Online Degree in Game Programming: Program Overviews

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Online study in game programming typically leads to certificates or bachelor's degrees. A fully online program in game design and simulation is offered at the certificate, while those seeking bachelor's degree may find game software development programs offered fully online. Coursework at either level commonly covers programming, graphics, animation and design. Online degree programs offered through public and private non-profit schools may include on-campus elements, whereas study through private for-profit schools typically remains completely online.

Individuals can major in Game Programming, but they can also take game programming courses when they major in Multimedia Design or Computer Programming. Game programming courses require students to have the latest operating system (typically Windows), DirectX, Microsoft Visual C++ and high-speed Internet connection.

Certificate in Game Programming

This course of study provides a starting point for future game developers. Game enthusiasts and amateur programmers who are interested in creating their own games can also benefit. Coursework introduces students to game development concepts such as 3D graphics, gaming math and programming languages. A handful of community colleges offer specific online certificate programs in game programming; others merge this topic with multimedia design and computer programming subjects.

Program Information and Requirements

An online certificate program in game programming may be completed in as little as one year. It may be offered entirely online or through combined online and on-campus methods. Coursework generally combines assigned readings and coding lessons, which students complete at their own pace. Some programs also require the purchase of a textbook.

Students need a personal computer running a recent version of Windows and DirectX as well as an Internet connection, preferably broadband. Some programs may also recommend the .Net implementation of Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0 or higher.

Course Topics

Enrollment requirements are minimal. Some schools only specify familiarity with computers and completed coursework in high school mathematics.

C++ Programming

Students receive an introduction to the widely used C++ programming language. Coursework emphasizes the application of programming concepts to game development.

Game Development

This course provides a survey of game platforms and game categories. Students also receive an overview of the development process from storyboarding to production.

Graphics Programming

This class introduces fundamental concepts in animation and 3D graphics. Topics include 3D libraries and 3D rendering.

Bachelor's Degree in Game Programming

An online bachelor's degree program in game programming provides the knowledge and skills necessary to support video game development projects. Students learn to write the base game code and other tools that game artists and designers need to carry out their part of a project. Subject-specific courses cover a range of topics, including artificial intelligence, game architecture, programming languages, game platforms and networking. Students must also complete a general education liberal arts component to earn their degree. Private for-profit schools are more likely to offer an exclusively online program than private non-profit schools and public schools.

Program Information and Requirements

This program is typically completed in four years. Programs may be available online exclusively or through hybrid delivery. Access to course material and interaction with faculty are often achieved through a school's web portal, e-mail and live chat. Classes are generally not held at a set time, and participants turn in assignments at their own pace.

A personal computer running the latest operating system, antivirus software and web browser is the basic technical requirement to participate in an online bachelor's degree program. Schools may use Blackboard or a proprietary course management software to deliver content.

Course Topics

Bachelor's degree programs include a general education component that covers math, language, social sciences and the humanities. Electives are also built into the curriculum, but these may be less diverse through online programs. Core courses may include:

Programming Fundamentals

Lessons cumulatively introduce the general concepts used in computer programming. Topics include programming syntax, control structures, data types and functions.

Game Programming Basics

This class draws on fundamental programming concepts encountered in previous courses and applies them to game programming. Students create simple games using a scripting language.

Game Animation

Students learn to make 2D and 3D virtual objects move convincingly around a display screen in this course. Topics include collision detection, timing, frame rates and user input.

Artificial Intelligence

This course explores how to simulate intelligent, decision-driven behavior by virtual entities. Students learn to use cellular automata and agent-based models.

Career Information

Students who earn certificates in game programming have somewhat variable job prospects. Opportunities within the field are increasingly specialized. Certificate holders are minimally qualified to apply for coding positions but have better prospects as entry-level game testers. According to, game testers earned a median salary of $38,974 in November 2019, but salary varies greatly by experience.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates who are interested in furthering their game programming education can look into master's degree programs in game development, which are primarily classroom-based. They can also explore related courses in game design, such as motion graphics or computational statistics, which are available both online and in classrooms and can be offered independently for personal edification or result in a diploma.

Fully online certificate programs and bachelor's degrees in the field of game programming are usually offered through private for-profit schools, though, online game design and simulation programs, along with game software development programs are available, and may require students to complete some coursework on campus. In these programs, students will be taught the basics of programming, animation and other topics that will be necessary when they look for employment in the gaming industry or in a related field.

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