Video games are a powerful cultural force and a multi-billion dollar global industry. Recent statistics show that 58% of Americans play video games, and video game sales topped $10.5 billion in 2009.
This is good news for those interested in working in the video game industry as designers and programmers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software engineering and related jobs are among the occupations expect to grow 22% over the next decade, meaning job prospects should be excellent. The BLS expects the industry to add 222,600 jobs from 2012-2022.
The Value of a Video Game Design Degree
It is not necessary to have a degree in video game design to be successful in the field. Many video game designers and programmers do extremely well in the industry without a game design degree. Indeed, video game design programs are a relatively new phenomena. That said, things are rapidly becoming more competitive in the industry, and having a degree in game design from a respected and accredited school can help set you apart from the crowd. Among other things, it tells prospective employers that you are serious about your career as a game designer or programmer, have a broad understanding of the game development process, and have the stability and determination to finish a multi-year project (like a college degree).
The Advantages of an Online Video Game Design Degree
The most obvious advantage of getting a video game degree online is the flexibility and convenience provided by an online degree. Online students do not have to travel to campus and can complete their classes and coursework on their own time. This means online game design students can fit their degree around their employment and family responsibilities. Unlike in the recent past, students seeking an accredited online video game design degree program now have several high quality options to choose from. A number of the top video game design programs in the country are now offered completely online.
How We Ranked Online Video Game Design Degree Programs
Online schools and online degree programs vary widely in terms of quality, name recognition, and value. To assist those looking for quality, accredited online video game design programs, we put together this ranking of what we consider to be the very best online schools offering video game design degrees 2014. Our rankings are based on publicly available data evaluated according to several different criteria, including market reputation, accreditation, student satisfaction, ratio of students to instructors, and tuition. Most of the schools in our rankings are regionally accredited, the highest form of accreditation a school can achieve. To read more about our rankings philosophy, and find a list of our other top college and degree rankings, visit our rankings page.
Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Game Design online and choose from four areas of focus: storytelling, design theory, design integration, and practical design. The 32-month program includes study of digital literacy, game history, design and development analysis, and two projects: a student project midway through the degree and a final game design project. In the final design project, students work in teams to develop a production plan that ends with a playable game. There is also a comprehensive exam on topics like social implications and interactions, play balancing, level design and prototyping.
The Academy of Art University offers one online program in game design: the Online Award of Completion in Game Environments. This certificate requires students to complete five courses: Introduction to Computer Graphics for Animation, Game 3D Production (a 3D art class), elements of game design, elements of scripting, and analysis of form (a drawing class). The introduction to game 3D production course includes study of the creation of 3D assets, use of Photoshop to create textures, model rendering and more. In the elements of game design course, students analyze development strategies, technologies, companies, genres and types of games. Students learn to code games in common programming languages and study 3D animation to create the various elements of their games.
The Art Institute Online offers a Bachelor of Science in Game Art and Design. Students learn to design game play and backgrounds, create characters and environments and evaluate game products. Required courses include character and object design for animation, where they learn about proportions and production protocols for pipeline ready model sheets; and a course in the game production pipeline, which explains the processes and methods to develop game content. Students develop a portfolio and complete a three-quarter project where they work with other students to create a new game. By the end of this 4-year program, students have a professional portfolio that they can use to showcase their knowledge and enter the game design industry.
The online Bachelor of Science in Game and Simulation Programming is designed to prepare students for careers in the video game industry and the growing number of fields that require simulation software experts. Students learn the coding languages, visual design principles and software methods used in the development of video games and other instances. They end their studies with a senior project in which they must completely design at least one 3D game level or simulation.
Designed to give students practical skills and hands-on experience, Sanford Brown’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Production is taught by instructors who have worked in the game industry. Courses, such as digital imaging, drawing techniques, and game production, closely follow industry trends, so students can be assured that they are receiving an education that prepares them for future employment. The program can be completed in 37.5 months when enrolled full-time, and the entire degree costs $64,800.