Gaming is a billion-dollar industry, and game designers are its backbones. Game Design is a branch of video game development. It aims to integrate storytelling, graphic design, characters, strategy, and other elements to create compelling games that either educate and/or entertain the player. An online master’s in game design program enables designers to leverage factors such as usability, aesthetics, and operation to create efficient gameplay. The best fit for gaming enthusiasts who love technology and conceptualizing different types of games is a master’s in game design online. 

Masters in Game Design Online

Table Of Contents

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the GetEducated.com Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Best Masters in Game Design Online Programs

The institution’s reputation and comprehensive coursework often determine one’s quality of education, career opportunity, and even earning potential. It is imperative that one considers faculty quality, laboratory facilities, affordability, services for students, and placement history to ascertain the most suitable online masters in game design degree programs. Several OMC teams have investigated a range of aspects that determine the best degrees in game design. Here are the best online masters in game design programs: 

<a href="https://www.onlinemasterscolleges.com/masters-in-game-design-online/">Game Design</a>

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
#1
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Ave, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
$25,80191%
#2
Columbia University in the City of New York
West 116 St and Broadway, New York, New York 10027
$50,49697%
#3
University of Southern California
University Park, Los Angeles, California 90089
$60,44692%
#4
Boston University
One Silber Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02215
$58,56089%
#5
New York University
70 Washington Sq South, New York, New York 10012
$35,98287%
#6
Southern Methodist University
6425 Boaz St, Dallas, Texas 75275
$30,67282%
#7
DePaul University
1 E Jackson Blvd, Chicago, Illinois 60604
$17,95170%
#8
University of Utah
201 Presidents Circle, ROOM 201, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
$6,97067%
#9
Savannah College of Art and Design
342 Bull St, Savannah, Georgia 31402
$39,24071%
#10
University of Wisconsin-Stout
712 S Broadway St, Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751
$7,29856%
#11
Lindenwood University
209 S Kingshighway, Saint Charles, Missouri 63301
$9,68453%
#12
Full Sail University
3300 University Blvd, Winter Park, Florida 32792
$15,47240%
#13
Academy of Art University
79 New Montgomery, San Francisco, California 94105
$27,69638%
#14
University of Advancing Technology
2625 W Baseline Rd, Tempe, Arizona 85283
$17,50036%

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Masters in Game Design Programs

A master’s in game design degree inculcates students’ technical and aesthetic skills to equip them for building a game from scratch. This degree capacitates designers to explore various fields like 2D or 3D game design, multimedia art, graphic design, and so on. 

Most programs require 30 to 60 credits and a game prototype for successful course completion. While two years is the average course duration, some masters in game design online programs also offer fast track options. Along with game conceptualization, production, and theories, they often cover aspects of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and game economics that prepare students for industry-ready projects. 

One must also choose advanced electives to complement their career goals and interests while selecting courses. An online game design degree is beneficial for those who prefer learning from home and yet access all the program’s facilities. It also keeps the financial investment in the degree in check. 

Masters in Game Design Degree Types

Game design at the graduate level comes in three types, namely – Master of Arts or MA Game Design, Master of Science or MS game design, and Master of Fine Arts or MFA game design. Though a few course topics might seemingly overlap, their purpose and content are customized for different career paths and goals. 

Master of Arts in Game Design 

MA Game Design typically focuses on the theories and user research combined with game production and economics to upskill the students. An MA game design online program is best suited for those pursuing specialized field employment and who wish to grow higher in the seniority hierarchy in their careers. 

Master of Science in Game Design 

MS Game design focuses on aesthetics, usability, and methodologies with game conceptualization and prototyping. An MS game design online program is curated for hardcore developers employed in game studios who aim to gain technical skills like coding and software development. 

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design 

MFA Game Design focuses on immersive design, information architecture, and character development alongside game building, taking a community-based approach. An MFA game design program is beneficial for researchers and academicians who wish to diversify their creative approach to games while developing their portfolios. 

Specializations in Masters in Game Design Programs

Specialization is an important decision-maker in one’s academic opportunities and career prospects. Pursuing a general game design master’s or specializing in particular areas has pros and cons. The former provides flexibility to explore different subjects in the future while the latter hone a specific skill that one can become an expert in and thus increase desirability in the market. Some of the specializations available in masters in game design online are: 

Specialization Description Institutions Careers 
Game Design and Development An MS game development offers a comprehensive curriculum that teaches both a student to create the flow, characters, plot, etc. [design-related aspects] and the actual conceptualization and gameplay [development-related aspects] of game design. Rochester Institute of Technology – MS in Game Design and Development Game design and development graduates can work in every industry from movies to defense in roles such as – modeler, technical artist, user interface, programmer, graphic designer, character developer, interactive developer, and so on. 
Critical Game Design An MS in critical game design provides a unique blend of theoretical and hands-on learning which focuses on studying various necessary tests of games and breaking them down to understand what they imply, understanding the impact a game has on its users and designing consciously. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – M.S. Degree in Critical Game Design Critical Game designers can explore careers as entrepreneurs, independent researchers, or join game development spaces. They could also pursue a doctorate. 
Game Science and Design An MS game science and design is designed to equip designers to create games for specific purposes and fields like education, health, training, and others. Additionally, it takes a user-centric approach while using interdisciplinary skills in game design. Northeastern University – MS in Game Science and Design Game Science and Design graduates have a competitive advantage to develop evaluation methods for testing the game’s usability and player’s psychology and can join the research and development wing of any design entity. 
Games and Playable Media An MS in games and playable media primarily focuses on creating a blueprint of the game, covering aspects like game narrative, level design, game design, engine middleware, and so on. University of California – MS in Games and Playable Media Games and Playable Media degree upskills people from varied career paths such as gamers, computer scientists, game architects, and designers to advance in their careers. 
Serious Games An MS serious games course entails game production for entertainment and industries like EdTech, fitness, well-being, medicines, etc. It teaches target market research methods, modeling, simulation, statistical analysis, and efficacy testing. University of California – MS in Serious Games A Serious Games designer can gain a competitive advantage by specializing and gaining expertise in the field(s) of their interest and will be desired by top-industry leading companies in them. 

Other Masters in game design concentrations include:

  • Game Programming – essentially covers the technical aspects of coding, algorithms, etc., of a game that is put together in collaboration with game developers. 
  • Game Production – refers to the project management of a game from the initial concept to the prototype and the final version. It often also involves supervising user feedback and improvement. 
  • Mobile Gaming – a specialization in high demand with the rise of mobile gaming. It dwells upon various topics such as device compatibility, customization, licenses, optimization, user research, and game design and development. Thus, it enables one to become a top-notch designer in their specific genre of games too. 

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Generally, the coursework of a game design master covers all aspects of game design and its different processes designed for specific mediums. The basic curriculum revolves around conceptualizing games, game development, theories, gameplay, prototyping, etc. Selective courses also include studying the science behind how a game impacts the user and conducting market research on the targeted audience. Listed below are some of the core concepts included in masters in game design online programs: 

  • Game Design Fundamentals 
  • Processes of Game Design 
  • Technologies for Game Design and Development 
  • Critical Theories of Game Design 
  • Preproduction of Game 
  • Game Project Plan 
  • Computer Graphics and Advanced Courses 
  • Design Methods for Interactivity 
  • Gameplay 
  • Prototyping Fundamentals 
  • Game Development Processes 
  • Game Industry Themes and Perspectives 
  • Game Design and Analysis 
  • Game Production 
  • Animation and Development Techniques 
  • Games and Society 
  • Middleware and Engine Technology 
  • Interactive Game Systems Design 
  • Modeling 
  • Digital Audio Production 
  • Game Graphics Programming 
  • Asset Management 
  • Quality Assurance 
  • Game Usability and Testing 
  • History And Evolution of Game Design 
  • Content Creation 
  • Source Code Management 
  • Business Models in The Game Industry 
  • Usability and Empirical User Research 
  • Computational Statistics 
  • Game Engineering 
  • Character Art and Development 
  • Environment Artists 
  • Game Business, Entrepreneurship, and Practice 
  • 2D and 3D Art 
  • Project and Team Management 
  • Game Studio Management 
  • 3D Character Modeling 
  • Artificial Intelligence for Gameplay 
  • Game Economics 
  • Game Narratives 
  • Serious Game Research 
  • Play Psychology

Most courses mandate the submission of a capstone project as a game prototype or a thesis for successful completion of the master’s degree. Engaging and partaking in design boot camps, varied workshops, and development practicum is beneficial for networking and gaining experience. 

A master’s degree in game design trains and lays the roadmap for graduates to explore diverse job prospects in varied industries. These designers are capable of: 

  • ideating and designing games; 
  • gaining insights about the project’s requirements by liaising with developers and programmers; 
  • modeling characters and creating a story arc for them; 
  • applying design principles to design games that align with their purpose 
  • curating research methods to perform user research and produce a report with obtained results; 
  • customize the game design for different genres and industries.

Accreditation for Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Accreditation is synonymous with official recognition from regulatory entities that assure an educational institute’s education quality is at par or exceeding the stated standard. Pursuing an accredited master’s in game design program is a good boost for one’s career and hassle-free education. An accreditation also verifies that the institution can process educational credit transfers with ease and that they can tap into federal funds. 

There are several renowned independent regional accreditation entities like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Southern Association of Colleges and 

Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities 

(NWCCU), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredits every element of design and art. 

To understand more about accreditations, students are advised to read the Accreditation Guide

Timeline for graduation from Masters in Game Design Online Programs

The majority of master’s programs in game design mandate acquiring between 30 – 60 credits across one to two years, full-time, to graduate. Various institutions also offer Fastrack [1 year] and even specializations in game design for a year in addition to the core course. The learning modes include hybrid, online, traditional, or a combination of these. While some programs necessitate a capstone project as a game prototype, others require a thesis in the desired field of study. 

Masters in Game Design Online Programs Admission Requirements

Every degree program necessitates the applicant to meet certain requirements. A bachelor’s degree, preferably in a subject related to gaming, information technology, or graphics, is mandatory to enter an online master’s in game design. Other general admission requirements for a master’s in game design are: 

  • Application for Admission 
  • Application Fee 
  • Official Academic Transcripts
  • A Statement of Purpose or Letter of Intent. 
  • Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 for 4 (varies by school). 
  • Minimum 2 Letters of Recommendation. 

Several universities ask for scores of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and, in some instances, even an English proficiency test score such as ILETS or TOEFL. Often portfolios or a Graduate Résumé displaying 5 recent work samples are also asked for as part of the application for a master’s in game design online, depending upon the subject pursued in the bachelor’s. 

Masters in Game Design Online No GRE Game Design Programs

Though the admission process to most master’s programs necessitates a Graduate Record Exam or GRE score, there are exceptions where they either waive the GRE score or do not demand it. The former exceptions depend upon the mode of learning and the individual candidate’s academic performance history assessed through the GPA. If the GPA is less than 3.25, GRE test scores are usually required. Listed below are some masters in game design no GRE programs:

University Degree 
American University  MA in Game Design  
Full Sail University MS Game Design 
University of Southern California, Viterbi MS in Computer Science – Game Development 

Accelerated Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Fastrack or accelerated programs for masters in game design have gained popularity and demand in recent times, as it enables students to upskill, specialize and even advance in their career faster than their peers. In most cases, only those candidates who have pursued their bachelor’s degree from a university accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) are considered for the courses. 

The duration of accelerated online masters in game design can be customized in some instances but generally takes about 1 year to complete. Candidates who have done extensive coursework in an area of specialization that aligns with game design and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in their bachelor’s are eligible to apply for such options. The subjects studied in the bachelor’s degree compensate for the concepts that are either speeded or waived from the master’s curriculum. An example of a fast track program is the MA in Game Design – One-year Fast track option from Lindenwood University. 

Free Game Design Courses Online

There are plentiful free masters in game design courses online. Often, they only offer the skills belonging to a particular concept or aspect of game design and not a comprehensive degree as any other full-time or part-time course from an accredited university would provide. The masters in game design online free courses are either certificate programs or individual modules best suited for those who intend to explore a subject before diving deep into it or simply upskilling themselves. Here are a few resources that provide free courses from which that one can benefit: 

Course Offered by Description 
Game Design Concepts Coursera This platform comprises courses from accredited colleges, experts in the field, and reputed entities. They offer over 600 free guided projects, courses, specializations, and certificate courses. Courses cover concepts ranging from – character design, game theory, gamification, narrative building, and engines like Unity. 
Game Design Courses Udemy Udemy is renowned for its self-paced video courses that experts and design schools facilitate. They provide both independent and series of modules to cover different design aspects. Some of the courses include – ‘Game Writing: Storytelling through Game Design’, ‘Psychology of games’, ‘2D and 3D character design’, and so on. 
EdX EdX provides around 160 courses and 64 programs about game design, categorized as basic, intermediate, and advanced, to aid the student based on their preexisting knowledge and skills. They offer courses from reputed universities like Harvard, MIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, Boston, etc. 
Game Design Courses and Programs Class Central This platform offers over 800 courses covering a diverse spectrum of Game Design concepts and software. It enables the student to filter through 3 levels, namely Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, while also choosing the desired duration of the course depending upon their capacity, needs, etc. 

How to Pay for Masters in Game Design Online Programs

A master’s in game design is often an expensive program. A student needs to plan for and cover various expenses like accommodation, stationery, transport, food, etc., alongside the course’s tuition fees if opting for an on-campus program, but online education significantly reduces these expenditures.  However, the tuition fees and investing in an advanced desktop or laptop with a good processor, graphics card, etc., are necessary to run the desired design software(s) that is a part of the coursework for online masters in game design. These costs can be daunting as they vary from $19,185 to $52,867 on average. Thus financial assistance seems imperative for most students and often eases their burden to a certain degree. Listed below are a few sources of financial aid for students: 

Scholarships

Universities, institutions, alumni, and bursaries offer scholarships to specific individuals. Academic merit is the key determining parameter for selecting a beneficiary alongside components like heritage, religious affiliation, community service, etc. (Note: read about Scholarship Scams to avoid being scammed online.) 

Grants

Grants are need-based and are only allocated on a case-to-case basis to a student due to poor or unstable financial statuses. While they are different from scholarships in how grant funds can be utilized for purposes other than tuition fees, the review of academic performance in both cases remains constant. 

Graduate Assistantships 

As the name suggests, graduate assistantships are provided in the form of a partial fee waiver or a stipend. This entails supporting the affiliated professor to facilitate workshops, lab work, and even demonstrating for undergraduates. While a Research Assistantship functions the same way, it entitles the student to partake in and support a professor’s research. 

Student Loans 

Student loans involve a calculated risk from the student’s end as they borrow money from financial institutions, banks, or federal agencies and guarantee to pay it back regularly through installments. One must be cautious of interest and keep up with the payment schedule else, they might be counterproductive and increase the debt amount. 

FAFSA

Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is a stand test that determines a student’s eligibility to receive financial aid (read more about it here). 

The in-depth procedure and other information about financial support for students can be found in the Best Financial Guide. 

Scholarships for Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Scholarships bear an advantage over the others in that they need not be repaid as they are granted based on the student’s academic performance, community service, etc. There are two categories of scholarships – Internal scholarships or those provided by universities and external scholarships provided by organizations and associations. Here are a few examples: 

AIAS Foundation Scholarship 

The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) Foundation manages these scholarships designated only for those pursuing careers in video game design. They mandate a 3.3 and above GPA, accredited universities, and are not limited to U.S. Citizens. 

Amount/Award : Up to $2,500 and 1-year mentorship 

Deadline : May 31, annually 

WomenIn Scholarship 

This scholarship, supported by Intel and managed by AIAS, is meant specifically for women in the interactive entertainment industry. The applicant must identify as a woman, achieve a 3.3 and above GPA, and enroll in accredited universities. This scholarship is not limited to U.S. citizens. 

Amount/Award : Up to $20,000 award to one outstanding gamer 

Deadline : April 15, annually 

AIGA Worldstudio Scholarships 

AIGA Worldstudio grants scholarships to students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Recipients must aim to build a career in design disciplines while also being environmentally responsible and exhibiting cultural awareness in their work. 

Amount/Award : $2,000 to $3,000 alongside one $5,000 prize 

Deadline :  Starts in February and closes in April 

Evo Scholarship Award 

The New York University Game Center offers this scholarship in partnership with Evo Tournament, specifically for MFA students in NYU’s programs. The application must show talent in competitive gaming and game innovation technology. 

Amount/Award : Up to $20,000 award to one outstanding gamer 

Deadline : April 15, annually 

ESA Foundation Scholarships 

Managed by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation, this initiative supports minority students and women aiming to build a career in the video game art industry. The applicant must have U.S. citizenship, a minimum GPA of 2.75, and display potential for the profession. 

Amount/Award : Nearly 30 scholarships of $3,000 apiece 

Deadline : May 14, annually 

FAQs about Game Design Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is game design?

Gaming is a billion-dollar industry, and game designers are its backbones. Game Design is a branch of video game development. It aims to integrate storytelling, graphic design, characters, strategy, and other elements to create compelling games that provide value to the player. 

What is a masters in game design degree? 

What can I do with a masters in game design? 

Is a game design master’s degree worth it? 

How to get a masters in game design degree? 

How long is game design school? 

Where to do a masters in game design? 

Can a master’s in game design be pursued online? 

Who can study a master’s in game design? 

Is game design in demand? 

Careers and Salary Outlook for Masters in Game Design Graduates

A master’s in game design degree capacitates designers to explore entrepreneurship by starting a gaming-related commercial entity of their own and putting together a team with varied profiles to build it up.  Meanwhile, those intending to gain experience working in the established gaming design studios can join as game designers, developers, character modelers, etc. While those who opt for user-experience and psychology-oriented courses can also join the research and development teams. 

Multimedia design and animation are other fields that a graduate of game design online masters can dive into with ease. 2D or 3D game design, multimedia art, graphic design, game development, and critical game design are some of the job profiles in which a game designer can seek employment. Possible job titles include but are not limited to: 

  • Game Designer 
  • Game Animator 
  • Game Audio Engineer 
  • Game Programmer 
  • Creative Game Director 
  • Game Artist 
  • Game Marketer/PR 
  • QA Game Tester 
  • Game System Designer 

Game designers are highly desirable in today’s digital design industry, backed by the substantial growth projected to be nearly 15% from 2024 to 2030, which is higher than the average for all occupations. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of game designers (general digital) is $78,790. A master’s degree in game design graduates enables graduates to seek jobs with high-ranking salaries. Here are a few reported by the BLS:

Certifications and Licensing for Game Design Graduates

Generally, a master’s in game design is sufficient for one to start designing and developing games, but a certification enhances their potential in one skill or tool. These certifications reflect well on a designer’s resume alongside their projects and help them stand out from their peers. They are not mandatory, but certain firms encourage their applicants and employees to complete specific certifications. Certificate courses teach a multitude of things like a particular software or tool, or design technique. Here are a few examples of professional certifications that enhance one’s profile as a game designer: 

Typically, no specific license is required for graduates to practice game design and seek employment. Certain exceptions might exist if the field of work is in defense or military, or even EdTech, which the employer often provides.

Additional Resources for Game Design Professionals

Game designers who invest resources into networking, staying updated with the newest advancements in the field, and problem-solving, tend to gain better opportunities. One must research and analyze case studies to break down how top-notch industry players and designers create successful games. Collaborations, collective ideation, design thinking, and workshops alongside an online master’s in game design often add significant value to designers. Some excellent resources for gaming professionals are: 

  1. Dribble – a community that enables sharing of designs, concepts, and ideas for designers to display their work and get hired. 
  2. Graphic Artists Guild – an association that provides educational resources and research publications for design professionals to upskill. 
  3. Storytelling Alice – a programming environment that simplifies learning computer programs through 3D animated movies. 
  4. CG Society – a portal that enables networking among computer graphics professionals to explore the latest graphic technologies and practices. 
  5. Indigenous Game Dev – a networking platform that connects indigenous game developers to initiate information sharing about culture integration with game design, highlight indigenous-made games, conferences, and various other resources.
  6. Unity 3D and Learn Unity – Unity is one of the most widely used development engines specializing in 3D content. Learn Unity is a learning platform curated by the creators of Unity containing a multitude of tutorials for Unity. 
  7. GDC Vault – a video library that features several panel discussions about game design and development. 
  8. Pixel Prospector Marketing guide – a handbook about game marketing and funding that begins with game ideation and explains each step until its release.
  9. University Libraries – a collection of podcasts, browser-based game development sites, online play, etc., curated by the University of Texas that act as a guide to various aspects of game design. 
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