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Game Design Schools in California with Degree Program Summaries

The California area has roughly 20 schools that offer game design programs. Get some information about the degree programs and some quick facts for two of these schools to make an informed education decision.

Essential Information

Game design programs are most often available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels at 4-year institutions. These programs may be found in the areas of interactive media, computer science, software engineering and fine art. Some of these programs include concentrations in game design, while others just include game design coursework. Students often learn about both software development and multimedia design to prepare them to work as either game artists or game software developers. Some schools have game design studios on campus and provide students with the opportunity to design video games as part of class projects.


University of Southern California

The University of Southern California, located in Los Angeles, houses the Game Innovation Lab, which is where students and faculty conduct research on game genres and prototyping and develop new concepts in game design. Students and faculty in the lab study both commercially available and internally developed games in order to design games that display innovative play mechanics and generate new social interactions.

The school's bachelor's program in interactive entertainment combines the studies of cinema arts, computer programming and game design. Students participate in game design workshops and learn about 3D animation, character development and storytelling for games.

The 3-year master's program in interactive media features an interactive entertainment concentration. Students learn about interactive experience design, visual expression, animation, interface design, usability testing, game anatomy and experimental game topics. As a part of the degree requirements, students design and produce an advanced interactive media project.

  • Programs Offered: BS in Interactive Entertainment
    MFA in Interactive Media: Interactive Entertainment
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2013-2014): $46,298*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private nonprofit; large city

University of California - Santa Cruz

The computer science faculty at the University of California - Santa Cruz conduct research in various aspects of game design, including artificial intelligence in computer games, expressive processing and automatic generation of levels for games. The game design studio contains computationally powerful game design workstations and a game playing station.

Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science with a computer game design concentration. This interdisciplinary program combines computer science and engineering with digital media and fine arts. Students study such topics as object-oriented programming, artificial intelligence, game graphics and parallel programming. In the game design studio taken during their senior year, students work in groups to design a video game.

  • Program Offered: BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2013-2014): $13,397 (in-state), $36,275 (out-of-state)*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; small city

School Comparison: At a Glance

School School Type & Setting Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2013-2014)
University of Southern California 4-year, private nonprofit; large city BS in Interactive Entertainment
MFA in Interactive Media: Interactive Entertainment
$46,298*
University of California - Santa Cruz 4-year, public; small city BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design $13,397 (in-state), $36,275 (out-of-state)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

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