In the following ranking, we look at the 15 best affordable colleges for a game design degree. The field of game design is an interdisciplinary one that may involve gamification and game theory, mathematics, art and graphic design, and computers and technology, including databases, custom software, and applications. With a large number of non-degree and degree programs available at colleges and universities across the country, future game designers can qualify for a variety of careers in the field such as software developers and programmers, game designers and testers, animators, graphic designers, two- and three-dimensional artists, and audio engineers. Depending on the curriculum, a student may choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Fine Arts as the pathway for earning their degree. However, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin, which is why we compiled the following list of the 15 best game design schools in the country.
Our goal was to capture the balance between quality and affordability for students looking for a low-cost game design degree. To do this, we evaluated each school based on two key metrics, including tuition and student-to-faculty ratios, and awarded points as outlined below. To get our initial list of schools, we conducted a search using the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) College Navigator database. We then narrowed down our initial pool of 20 schools to find the top 15 based on the methodology.
Average Cost of Attendance
As you compare the tuition rates for each school, remember to also think about the quality of a school in relation to cost. In other words, avoid choosing an institution simply because it offers the cheapest tuition and instead make your decision based on its academic options, the experience of its faculty, its opportunities for extracurricular activities, and any other feature you are looking for in your college experience. Below, we provided tuition rates obtained from the NCES and ranked each school based on the cost of one academic year of study.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
Student-to-faculty ratios help us to understand the learning environment at a particular institution. For instance, schools with low student-to-faculty ratios may be more likely to offer opportunities for individualized mentoring, academic support, or personalized studies based on a student’s particular career goals. For the following ranking, we awarded the most points to colleges and universities that reported low ratios of 10 or fewer students per faculty members, according to the NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Ranking Top 15 Best Affordable Colleges for a Game Design Degree
15. Columbia College Chicago
Game Design (BA)
In-State Tuition: $27,176
Out-of-State Tuition: $27,176
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
14. St. Andrews University
Laurinburg, North Carolina
Located in Laurinburg, North Carolina, St. Andrews University is a four-year, Presbyterian, private liberal arts college that offers a low-cost Bachelor of Arts in Art with a concentration in game art and design. In this high-value major, students who are looking for an affordable degree in game design learn the processes and techniques required to construct two- and three-dimensional art assets used in the development and creation of video and computer games. From a beginner to an advanced level, the inexpensive degree program instructs students how to texture, sculpt, and model, and students utilize a current game engine to create playable levels. Throughout the program, students also gain experience in animation, character rigging, lighting and rendering, building multiple-layer textures, and creating advanced character models. Required courses also include game art foundations, and art history. The best-value degree program culminates in the creation of a portfolio as well as a show and demo reel in which students put into practice what they have learned. After graduating with their degree, students are prepared for careers as texture map artists, level designers, game testers, and character animators as well as three-dimensional medical engineers and environment artists.
Art (B.A.) Concentration in Game Art and Design
In-State Tuition: $26,648
Out-of-State Tuition: $26,648
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
13. Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University is both a private Christian institution of higher education headquartered in Marion, Indiana and an accredited university for a game design degree. The economical Bachelor of Science in Media Design prepares students to integrate a Christian worldview with a multi-disciplined, comprehensive education in digital production, design, and art. Students benefit from an affordable yet comprehensive training in industry-standard digital tools and design as well as fundamental courses that provide a challenging environment in which they can refine and develop their skills. Not only does the media design degree train students to perform as best they can, but the spiritual emphasis of extracurricular programming and core courses also encourages spiritual growth. High-value coursework may include topics in drawing, Web design, typography, art history, computer graphics, digital photography, color, interactive design, and two- and three-dimensional design, modeling, and animation. Students are also required to complete a course that introduces the fundamentals of Web programming. At the culmination of the affordable degree program, students participate in a senior art exhibit that highlights what they have learned throughout their academic experience. Career opportunities for graduates include imaging, video, audio, motion graphics, three-dimensional animation and modeling, and interactive Web design and multimedia.
BS Media Design
In-State Tuition: $26,630
Out-of-State Tuition: $26,630
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
12. Pennsylvania College of Art and Design
Located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design is a private art school and an affordable accredited college for a game design degree. The loiw-cost Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media provides students with both introductory and advanced training in a technology-driven and integrative field. During the freshmen year, students complete general education requirements and core foundation classes in areas such as Western art, verbal communication, digital imaging, drawing, and two- and three-dimensional design. Then, students move into more specialized coursework, including classes in sound design, typography, concept and story development, computer animation, and visual development. Students master the principles of production skills, time-based media, digital audio production, digital animation, and three-dimensional modeling through studio work, demonstrations, and lectures. PCA&D students are also required to participate in an internship to gain real-world, hands-on experience. The low-cost program culminates in a senior thesis project as well as the Senior Show & Celebration. Graduates are prepared to work in fields such as video gaming, television, film, and more. PCA&D also offers related degree programs in photography, illustration, graphic design, and fine art.
In-State Tuition: $25,850
Out-of-State Tuition: $25,850
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
11. University of Wisconsin-Stout
Students looking for an affordable university for a game design degree may consider attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout, a public university in Menomonie, Wisconsin and a member of the University of Wisconsin System. The cheap Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design and Development at the University of Wisconsin-Stout is an award-winning program in which students gain core skills in design and art such as animation, three-dimensional modeling, and drawing. As a game artist, students can expect to create all of the visual elements required for various types of video games, including animations, level design, characters, and concept art. UW-Stout offers opportunities to collaborate with students majoring in computer science as well as three laboratories equipped with industry-standard, state-of-the-art software and hardware. Students can expect to take low-cost courses that cover visual effects, animation, and two- and three-dimensional models for movies, television, and video games. Throughout the inexpensive degree program, students use core skills in design and art such as animation, digital imaging, and drawing to create the visual elements required for games, including three-dimensional characters and environments as well as heads-up interface components. Both computer science and game design students develop skills in their respective disciplines before working together in a team environment in three capstone courses at the end of their programs. Graduates are prepared to work in education, simulation, advertising, training, and entertainment. UW-Stout also offers similar programs in graphic design and interactive media, studio art, graphic communications, and art education as well as interior, entertainment, industrial, and apparel design.
B.F.A. Game Design and Development – Art
In-State Tuition: $9,457
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,424
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
10. Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Located in Madison, South Dakota, Dakota State University is a public university that was established in 1881 as a normal school. Dakota State University offers a top-value Bachelor of Science in Computer Game Design for students seeking a cheap game design degree. The inexpensive degree program teaches fundamental skills for video game production, development, and design. Recognized as one of the strongest and most affordable in the nation, it is the only program of its kind in the state and one of only a handful in the Upper Midwest region. The program includes rigorous coursework, including classes in physics and calculus as well as visual design and computer programming courses. Students also learn about the history of game design through studies in non-digital and digital games, and they integrate game technology, aesthetics, narrative, and mechanics to craft effective and interesting player experiences. The best-value B.S. in Game Design at DSU also features several emphasis areas, including technical art, software design, and narrative design. At the culmination of the program, students will have gained experience with multimedia and interactive digital media and software to prepare for careers in software development, interaction design, and game design. DSU also offers a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a bachelor’s in digital arts and design with concentrations in production animation and computer graphics.
Computer Game Design (BS)
In-State Tuition: $9,276
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,249
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
9. Southern Arkansas University
Located in Magnolia, Arkansas, Southern Arkansas University is a public institution of higher education recognized for offering one of the most affordable game design degrees in the country: the cheap Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an option in computer gaming and animation design. This low-cost degree program is provided jointly by the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the Department of Art and Design for students who wish to learn about the process and techniques of developing video games and animations. Throughout the economical degree program, students learn not only how to develop artistic and innovative narratives but also how to put those narratives into motion through animated productions as desktop and mobile apps. Students are required to complete 120 hours to earn their degree, including coursework that covers topics such as game development, computer science, graphic software applications, game programming, and computer architecture. Students are also exposed to computer graphics, software engineering, operating systems, and game design management. Students may further focus their degree through electives that investigate computer-aided manufacturing, artificial intelligence, database management systems, computerized simulations, and web programming. SAU also offers a top Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game, Animation, and Simulation in which students are taught three-dimensional animation techniques as well as the management and production of game environments.
Computer Science (BS): Computer Gaming and Animation Design Option
In-State Tuition: $8,786
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,866
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
8. Boise State University
Founded by the Episcopal Church in 1932, Boise State University is a public research university located in Boise, Idaho. The College of Innovation and Design at Boise State University offers a cheap bachelor’s degree in gaming, interactive, and mobile media (GIMM). Students pursuing BSU’s cost-effective game design degree are required to complete 120 hours of study, including general education requirements, core courses, and electives. The inexpensive degree program covers several lower-division topics such as interactive programming, digital tools for interactivity, interactive and visual storytelling, and interactive audio and video. Students are also exposed to interactive physical computing and focus on the theory, design, and creation of games for Web, mobile, and console environments through a course in game design theory. Upper-division areas of study include usability and e-commerce, game development, and animation and modeling as well as studies in both mobile Web development and mobile application development for media. Students are required to complete a digital portfolio based on their work as well as two senior capstone experiences to be completed over the final fall and spring semesters. In these two courses, seniors work with clients on advanced Web-, mobile-, and interactive-based projects to support both on-campus research and non-profit efforts throughout the local community. Graduates are prepared to enter the workforce as mobile app developers, web developers, and video game designers.
Gaming, Interactive Media, and Mobile Technology
In-State Tuition: $7,694
Out-of-State Tuition: $23,776
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
7. California State University-Chico
Established in 1887, California State University-Chico is the second-oldest campus in the 23-school California State University System. Located in Chico, CSU-Chico offers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Computer Animation and Game Development that allows students to develop in-demand skills in the entertainment and video game industries. Throughout this top-value degree program, students design rich multimedia environments that entertain, inform, and communicate. Students are required to complete 120 units of study to earn their degree, including 48 units in the general education pathway. The affordable degree in game design is comprised of 27 units in major core courses that cover topics such as digital modeling, scripting and programming, video game design, concept design and storyboarding, and digital photography. Students must also complete 15 units in interdisciplinary topics, and students can choose from drawing, two- and three-dimensional design, art history, software engineering, mobile application development, computer graphics programming, and more. CSU-Chico requires students to pursue an option in either game development or animation production to complete their major course requirements. CSU-Chico provides opportunities for internships through which students gain valuable experience and make connections in their field. Graduates are prepared to enter careers in the lucrative fields of business solutions, web applications, commercials, film and television, and video games as well as scientific research and other related enterprises.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Animation and Game Development
In-State Tuition: $7,608
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,488
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 25:1
6. Franklin University
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin University is a private university that offers an economical game design degree. From websites to mobile apps to gaming, the affordable Bachelor of Science in Interactive Media Design at Franklin University opens up several management, artistic, and technical degree paths. Students develop the skills and knowledge they need to effectively deliver interactive solutions throughout the whole development lifecycle. Students complete 120 semester hours of courses, including 24 hours in fundamental general education classes and 12 hours in additional general education requirements as well as 24 hours in technical credit courses. Students are also required to choose 24 hours of university electives and complete 36 hours in a major area that covers topics such as interactive media, digital media design, advanced graphic design, and human-computer interaction. An interactive media design practicum and capstone are also required for graduation. Unlike other graphic design majors, Franklin’s top IMD program exposes students to both the non-technical and technical aspects of interactive development. From interaction, web, rich media, graphic, and mobile design to complete front-end development, this program combines solid technology and design skills with project management expertise.
B.S. Interactive Media Design (IMD)
In-State Tuition: $12,649
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,649
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
5. Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware is a private, doctoral research institution that was founded as Wilmington College in 1968. The school’s affordable Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development combines the skills of programming, three-dimensional modeling, graphic design, video production, and interactive design to give students the expertise they need to successfully create simulations and video games for mobile devices, consoles, and major platforms. It is one of the only four-year, accredited game design degrees in the region, and students enjoy the flexibility of weekend, evening, or day classes in either seven-week blocks or 15-week semesters as well as WilmU’s affordable tuition rates. Within the 120-credit-hour program, students complete 40 courses that provide both a broad overview and an intricate understanding of the various facets of game design. Students are immersed in leading-edge technologies through lab environments that provide access to constantly updated, industry-standard gaming software. The curriculum balances design courses and programming courses while focusing on user experiences, design interfaces, and audio and video techniques. On the back end, the curriculum teaches marketing and project management. Students are required to participate in a hands-on project that results in a portfolio that they may then use when applying for positions after graduation.
B.S. in Game Design and Development
In-State Tuition: $11,210
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,210
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
4. Fitchburg State University
Located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Fitchburg State University is recognized as one of the most affordable universities for a game design degree in the country. Fitchburg State University offers a low-cost Bachelor of Science in Game Design, the first of its kind to be available at a public institution of higher education in the Northeast, that seeks to make the tools and methods of game development and design available to everyone. Throughout this inexpensive degree program, students learn the fundamentals of game programming and logic as well as the foundations of visual art and the core concepts of game design. Coursework teaches students how to effectively design games by focusing on the player, iterating, problem-solving, and creative brainstorming. Students learn to put their ideas into motion, transforming their concepts into two- and three-dimensional products based on art and research. Another key component of this program is building proficiencies with current programming languages, hardware, platforms, and software as well as mastering new tools as they become available. Outside of the classroom, students may continue their work through opportunities such as internships, professional capstone projects, and study-abroad programs. Graduates are prepared for careers as programmers, game artists and analysts, interactive designers, production assistants, data managers, producers, and game and level designers.
Bachelor of Science in Game Design
In-State Tuition: $10,354
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,434
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
3. Shawnee State University
Shawnee State University is a four-year public institution of higher education located in Portsmouth, Ohio. Whether a student is interested in the programming side of creating and developing video games or he or she wants to learn about the artistic side of production, Shawnee State University has an affordable game design degree to meet those goals. Students can choose to pursue an inexpensive Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game and Simulation which focuses on interface design, character design, and three-dimensional animation, or they may opt for the Bachelor of Science in Digital Simulation and Gaming Engineering Technology that examines programming, computer science, and software development. As students progress through these programs, they can tailor their degree through electives to further meet their interests and professional goals. In addition to gaining the theoretical knowledge required for success, students in both programs also acquire practical experience by participating in a joint senior project. In this component, students build upon skills in motion capture, game design, art asset development, and animation and use what they have learned in the classroom to effectively transform music, animation, sound, art, and ideas into actual working simulations and games.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game & Simulation
Bachelor of Science in Digital Simulation & Gaming Engineering Technology
In-State Tuition: $8,556
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,714
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
2. Arkansas Tech University
Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas is a public institution of higher learning and an affordable, accredited university for a game design degree. ATU confers a cheap Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game and Interactive Media Design, a 120-credit-hour program that introduces students to the latest in interactive digital technology sciences and provides a foundation in cutting-edge visual communication arts. In addition to completing general education coursework, students focus on topics within the industry such as digital illustration, art history, two- and three-dimensional modeling, and game development. During their senior year, students are required to participate in a game project and compile a professional portfolio that showcases what they have learned throughout their studies. Students have the option to tailor their degree through electives to focus the program on an area that best meets their professional goals. Graduates of this top-value degree program are prepared to seek employment in the entertainment and video game industries as well as other fields that require skills in story formation, interactive environment construction, mobile application development, and editing as well as web design, programming, simulation, and animation.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game and Interactive Media Design
In-State Tuition: $7,254
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,678
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
1. Kennesaw State University
Ranked as the best affordable university for a game design degree, Kennesaw State University is a public university that operates two campuses in Kennesaw and Marietta, Georgia. The cheap Bachelor of Science in Computer Game Design and Development at KSU prepares students with the knowledge and skills they need to effectively apply software engineering and computing techniques to the production and design of digital media for education, research, and entertainment. Since game design and development is a specialization within the computing field, students can expect to build on and apply their expertise in computing software and hardware to develop immerse, engaging multimedia systems. The CGDD curriculum exposes students to algorithms, data structures, artificial intelligence, simulation, game design, software engineering, modeling, two- and three-dimensional graphics, and the theory and history of gaming. As part of the curriculum requirements, students must choose an upper-level concentration to develop depth. Although available concentrations can change according to the evolution of the field, offerings may include computer science, creative content generation, simulations-informatics, planning management, educational-serious, distributed-mobile, and media production.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Game Design and Development
In-State Tuition: $6,347
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,329
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Game Design Degree?
At their core, video game designers are ultimately responsible for bringing ideas to life. They work with other designers to create an idea, flesh out the concept, develop a draft, identify how it should be played as well as the players for whom it is intended, and market the product to their company to get the “go-ahead” to produce it. As a mostly interdisciplinary career, game designers must be adaptable, creative, and able to tackle several roles at one time. The job requires the use of many skills such as drafting, control interface design, and storyline, concept, character, and artistic development as well as writing, sketching, programming, graphic design, and gameplay mechanics. While video game design is the most popular career option, other occupations in this field include:
- User Interface Designer
- Sound Designer
- Software Engineer
- Multimedia Programmer
- Level Programmer
- Graphic Designer
- Game Tester
- Game Developer
- Environment Designer
- Concept Artist
- Character Designer
- Artificial Intelligence Programmer
- Applications Developer
What is the Salary Potential for a Game Design Degree?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that there is no one set category for video game designers. Instead, the BLS splits up this field according to multimedia artists and animators, software developers, web developers, and graphic designers. For this section, we looked at multimedia artists and animators who are responsible for creating images that appear to move as well as visual effects for video games, movies, television, and other types of media. According to the BLS, the annual mean wagefor this occupation was $72,520 per year, or $34.87 per hour, as of May 2018. The highest 10 percent earned more than $124,310, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,870. In May 2018, the top-paying industries for multimedia artists and animators included:
- Software publishers: $82,360
- Motion picture and video industries: $77,860
- Computer systems design and related services: $76,920
- Advertising, public relations, and related services: $67,330
The BLS indicates that employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow 8 percent between 2016 and 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This estimated growth will be due to a growing need for visual effects and animation in television, movies, and video games as consumers continue to demand more realistic products and graphics for both their consoles and their mobile devices.
What Will You Study in a Bachelor’s in Game Design Program?
In most cases, a bachelor’s degree in game design can be completed within four years. Depending on the nature of the school’s curriculum as well as whether an accelerated path is offered, students may earn their degree within a shorter amount of time. Earning a Bachelor’s in Game Design and Development is a critical step for different positions throughout the game industry such as engineering staff, intermediate-level programmers, and entry-level designers. Undergraduate game design programs differ from school to school, but most teach every aspect of designing and developing video games, from concept to execution and from the practical aspects to the technical. Advanced computer and math skills are taught, and students develop teamwork and scheduling skills. Below are examples of courses that prospective students can expect to take while pursuing a Bachelor’s in Game Design degree:
- 2-D and 3-D Modeling
- Game Design
- Computer Graphics
- Programming Languages
- Software Engineering
- Artificial Intelligence
- Storyline Development
- Theory and History of Gaming
Students also have the flexibility of choosing the type of bachelor’s degree they would like to pursue to earn a degree in game design. For example, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design provides an artistic and aesthetic basis for game design, treating the field as an intersection of computer science, culture, and art, while a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design approaches the field from a humanities perspective, merging storytelling and art with programming. On the other hand, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a concentration in game design provides a well-rounded foundation in game design with a heavy emphasis on computer science, programming, and language. Regardless of the specific program you choose, we hope that our list of the best affordable colleges for a game design degree serves as a helpful starting point as you prepare to enter this dynamic yet rewarding field.
This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best affordable colleges for a game design degree in 2019.
Other Rankings of Interest: