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Game Development Schools

One maxim that has been true from the earliest days of computing technology and onward: where there are computers, there are games. The microprocessor has been linked to both productivity and entertainment since its creation. The early computer games were primitive electronic translations of traditional board and card games, or minimalist versions of sports like table tennis (Pong, anyone?). The limitations of early graphics meant that most old-school computer games were highly text-based, and audio was limited to a few select beeps and boops. And, due to the mostly non-networked nature of early home computers and video game consoles, electronic games were usually limited to a single player experience.

As computing technology advanced, so did computer games. On the hardware side, more powerful sound cards enabled stereo music and voice delivery capabilities. New computer displays came with higher resolutions and increased color palettes, driven by new graphics adapters with faster processors and more video memory (VRAM) that resulted in more dynamic and detailed visuals.

Software programming was advancing alongside the hardware. New device drivers and iterative improvements to programming languages enabled the creation of games with more complex game logic, and "smarter" computer opponents for players to face off with.

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In many ways, computer gaming was the primary force behind the feverish evolution of computing technology during the last decade of the 20th century. The consumer desire for more sophisticated and entertaining computer games was the motivation behind increasingly more powerful PC hardware and software. The end result was a lucrative home PC market based on a constantly updating list of faster, more powerful components. This booming market activity would not have been sparked by home and office productivity software alone, as it usually required less processing, memory, and display power than PC games.

Today, the computer game industry is one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. A 2013 Reuters news story reported that global video game market revenue is expected to reach $78 billion by 2017. This includes games played on PCs, on dedicated video game consoles like Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation, and on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Major game studios are now making higher profits than major Hollywood studios.

All of this activity has led to opportunities for game designers and developers. Whether it's working for gaming software houses or creating the hot new mobile game from the comfort of their home office, designers and devs are benefiting from the hot market in computer gaming.

What does a game developer do?

Game devs create all of the code and software linkages necessary to fulfill the requirements of a computer game's design blueprint. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following specialized game programmer roles:

  • Artificial intelligence programmers
  • Graphics programmers
  • Lead programmers with supervisory roles
  • Network specialists who enable multi-player online experiences
  • Physics programmers who write the game code for natural laws such as gravity
  • Tools programmers who can automate tasks for team members
  • User interface programmers who collaborate with designers and artists

With a small game (like a mobile phone app), there may only be one game dev involved. Major game studios have hundreds of devs working on specialized teams in roles like the ones listed above. As with other software companies, all of the developers working on a game must communicate and collaborate with each other, from pre-production all the way through post-production.

What does a game designer do?

The terms "software developer" and "software designer" are often used interchangeably. However, there is a key distinction between the two roles. Developers are the ones who create all of the code that enables the software to do all that it has to do. Designers are the ones who decide what the software should do, how it should look and sound, and how users should interact with the software.

Game designers work alone or as part of a creative team to design all of the user-facing aspects of a game. The design team for a computer game can include one or more of the following professionals:

  • Graphic artists
  • Sound engineers and Foley artists
  • Musicians and composers
  • Story and dialogue writers
  • Voice-over actors
  • Motion capture actors
  • Game theorists and mechanics experts

Game designers and devs each have some knowledge of what the other does, which helps during the collaboration phase where a game design becomes a living piece of software.

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The computer gaming industry presents attractive opportunities for individuals with a passion for arts and technology and specific interests in computer game development. In order to take advantage of the exciting career options in computer gaming, consider the pursuit of computer game programming and design training. Here are some things to know about getting a degree in this field and what to expect after graduation.

How a game design degree works

A career in the computer game programming and design field requires a unique blend of skills ranging from the creative and artistic to the technical and functional. Because of this, individuals looking to pursue a career in the computer gaming industry should incorporate a range of coursework in their degree plan.

Elements of software engineering, computer programming, graphic design, and multimedia art should be an integral part, with both classroom and practical experience involved. Depending on whether an individual is more interested in the art aspects of computer game design or the technology of game engineering and programming, one might pursue additional electives in one area or the other. But to become a true game developer, it is wise to become proficient in both the art and technology of computer game development.

Depending on the emphasis for artistic versus technical training, computer game programming and design training will typically lead to one of two degrees. A Bachelor of Fine Arts with focus on computer game design is appropriate for those with a strong interest in the design of computer games. This degree would focus more on the dramatization and storytelling components of a computer game. On the other hand, for those with stronger technical interests, a typical degree program would culminate in a B.S. in Computer Science with a focus on computer game engineering and programming. Either degree will contain coursework in the following subject areas:

  • Computer Programming and Software Engineering
  • Game Design and Development
  • Data and Computer Systems
  • Electives in the liberal arts and other core courses

Most computer game programming and design degree programs will also include a supervised studio component where students build on their practical skills of game design. Here, students have a chance to try new techniques and turn their classroom-learned skills into reality. Students will often complete a capstone project during their senior year which is a critical piece of a graduate's portfolio to show potential employers.

What is the job outlook for game developers?

The job market for all software developers (including game devs) is likely to grow substantially over the next decade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Software Developers, Applications-U.S.22.8
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What is the salary outlook for game developers?

Software developers continue to feature well in compensation statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Game developers fall into this categorization.

*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What is the job outlook for game designers?

While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't track data specifically for computer game designers, it does have numbers available for the category "Computer Software Engineers, Applications." These are designers of software applications primarily for the productivity market, but this category can be helpful when discussing the job market for game designers.

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Computer Programmers-U.S.8.3
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What is the salary outlook for game designers?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep salary information for computer game designers, but it does have statistics for the job category "Software Developers, Applications." This information is a useful starting point when researching compensation for game designers.

*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

Many people looking to break into the computer game industry as a designer or dev choose to enrich their resumes by earning one or more IT certifications, which are offered by several hardware and software vendors, and from vendor-neutral industry associations.

When it comes to computer game design and development, the most relevant technical certifications are those based on the programming languages and software tools used to create games. Some of the relevant certification vendors for this field include the following:

  • Microsoft (programming languages like C#; software design with Visual Studio)
  • Adobe (software tools like Flash, InDesign, and Premiere Pro)
  • Oracle (the Java programming language)
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Game Development Schools

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5 Program(s) Found
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
  • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
  • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
  • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
  • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
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  • Flexible Scheduling
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  • Based in Winter Park, FL, Full Sail University offers an innovative approach to learning.
  • Entertainment and media design programs are offered on campus and online.
  • With more than 37,000 alumni, Full Sail University graduates have worked in many different roles for some of the industry’s most well-known companies and contributed to countless notable projects
  • Through Project LaunchBox™, students in most programs receive a MacBook Pro pre-equipped with professional software at a deep institutional discount.
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  • Accredited
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2 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked among the Best Online MBA Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
  • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
  • Online courses make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 18 months and a master’s degree in 14-24 months.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
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  • Transferable Credits
2 Program(s) Found
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Offers programs in film, game production & design, animation & VFX, music production, and more.
  • Features several on-campus facilities, including recording studios, sound stages, threatres, and more.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Partnerships with thousands of companies
  • Alliances with many national industry associations
  • Personalized career guidance
  • Job market research tools to help you explore your career of interest
Good for Working Adults
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1 Program(s) Found
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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  • Online Courses
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  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
ITT Technical Institute , Online (campus option available)
  • Students who qualify may apply for the Opportunity Scholarship, which can help lower education costs.
  • Offers career-focused, degree programs to over 70,000 students at over 140 ITT Technical Institutes in 35 states.
  • Classes are offered year-round, with day and evening course options.
  • Online courses can be accessed from anywhere, 24 hours a day.
  • Nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
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  • Online Courses
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  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
3 Program(s) Found
  • Dedicated to providing a hands-on, career-focused education since 1953.
  • Offers classes online, as well as at 14 campuses across California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia.
  • Develops curriculum with input from employers, subject matter experts.
  • Has small class sizes to promote one-on-one, student-teacher interaction.
  • Makes no-cost tutoring available in every subject to every enrolled student.
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  • Accredited
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
5 Program(s) Found
ABCO Technology , Los Angeles
  • An accredited computer training academy preparing students to enter the IT industry as Network Engineers, Software Engineers, Web Apps Developer, Website Designers, Programmers, Database Administrators since 2000.
  • Holds A+ certification from CompTIA.
  • Located in Los Angeles, approximately 10 minutes away from LAX.
  • Flexible class schedules offered during day times, evenings and weekends.
  • Helping students start a career in technology within 3 - 9 months.
  • Educates with the mission to serve the needs of the local community and graduates by matching opportunities to skills.
  • Military friendly school.
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  • Financial Aid
3 Program(s) Found
  • Founded in 1963 by Philip J. Steele, a well-known illustrator and educator who wanted to develop a training program based on the traditional method of drawing and painting that dates back to the Renaissance.
  • Offers 16 degree and certificate programs, including commercial photography, fashion design, animation, graphic design, and game art.
  • Features a unique Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer (VASD) program, where students engage with elite figures in the art world through private events, studio visit, lectures, and workshops.
  • Offers several scholarship opportunities and other financial aid for students who qualify.
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  • Accredited
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3 Program(s) Found
  • Offers hands-on, intensive degree programs designed to prepare students for careers in the industries of imagination and innovation.
  • Provides programs in digital filmmaking, game design, sound arts, and more.
  • Its accelerated degree program can enable students to earn their bachelor’s degree in under three years.
  • Transfer credits may be accepted for courses taken at an accredited post-secondary institution.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, ACCSC.
  • Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, near Marin County, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley.
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1 Program(s) Found

The University of Florida is ranked #5 in the country by U.S. News & World Report for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. The rankings were based on faculty credentials and training, student services & technology, and student engagement – basically all the factors that contribute to an exceptional online education experience. Be greater. Be a gator.

  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
Platt College , Ontario
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
4 Program(s) Found
Milan Institute , Bakersfield
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
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1 Program(s) Found
Laurus College , Santa Maria
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 2009.
  • Offers career assistance and resource services to both students and graduates.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available to students who qualify.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACCSC).
  • 4 campus locations in Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, and Oxnard, California, with online options as well.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
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2 Program(s) Found
  • Gives students the option to enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • Has an average freshman retention rate of 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Has more than 50,000 alumni including several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Offers a special tuition rate for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
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  • Online Courses
4 Program(s) Found
  • A private, non-profit school offering career-oriented degree programs in San Diego County, CA since 1978.
  • Gives students a new laptop that they can keep as a gift upon graduation.
  • Offers Fresh Start Scholarships to students who qualify.
  • Teaches with the mission to, "educate people for rewarding careers.”
  • Lets students choose when their program begins thanks to monthly start dates.
  • Offers programs at 3 locations and online.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
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