Video Game Design: The Right Choice?
If you find yourself spending a lot of time indoors, controller in hand, interacting with a screen, all the while thinking, “I have a better idea…” — you’re probably a good candidate for a degree in game design. Since traditional, brick-and-mortar schools can be expensive and time-consuming, we’ve compiled a list that rates the best online video game design schools, by value.
A degree from an online video game design school will help you prepare for a career in computer and video game design. It will also help you learn how to use cutting edge software in every stage of the video game design process, from story boards to the ultimate product. Students will develop analytical skills to examine game play and game design and focus on elements of character design, level design, and game concepts. Typically, a bachelor degree in video game design will require eight semesters of coursework, but individual program requirements will vary by school.
A standard curriculum in a video game design program includes classes in which you learn to create high quality visual compositions, to develop interactive media and to create 3D graphics at a professional quality. Software that is used by video game designers, like the Adobe suite of InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Photoshop, is taught in most — probably the vast majority — of game design programs. Major coding languages, visual design principles and software methods are also important components of video game design programs.
You will likely be able to take classes that cover the evolution of electronic games. In such courses, you’ll review the design history of video games, beginning with all-analog machines and carrying through to the powerful console systems in use today. Students will learn about the origins of game design elements such as scoring, risks, rewards, level design, and interface design. There is typically a hands-on element to that include projects to help you understand how the original game design elements still shape the industry and its products.
Math programming for games is also standard fare that is necessary to introduce — or reinforce — 2D geometry principles, as well as applied linear algebra, that are used in video game and interactive simulation design. Such mathematical principles usually include parametric and implicit linear equations and apply linear algebra using a vector class.
One of the primary concepts in learning professional video game design is the design of individual levels. Level — or mapping and environment — design coursework covers the creation of video game levels, in the form of locales, stages, or missions. Students will also discuss player puzzles and strategies to keep players interested in a game by creating levels that are challenging but not overly difficult.
In addition to a marketable degree, another advantage of earning a degree in video game design — as opposed to teaching yourself — is that you’ll be supervised while completing several projects to help you build your portfolio. As you probably have realized by now, a portfolio is instrumental in finding a job in video game design. Most students will be require to create video game modules, as well as a final project that may involve creating a game, from the conceptual stage to completion.
A degree in game design is typically an indicator of strong technical and analytical skills that — obviously — are highly desired in computer and design-related career fields, such as computer programming, video game and graphic design. Computer programmers create, modify, and test coding, forms, and script that enable game applications to run properly. Video game designers may work at various stages of the process, from the early conceptual phases to the production phases. They often specialize in creating story lines, game and role-play mechanics, as well as other areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), places the median annual salary of a computer programmers at more than $70,000; applications developers earned over $85,000 and systems developers have a median income approaching $95,000 per year. Game design is a hybrid of these skills and graphic design — which has a lower median income of around $45,000 per year.
Once again, we’ll borrow from GetEducated.com’s system for ranking degree value, in order to select the schools on the list. We compare the tuition and fees they charge, along with reputation and accreditation. What we ended up with is a list of well-regarded, relatively inexpensive schools that offer online video game design degrees to students across the country (and around the world) at a reasonable cost.
The award for best value of a game design goes to Baker College for its game software development bachelor’s degree program. Baker College’s program is ranked No. 15 on GetEducated.com’s list of the top 29 affordable colleges for computer science programs. Students enrolled in the game software development program at Baker get more for their money than they would at other online colleges and universities that offer the degree. Baker College also offers its online video game design students stellar library and research support, as its library website is an easy-to-use online resource that provides multiple options for searching for books and periodicals. The library also has a forum through which students can ask librarians questions, and which provides a promise of a response within three hours during library hours. Students also have the option of texting librarians or contacting them via the contact page.
Baker College’s online video game design program is “designed to immerse students in the core knowledge of software engineering emphasizing animation and gaming development.” The program focuses on leading programming technologies and is geared toward preparing students for entry level positions in the gaming industry. The program’s comprehensive approach carries students from modeling through animation and game programming and includes a senior design project.
Art Institute of Pittsburgh
In addition to offering a good value in online video game design, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — which is the mot venerable art and design school in the country — also merits high marks for the career support it offers its students while they’re in school, as well as after graduation. College Prowler gives the Institute an “A” for services such as resume critiques, job searches, and interview preparation to its students. The Institute also utilizes webcam technology to give students the opportunity to have career counselors critique their interview skills.
Online schools rely on technology to deliver their course offering, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh ranks near the top when it comes to the tech support it offers its students. With a ranking of No. 8 on College Prowler’s list of top schools for best technology support, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh has gained our notice for being the best game design school for technology support. With strong tech teams that are available for a long window of time each day, the Institute stands out among other game design schools.
Bellevue University (NE)
A contender on a lot of “best” lists when it comes to online degree programs, Bellevue University is no slouch as an online video game design school. By value, it also ranks quite high when stacked up against the competition. One of the reasons Bellevue is highly regarded among online schools is its ability to keep its students engaged in their course work despite the online or distance learning component to the degree program. Bellevue University accomplishes that feat by requiring instructors to provide 10 office hours a week and ensuring that student emails receive a response within 48 hours. Faculty members also track student sign-ins to ensure that they are tackling their assignments. It received a ranking of No. 1 on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of top online bachelor’s degree programs for student engagement and assessment. It is because of this dedication to student engagement that Bellevue University also offers the best learning support for its students, providing live tutoring options for students that need extra help with their classes.
Bellevue University also exceeds its peers when it comes to faculty accessibility. With student-to-teacher ratios of 23-to-1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, class sizes are manageable, which makes it easy for faculty members to stay involved in their students’ education. U.S. News & World Report states that Bellevue professors hold 10 office hours each week and track sign-ins to ensure that students are participating in classes.
Finally, although Bellevue University was little known before its emergence as an online education powerhouse, Bellevue University wants to make sure students get the college credit that they deserve. It is leading the way in recognizing that coursework — online or traditional — is not the only way to learn a skill. Therefore, the school provides a number of opportunities for students to earn credit in addition to taking classes. Students can transfer credits, earn credits for real-world or life experience, get credit for military training and take advantage of credit by examination opportunities.
Academy of Art University (CA)
As the largest art and design school in the U.S., Academy of Art University wins the award for best online game design school for faculty credentials, as it requires its instructors to receive training in how to teach online classes. The Academy funds that training, and has earned a ranking of No. 50 on U.S. News & World Report’s top online bachelor’s degree programs for faculty credentials and training. A whopping 39% of Academy instructors have two or more years of online teaching experience.
Academy of Art University also excels at acclimating its new online students to their video game design curriculum. The school provides students orientation and tutorial materials on the school website, which enables you to access them at any given time. This means that you’ll have at your fingertips answers to questions you may have about the school or your coursework — at any time during the day or your academic career.
According to the school, its online video game design BFA “is designed to give a well-rounded education in the arts with an emphasis on understanding and applying techniques including 3D Modeling, Animation and lighting in Video Game Production. The program will introduce and build on the foundations of traditional drawing, painting, and storytelling to develop conceptual skills, which will be applied to innovative game mechanics and challenging 3D technology. State-of-the-art game engines will be used to prototype games, giving BFA graduates hands-on experience with industry techniques and standards. Communication and organizational skills play key roles as students work on collaborative projects.”
A successful Academy of Art University graduate should have a solid grasp of all fundamental game art principles including knowledge of game engine technology and pre-production and production environments. You will be given the chance to develop an exceptional portfolio that shows skill in traditional drawing and painting as well as 3D modeling, texturing and advanced texturing techniques, animation, rigging and time management.
Full Sail University (FL)
Full Sail University is a well-regarded online video game design school. Not only has it made “best” lists in gaming magazines and online rankings, The Princeton Review actually included Full Sail among its best video game design schools overall — online and traditional. Compared with some of the top-ranked traditional schools like USC and the Savannah College of Art and Design, Full Sail’s online program is a real value, as well.
Full Sail University offers online four different bachelors degrees related to, as well a masters degree in, video game design. Full Sail’s Game School teaches students the art and technology of software development and design for games. The fundamentals of game creation are covered in the Game Development bachelor’s degree program, which teaches you how to create game engines, develop artificial intelligence, and integrate assets.
Programming for handheld devices is the focus of the Game School’s Mobile Development bachelor’s program, which covers game and application development for iOS and Android devices, as well as distribution and marketing. Those whose tend toward the may choose to pursue the Game Art bachelor’s degree, which teaches the modeling and animation skills needed to create high definition graphics. The Game School’s Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Game Design also cover the project management skills essential to the industry, including creating the story and gameplay, as well as the business side of development.
Full Sail’s Game School boasts a faculty of respected, skilled and experienced instructors. The school is guided by an advisory board of video game industry professionals who ensure that the curriculum and tools used in each degree program are current and industry-relevant. Also important, Full Sail University continues to offer support for its students even after they graduate; its alumni support is stronger than that of many other online video game design schools. The school alumni website provides career resources and the opportunity for students to establish professional networks. Students can also interact with each other through online profiles.
Southern New Hampshire University
While many schools tend to offer fantastic value, even in online degrees, few offer the combination of an online degree in video game design and exceptional value. Southern New Hampshire University’s online program is the exception and is the one of the most highly-regarded schools on our list. Souther New Hampshire’s bachelor of science in Information Technology with a concentration in Game Development and Design is geared toward providing students with advanced knowledge of IT, as well as an understanding of concept development, marketing, distribution, cross-collaboration and other business strategies. Graduates will be prepared for careers in the video game industry, as well as other IT and business related positions. For those who live in New England and are interested in a slightly more traditional education, a hybrid on-campus/online option is available.
While it may not be the absolute most affordable school, Online Education Database notes that for-profit Rasmussen College awards financial aid to 100 percent of its students. The database gives Rasmussen top ranking for this reason. For purposes of this list, such dedication to providing students an opportunity for education is enough reason to make it a good value when it comes to online video game design schools.
In Rasmussen’s Game and Simulation Programming curriculum, you will learn how to program and develop code for software used in real world simulation and game development scenarios. Aside from enhancing your mathematical and programming knowledge, your game and simulation programming courses will further develop your critical thinking and reasoning abilities, information literacy, and communication skills so you can be a true asset to your employer.
According to the school, the program will allow you to Learn a core of game and simulation programming, while focusing on back-end and front-end computer programming. Students are taught how to create applications for the Web and mobile devices, as well as industrial, educational, scientific, legal and health simulations — which helps to broaden career opportunities beyond the field of strict gaming.