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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.
www.onlinemasterscolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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®.
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:
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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Game Development Processes
Game Industry Themes and Perspectives
Game Design and Analysis
Animation and Development Techniques
Games and Society
Middleware and Engine Technology
Interactive Game Systems Design
Digital Audio Production
Game Graphics Programming
Game Usability and Testing
History And Evolution of Game Design
Source Code Management
Business Models in The Game Industry
Usability and Empirical User Research
Character Art and Development
Game Business, Entrepreneurship, and Practice
2D and 3D Art
Project and Team Management
Game Studio Management
3D Character Modeling
Artificial Intelligence for Gameplay
Serious Game Research
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:
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:
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 theMA in Game Design – One-year Fast track optionfrom 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:
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.
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 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.
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:
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 Scamsto 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 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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
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
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
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?
A game design degree equips students with the concepts and skills required to make games. It involves understanding how a game impacts the user, the gameplay, character design, and development. These games are used to entertain and educate the user while engaging them.
What can I do with a masters in game design?
This degree capacitates designers to explore various fields like 2D or 3D game design, multimedia art, graphic design, game development, critical game design, and so on. Graduates can seek employment in game studios, gaming research institutions, and top-notch gaming companies and even dwell into entrepreneurship, depending on their interests and field of expertise.
Is a game design master’s degree worth it?
Given that the average salary of a game designer is at least two times the funds invested in education, the game design master’s degree is definitely worth it! If the student is passionate about gaming and related aspects, then gaining skills to make a living from one’s passion makes work a piece of cake. The degree can be made fulfilling and rewarding by selecting the right course to suit one’s interests.
How to get a masters in game design degree?
Every design school necessitates the applicant to hold a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a subject related to gaming or information technology, or graphics, as it lays the foundation for advanced concepts. One can choose between – A master of Arts or MA Game Design, a Master of Science or MS game design, and a Master of Fine Arts or MFA game design to meet their career goals.
How long is game design school?
Typically, an online master’s degree in game design requires 1 to 2 years to complete. However, the timeline can influence specializations, coursework, credit transfers, and program-specific requirements.
Where to do a masters in game design?
Comprehensive design courses are offered by several renowned universities, and they often create coursework that makes the student industry-ready. One can pursue their master’s in-game design either on-campus, online, or in a hybrid setting. Some of the best online master’s programs for game design are listed on this page.
Can a master’s in game design be pursued online?
Yes, absolutely! Online courses have become the new norm, and when pursued in an accredited design school, an online degree matches the quality of their offline counterparts. Online learning has an added advantage of low expenditure compared to offline learning as costs like accommodation, transport, etc., are negated.
Who can study a master’s in game design?
For gamers, who are enthusiastic about conceptualizing a game and building it from ground zero, a master’s in game design is the perfect fit. It requires research, creativity, interpersonal skills, gaming skills, and a burning passion for bringing games to life. If one resonates with any of these attributes, this course is for them!
Is game design in demand?
The job outlook for game designers is projected to accelerate by 10% to 15% in the upcoming years. Gaming has become a billion-dollar industry and is set for growth in the future too. As the industry demands more workforce, it gives one the competitive advantage to specialize and gain expertise in a certain gaming domain.
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 Audio Engineer
Creative Game Director
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 2023 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:
Digital Designers – Annual Median Salary: $77,200 | Job Outlook: 13% (faster than average)
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:
Dribble – a community that enables sharing of designs, concepts, and ideas for designers to display their work and get hired.
Graphic Artists Guild – an association that provides educational resources and research publications for design professionals to upskill.
Storytelling Alice – a programming environment that simplifies learning computer programs through 3D animated movies.
CG Society – a portal that enables networking among computer graphics professionals to explore the latest graphic technologies and practices.
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.
Unity 3Dand 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.
GDC Vault– a video library that features several panel discussions about game design and development.
The rankings, average tuition (based on the degree type for in-state students), and average graduation rates are based on information from several sources, including Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and may vary. All rankings and figures mentioned are subject to change. Based on our proprietary methodology, the rankings are purely Online Masters Colleges's (OMC's) opinions. They do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor any official government census or survey. Additionally, any views or opinions expressed on this page are those of OMC's researchers and teams. Unless specifically indicated, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the people, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page's provided content is solely for informational purposes, with information drawn from several sources, including IPEDS. OMC or its employees make no guarantees of the accuracy or completeness of any information on this page or found by following any link. OMC will not be held liable for any mistakes or omissions in this material, nor will it be held liable for any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the material on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, reader discretion is always advised because part or all the provided information may have changed over time, potentially leading to inaccuracies. Please read our Terms of Service for more information. Logos and trademarks are properties of their registered owners
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