UI) and User-Experience (UX) Design Training
- Utilize the Adobe Suite to Design Web Graphics & Effects
- Also available as Bachelor's: BS - IT: Programming & Development
Game Development Courses with Certificate
Learn the latest game development skills and platforms including game art and design, game programming, and real-time 3D creation using the marketable Unreal Engine. Online game development courses from CG Spectrum feature expert mentorship, flexible scheduling, small class sizes, and a certificate to validate your skills to employers.
- Beginner through Advanced Courses in Game Design & Programming
- Use Unreal Engine to Produce Stunning 3D Characters and Worlds
- Game Art Essentials inc. 3D Modeling in Maya & Substance Painter
- Mentorship from Accomplished Gaming Industry Veterans
- Unreal Academic Partner and Authorized Training Center
What college degree do you need for game design?
Though not always mandatory, most game design roles require a bachelor’s degree. Desirable majors for game designers include computer science, game design, game development, software engineering, and computer programming.
How long does it take to become a game designer?
A bachelor’s degree in game design or development typically takes four years to complete as a full time student. Some game design schools offer accelerated online programs that can be completed in as little as 2.5 years.