Shilpee Singh
Written By - Shilpee Singh

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Gaming is a billion-dollar industry, and game designers are its backbone. 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 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 Online Master’s in Game Design Programs

The institution’s reputation and comprehensive coursework often determine one’s quality of education, career opportunities, and earning potential. One must consider 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 various aspects to find the best game design degrees. Here are the best online masters in game design programs:

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Ave, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Columbia University in the City of New York
West 116 St and Broadway, New York, New York 10027
University of Southern California
University Park, Los Angeles, California 90089
Boston University
One Silber Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02215
New York University
70 Washington Sq South, New York, New York 10012
Southern Methodist University
6425 Boaz St, Dallas, Texas 75275
DePaul University
1 E Jackson Blvd, Chicago, Illinois 60604
University of Utah
201 Presidents Circle, ROOM 201, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
Savannah College of Art and Design
342 Bull St, Savannah, Georgia 31402
University of Wisconsin-Stout
712 S Broadway St, Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751
Lindenwood University
209 S Kingshighway, Saint Charles, Missouri 63301
Full Sail University
3300 University Blvd, Winter Park, Florida 32792
Academy of Art University
79 New Montgomery, San Francisco, California 94105
University of Advancing Technology
2625 W Baseline Rd, Tempe, Arizona 85283

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 Online Master’s 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 while selecting courses to complement their career goals and interests. 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.

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: This course provides a comprehensive exploration of essential concepts in game design. Covering core principles, students delve into gameplay mechanics, narrative development, and interactive elements. This course equips participants with foundational knowledge crucial for creating immersive and innovative game experiences.
  • Processes of Game Design: In this course, students thoroughly examine the methodologies and intricacies of game design. Exploring the entire game development lifecycle, this course equips participants with the strategic skills needed to navigate and contribute to the dynamic gaming industry.
  • Technologies for Game Design and Development: Students explore cutting-edge technologies shaping the gaming landscape in this course. From virtual reality to advanced development tools, this course equips participants with the technical expertise to create innovative and immersive gaming experiences.
  • Critical Theories of Game Design: In this course, students learn to explore analytical and theoretical aspects of game design. This course fosters a deeper understanding of the broader context influencing game design principles and innovation by examining critical frameworks, cultural implications, and narrative structures.
  • Game Project Plan: Students learn to strategize and blueprint game development projects in this course. Focusing on project management, budgeting, and timelines, this course equips participants with the skills necessary to efficiently plan, execute, and deliver successful and engaging game projects.

Some of the other standard courses across various curricula are:

  • 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 successfully completing 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: 

  • creating 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.

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 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 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 benefits 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. At the same time, 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:

Game Design and Development An MS game development offers a comprehensive curriculum that teaches students 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 1Game 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 2Critical 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 3Game Science and Design graduates have a competitive advantage in developing evaluation methods for testing the game’s usability and players’ 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. Games and Playable Media  – MS in Games and Playable Media4 Games and Playable Media degrees upskill people from varied career paths, such as gamers, computer scientists, game architects, and designers, to advance 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 5A 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. 

Timeline for graduation from Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Most 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.

Accelerated Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Fastrack or accelerated programs for masters in game design have recently gained popularity and demand, enabling students to upskill, specialize, and even advance in their careers 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)6 are considered for the courses. The duration of accelerated online masters in game design can be customized in some instances but generally takes about one 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 7 from Lindenwood University.

Online Master’s in Game Design Programs Admission Requirements

Every degree program requires 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 on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and, sometimes, even an English proficiency test score such as IELTS or TOEFL. Often, portfolios or a Graduate Résumé displaying five 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.

Online Master’s in Game Design 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. GRE test scores are usually required if the GPA is less than 3.25. Listed below are some masters in game design no GRE programs:

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Game Design 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. An accredited master’s in game design program boosts one’s career and hassle-free education. An accreditation also verifies that the institution can easily process educational credit transfers and tap into federal funds. Six independent regional accreditation entities accredit universities in the U.S.:

To understand more about accreditation, read the Accreditation Guide.

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 one can benefit:

Course Offered by Description 
Introduction to Game Design17Class CentralStudents will explore game design and its concepts, focusing on fundamental tools like paper and digital prototyping, design iteration, and user testing. The audience comprises current/aspiring game designers and those keen on a profound exploration of game creation.
Diploma in 3D Game Development With Unity Engine18AlisonThis course helps students understand how to construct interactive next-generation 3D games using the Unity game engine. It navigates beginner and intermediate concepts for crafting visually appealing games with Unity 3D, covering scene setup, object manipulation, remodeling, rigging, animation, testing, and compilation. Successful completion equips students with the skills essential for becoming proficient game developers.
Video Game Design and Development: Introduction to Game Programming19Future Learn This course introduces participants to the major game programming concepts, encompassing user input, rendering, and collision detection. A detailed exploration of core programming concepts, including loops, conditional statements, and data storage, is undertaken.

How to Pay for Online Master’s in Game Design 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, varying from $20,000 to $60,000. Thus, financial assistance seems imperative for most students and often eases their burden to a certain degree. Below are a few sources of financial aid for students:


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

Graduate Assistantships 

As the name suggests, graduate assistantships are provided as 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 similarly, it entitles the student to participate 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; otherwise, they might be counterproductive and increase the debt amount.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is a stand test determining a student’s eligibility for financial aid.

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

Scholarships for Masters in Game Design Online Programs

Scholarships bear an advantage over the others. 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 Scholarship20

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: Varies

Deadline: May 31, annually. 

WomenIn Scholarship21

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: Varies

Deadline: May 31, annually

ESA Foundation Scholarships22 

Managed by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation, this initiative supports minority students and women aiming to build a video game art industry career. 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

Careers and Salary Outlook for Master’s 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 established gaming design studios can join as game designers, developers, character modelers, etc. Those opting for user-experience and psychology-oriented courses can 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 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 substantial growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth is projected to be nearly 8% from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average. 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:

Special Effects Artists & Animators 23 – Annual Median Salary: $98,950 | Job Outlook: 8% ( faster than average) 

Job Description: Special Effects Artists and Animators create visual effects for films, TV shows, video games, and other media. They use computer software to design animations, characters, and scenes, incorporating special effects, textures, and lighting. These professionals collaborate with creative teams to bring imaginative concepts to life, enhancing visual storytelling.

Broadcast Sound and Video Technicians 24 – Annual Median Salary: $53,960 | Job Outlook: 2% (much faster than average) 

Job Description: Broadcast Sound and Video Technicians operate and maintain audio and video equipment for radio and television broadcasts. They ensure optimal audiovisual quality, troubleshoot technical issues, set up equipment for live broadcasts, and collaborate with producers to achieve seamless, high-quality on-air presentations.

Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers 25 – Annual Median Salary: $124,200 | Job Outlook: 25% (much faster than average) 

Job Description: Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers collaborate to ensure software products meet high-quality standards. Developers create and modify code, while QA analysts design test plans, execute tests, and identify defects. Together, they enhance software reliability, functionality, and performance, contributing to developing robust and user-friendly applications.

Web Developers and Digital Designers 26 – Annual Web Developers and Digital Designers Salary: $80,730 | Job Outlook: 16% (much faster than average) Job Description: Web Developers and Digital Designers create visually appealing and functional websites. Developers code and implement website features, ensuring responsiveness and optimal user experience. Designers focus on visual aesthetics, layout, and graphics, collaborating to produce seamless and visually engaging online platforms that meet clients’ or organizations’ needs.

Certifications and Licensing for Game Design Graduates

Generally, a master’s in game design is sufficient to start designing and developing games. However, 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 applicants and employees to complete specific certifications. Certificate courses teach many things, like software tools or design techniques. 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, 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 show how top-notch industry players and designers create successful games. Collaborations, collective creativity, 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:

  • Dribble 32 – a community that enables the sharing of designs, concepts, and ideas for designers to display their work and get hired.
  • Graphic Artists Guild 33– an association that provides educational resources and research publications for design professionals to upskill.
  • Storytelling Alice 34– a programming environment that simplifies learning computer programs through 3D animated movies.
  • CG Society 35– a portal that enables networking among computer graphics professionals to explore the latest graphic technologies and practices.
  • Indigenous Game Dev 36– a networking platform that connects indigenous game developers to initiate information sharing about culture integration with game design, highlighting indigenous-made games, conferences, and other resources.
  • Unity 3D 37 and Learn Unity 38– widely used development engines specializing in 3D content. Learn Unity is a learning platform curated by the creators of Unity and containing a multitude of tutorials for Unity.
  • GDC Vault 39 – a video library with several panel discussions about game design and development.
  • University Libraries40 – a collection of podcasts, browser-based game development sites, online play, etc., curated by the University of Texas as a guide to various aspects of game design.

FAQs About Online Master’s in Game Design Programs

What is game design?

Gaming is a billion-dollar industry, and game designers are its backbone. 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 master’s in game design degree?

What can I do with a master’s in game design?

Is a game design master’s degree worth it?

How to get a master’s in game design degree?

How long is a game design school?

Where to do a master’s 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?


Rochester Institute of Technology 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Northeastern University 

Games and Playable Media 

University of California

National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) 

MA in Game Design – One-year fast-track option 

Lindenwood University

American University

Full Sail University 

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)

 National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) 

Class Central- Introduction to Game Design

Udacity- Diploma in 3D Game Development With Unity Engine

Future Learn- Video Game Design and Development: Introduction to Game Programming

AIAS Foundation Scholarship 

WomenIn Scholarship

ESA Foundation Scholarships 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook for Special Effects Artists & Animators 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook for Broadcast Sound and Video Technicians 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook for Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook for Web Developers and Digital Designers 

Game Design & Development Certifications 

Autodesk Certified User in 3ds MAX 

Maya Certified Professional

Certified Digital Designer (CDD) 

Multiplatform Animation using Adobe Animate 


Graphic Artists Guild  

Storytelling Alice 

CG Society 

Indigenous Game Dev 

Unity 3D 

Learn Unity 

GDC Vault 

University Libraries