Video game designers create the narrative, visual, and auditory elements of video games; they also program the software that brings games to life. In Virginia, programs are available in game design, computer engineering, computer science, graphic arts, and animation. Some programs are available as a concentration within a larger program.
Students interested in earning an education in game design may choose from bachelor's degree and graduate certificate programs, or opt to earn a minor in the field. Curriculum includes lab training on a range of computer programs that enable game design. Many programs include an internship, senior project, and/or portfolio development.
In the state of Virginia, there are six public and private non-profit institutions that offer relevant programs. These schools are profiled briefly below.
George Mason University
George Mason University in Fairfax is a four-year public institution with state-of-the-art facilities, competitions and programs designed to encourage the development of game design professionals. Among these is the Serious Games Institute, an industrial/educational partnership that fosters digital media clustering and training, research and business creation. This school offers a bachelor's program in computer game design that includes coursework in film and video music, computer programming, computer game platform analysis and story design. This program culminates in a senior project and an internship.
Students may also elect to minor in game design, a program that provides a core foundation of skills in sound and music for games, animation and game development. Graduate students eligible for the master's program in computer science can also pursue a 12-credit graduate certificate in computer games technology.
Liberty University in Lynchburg is the largest institution of higher learning in Virginia. Established by the late Jerry Falwell, Sr., it is also one of the largest church-affiliated universities in the world. Students can learn skills related to game design by earning a B.S. in Studio and Digital Arts with a concentration in graphic design, which requires coursework in such topics as 2-D and 3-D graphics and animation, digital imaging and illustration and interactive multimedia. This program includes an internship.
In 2010, Lynchburg College in Lynchburg was recognized by the Princeton Review for having one of the 50 best undergraduate programs in game design. This program currently exists as part of the bachelor's degree program in computer science. In addition to classes covering such topics as programming languages, computer architecture and data structures, students may take an elective in game programming that introduces such concepts as 3-D graphics, special effects, geometric transformations and graphics engines. A computer science minor is also available.
Old Dominion University
Located in Norfolk, Old Dominion University offers two degree programs that would benefit students seeking a career as a game designer. The Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering offers a B.S. program in modeling and simulation engineering, which provides instruction in technologies and methods that can be applied to gaming, including a course in game development. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers a bachelor's degree program in computer engineering, with a concentration in modeling and simulation, medical imaging computer graphics and visualization. This track also includes a course in game development, along with courses in digital image processing and computer graphics.
Located in Virginia Beach, Regent University is a Christian-affiliated, four-year university that offers a bachelor's program in animation. In addition to studying faith and learning, students take classes that support the school's educational goals in topics related to animation, including modeling and construction, conceptualization, digital cinematography, texturing, animation and postproduction. Specific classes include scriptwriting and storytelling, 2-D and 3-D animation, storyboarding, digital art and the animation business. An animation minor is also available.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University is a four-year public university in Richmond with graduate programs that U.S. News and World Report ranked 14th in multimedia and communications and 5th in graphic design in 2013. This institution offers a BFA in Fine Arts in Communication Arts that provides training in skills related to game design. Course topics include concept development, digital illustration, sequencing, computer graphics, 3D animation, and electronic animation. The curriculum also includes a course on game design, theory and practice. Seniors complete a major portfolio project and internship opportunities are available.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Game Design Degree Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)|
|George Mason University||4-year, public; large suburb|| Computer game design minor,
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Computer Game Design,
Computer Games Technology Graduate Certificate
|$12,462 in-state; $35,922 out-of-state*|
|Liberty University||4-year, private not-for-profit; small city||Bachelor of Science in Studio and Digital Arts-Graphic Design||$22,584 per year*|
|University of Lynchburg||4-year, private not-for-profit; small city|| Computer science minor,
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
|$39,530 per year*|
|Old Dominion University||4-year, public; midsize city|| Bachelor of Science in Modeling and Simulation Engineering,
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
|$10,560 in-state; $29,460 out-of-state*|
|Regent University||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city|| Animation minor,
Bachelor of Arts in Animation
|$18,380 per year*|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||4-year, public; midsize city||Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Arts||$14,493 in-state; $35,834 out-of-state*|
Source: *NCES College Navigator.