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Top video game design programs for 2014

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The Princeton Review recently issued its fifth annual report on undergraduate and graduate schools with the best programs for studying video game design.

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And once again, the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games Division came out on top of both the graduate and undergrad lists.

“It is a tremendous honor to continue to be recognized year after year,” said Tracy Fullerton, holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair of Interactive Entertainment in the Interactive Media & Games Division and director of the USC Game Innovation Lab. “With the opening of the new Interactive Media Building within the School of Cinematic Arts, we’ve really begun to establish a center for cutting-edge, groundbreaking work in interactive media and storytelling.”

And according to CNN, video game design is number 15 among the top 100 careers with big growth, great pay, and satisfying work. In fact, the industry expects to grow 27.6 percent over the next ten years.

Formerly assigned to a far corner of the computer science department, game design has emerged as a highly respectable, multidisciplinary course of study. And schools hoping to get in on the growing market for designers are building glitzy new facilities tricked out with cutting edge technology and equipment.

“Game design is the next great design field,” according to the USC website. “Students emerge as thought leaders, fluent in many forms of media, with the sophistication to design and create innovative experiences that expand the state of interactive art and play.”

The Princeton Review together with PC Gamer Magazine selected schools based on a survey conducted during 2013-14 of 150 institutions in the U.S., Canada, and abroad offering video game design coursework and/or degrees.

The 50-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. Critical to the assessment were program curriculum, facilities, career services, and technology.

"For students considering careers in video game design, these are the 'cream of the crop' institutions to attend,” explained Robert Franek, the Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher. “Some are among the nationally best-known universities in higher education. Others have well-deserved regional reputations in this field. Collectively, they have graduated many of the field's top developers, artists, designers, and industry professionals."

Although too new to be included on the Princeton Review list, the George Mason University program is just graduating its first video design majors and was approved last Tuesday by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SHEV) to offer an MA starting fall 2014. Response to the new major has been overwhelming and far exceed all estimates.

In addition, American University , Old Dominion University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Lynchburg College also have programs considered among the best in the country.

And for the record, the Princeton Review’s top 20 undergraduate schools to study game design for 2014 are:

  • University of Southern California
  • University of Utah
  • DigiPen Institute of Technology
  • Drexel University
  • Hampshire College
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • The Art Institute of Vancouver
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • New York University
  • Shawnee State University
  • Michigan State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Oklahoma Christian University
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Champlain College
  • Becker College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Vancouver Film School
  • DePaul University

NOTE: George Mason University will be holding Game Design Open Houses on March 22 and April 26, 2014. These are great opportunities to learn about game design in general and the George Mason program in specific. Interested students can reserve a space by emailing Mary Bean (mbean3@gmu.edu) or calling 703.993.5734.

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