School of Game Development

Put Your Passion into Play! Attend the School of Game Development and experience the entire game production process from brainstorming ideas to designing and developing the art, assets, and code that will bring those ideas to life. Our program Is run by game Industry professionals who will teach you the skills you’ll need to prepare you for cutting-edge careers in this growing and exciting industry.

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Game Development Degrees

At Academy of Art University’s School of Game Development, we offer specialized degrees in game production for both undergraduate and graduate students. As a student in our program, you can pursue a degree in game design, game programming, concept art, or 3D modeling. All of our curriculum is available both on campus and online to offer you the greatest flexibility possible no matter where you are or how you’re approaching your education. We have options for students looking for AA, BFA, MA, or MFA degrees.

Tour of a Top Game Development School

Join concept artist Michael Buffington on a virtual POV tour of Academy of Art’s School of Game Development—one of the top game design schools in the nation. Meet the instructors, check out student work, explore our impressive eSports gaming room, and more.

Learn Online

Our revolutionary online courses provide the same rigorous education that we offer on campus with greater flexibility. Our online programs are purpose-built to deliver art and design courses. Study on your own time, at your own pace. Combine online and on-site classes.

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Developing Game Makers

Students in the Game Development Program prepare for a career in the video game industry through both traditional classroom environments and production-based collaborative classes.

Our game design school offers four degree focuses: Concept Art, 3D Art, Game Design and Game Programming. By having these key major components of a Game Production pipeline, we have our senior level students come together in their final year to simulate an industry environment of collaborative game production.

Let’s get more specific about the Bachelor degrees we offer. By the end of these programs, students will have created a body of work not only to be proud of, but also that will demonstrate expertise when job hunting after graduation. Both B.S. and B.F.A. students create portfolios.

Students will feel confident that they can solve technical problems and effectively communicate and execute their conceptual ideas. They will be ready to implement principles of design because they know the tricks and tools of the trade. They will have built a strong foundation of the history of gaming, with a finger on the pulse of today’s trends, and have a clear vision of the future. Ultimately, they will become a competitive player in the gaming field. That’s the power of game developer schools.

Game Programming (Bachelor of Science)

By the end of this program, a successful undergraduate will have gained experience in architecture, implementation, and professionalism. They will be adept at writing technical documentation and code. They become pros at using architectural design patterns, writing algorithms, and implementing data structures. Students will meet professional standards when it comes to naming conventions, coding, and production.

Coursework includes Principles of Computer Science, Programming for Games, Data Structures & Algorithms, History of Gaming, Programming Languages, Artificial Intelligence, Fundamentals of Computer Graphics, Mobile Game Development, Programming for Game UI and Tools, Systems Design, and more. For more information, refer to the comprehensive list of BS coursework.

The Game Programming degree requires 30 in-major units, 45 liberal arts units, 9 elective units, and 36 core units, for a total of 120 units. Each course is 3 units. Although this is a B.S. degree, we believe game programming is a true fusion of art and science.

Concept Art (Bachelor of Fine Arts)

Through all the B.F.A. paths offered, students will learn how to effectively communicate visually, verbally, and in writing. They will be able to talk the talk by presenting professionally – and then walk the walk by creating a stellar portfolio of their best work samples. They will become fluent in professional lingo and adept at proactive problem solving. Students will familiarize themselves with professional workflows in their coursework.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Concept Art is all about creating environments for characters to live in, as well as memorable characters themselves. Students will learn to set the mood of a game using color, lighting, and 3D detail.

Coursework includes 2D Tools for Game Development, Game Engines, 3D Modeling for Games, Intro to Anatomy, Digital Environment Sketching, Heads & Hands, Prop & Weapon Design for Games, Survey of Landscape Architecture, C3: Character, Costume, & Creature, internship, collaborative Game Development, and more.

All B.F.A. paths require 132 units total: 42 in-major, 45 liberal arts, 9 elective, and 36 core. Each course is 3 units. For more information on a BFA in Concept Art, refer to the comprehensive list of BFA coursework.

3D Art (Bachelor of Fine Arts)

Declaring 3D Art as a career interest sets students up for a dynamic and creative career. Students will learn the craft from every angle: from 3D modeling, to lighting, to engine technologies. They will implement design principles to create unforgettable game environments and characters. A professional portfolio by the end of this degree will show off students’ favorite aspect of 3D art and set them up for a rewarding career.

Coursework includes Game Engines, History of Gaming, Sketching the Clothed Figure, Elements of Digital Painting, Texture & Light, 3D Modeling, Ecorche, Survey of Landscape Architecture, Collaborative Game Development, Maquette Sculpting, as well as English composition and creative writing classes.

The skills students accumulate in 3D Art will shine through in their portfolios because they will be able to show off not only their style, but also versatility in creating in the style of others. For more information on a BFA in 3D Art, refer to the comprehensive list of BFA coursework.

Game Design (Bachelor of Fine Arts)

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Game Design gives students proficiency in the language of game engine design and technology – in other words, the communication skills to articulate their process and the how-to of game art principles, pre-production, and production.

Coursework includes Game Engines, Game Design, Theory, & Analysis, Level Design for Video Games, Designing Careers, Systems Design, Advanced Scripting, Game Freemium & Monetization, Rapid Game Development, Combat Design, Programming languages, World Literature, Survey of Traditional Interior Architecture, and more.

By the end, students will be able to create game prototypes in game engines, create documentation and paper maps for pre-production, implement mechanics using code-based scripting, and work collaboratively. For more information on a BFA in Game Design, refer to the comprehensive list of BFA coursework.

What We Teach

A generation or two ago, gaming schools were few and far between. Now, game development colleges are on the cutting edge of the gaming industry, educating students on how to harness the newest technologies to create new worlds for players around the globe. Our game development degree provides a comprehensive overview of professional game production as well as class content that focuses on specific aspects of development: game design, concept art, and 3D modeling. We are constantly updating our curriculum to meet the challenges of new gaming hardware, development applications, professional workflows, and industry trends. When it comes to game design colleges that give students freedom to choose, Academy of Art University’s degrees in Game Development and Programming provide prospective students a variety of options for their studies.

Introductory Classes: A.A., B.S., & B.F.A.

Students learn foundational skills and get experience in game development when earning Bachelor’s and Associate’s degrees. For some, an Associates of Arts (A.A.) degree can be a stepping stone to your Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The coursework of an A.A. degree roughly mirrors that of the first four semesters of a B.S. or B.F.A.

These introductory classes include:

  • Intro to Maya, Intro to Game Development, Tools for Game Development, and Freshman Symposium: Artistic Resilience in your first semester.
  • Game Engines, Game Design, Theory & Analysis, 3D Modeling for Games 1, Introduction to Illustration, Composition for the Artist, and College Math in your second semester.
  • Elements of Scripting, Elements of Digital Painting, Intro to Digital Sculpting, Sketching the Clothed Figure, and Art History through the 15th century in your third semester.
  • History of Gaming, Level Design for Video Games 1, Accelerated Digital Drawing Intensive for Concept Art, Portfolio for Games 1, Art History Through the 19th century, English Composition: Creative Persuasion and Argument, and Designing Careers in your fourth semester.

The A.A. degree is a four semester program with some recommended summer classes. Note that the A.A. degree does not offer different paths.

The second half of the Bachelor’s degrees are similar, but they are eight-semester programs (to be completed in four years, or at your own pace) with some recommended summer courses, including an internship. For more details on coursework for the B.F.A. and B.S., see Developing Game Makers section below.

Higher-Level Courses: M.A. & M.F.A

In graduate level courses, students develop communication, technological, professional, and critical thinking skills. Grad students choose a career interest in one of four paths: Character Modeling for Games, Concept Art for Games, Environment Modeling for Games, or Game Design.

Students create portfolios in both the M.A. and M.F.A. programs. With the latest tech and mastery of art and design, students create industry-ready portfolios. For a more detailed look at how the two graduate degrees and courses compare, check out the FAQ section below.

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Facilities & Technology

The latest in software and equipment is essential to preparing you to enter the game development workforce, which is why we keep up with current advancements in game development technology and industry practices. Whatever the pros are doing and whatever the pros are using is what you will find in our game design school.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

At the Academy, we use technologies like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the Microsoft Hololens to push our understanding of what altered reality gaming experiences mean to players now, and where the medium will take us in the future.

To allow students to get experience using the latest technology, colleges for game design must invest in virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices. That’s what makes us one of the best colleges for video game design.

We utilize a variety of VR, AR, and MR (mixed reality) tools to bring worlds to life. These devices help students experience what works well in the world of gaming, and get inspiration to test out new ideas. With VR and AR technology, users see images projected directly in front of their eyes, creating the feeling and illusion of a virtual or augmented 3D world.

We want to make sure students have access to what gamers use, which is why we invest in Oculus Rift, Microsoft Hololens, and HTC Vive.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift was a game changer when it first came out. The VR technology allows for completely immersive gaming by utilizing body movement mapping, an external camera, and a handheld game controller. This classic headset is a must for gaming students of every level.

Microsoft Hololens

AR is more about tweaking your real world view than immersing yourself in a completely new world (VR). Microsoft Hololens is an AR/MR (mixed reality) headset. It can be used wirelessly, operated by a mouse and keyboard or a game controller.

This robust technology utilizes multiple microphones and allows for peripheral vision so users can see a bit of true reality. This means that the projections from Hololens require the real world to anchor onto. Microsoft Hololens is popular not only for gaming, but also for educational, medical, and other purposes that benefit from simulation.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive is a high resolution headset with adjustable lenses, stereo speakers, touch controllers, and a view of 110 degrees. Its tracking fits the size of the room the user is in, making this a premier choice of virtual reality technology.

Other technology in our in-person facilities include iMacs, Wacom tablets, Odyssey Windows MR headsets, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo consoles, and more.


Our instructors don’t just teach you about the gaming industry, they are the gaming industry.

Alumni Success

Featured Alumni

Industry Partnership

Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard Entertainment partners with the game design school at Academy of Art University to provide lectures and student portfolio reviews. Many of our students have entered and won the annual Blizzard Student Art Contest, earning mentoring, internships and employment with Blizzard.

Careers in Game Development

As one of the top art and design schools in the country, Academy of Art University game development graduates have a range of opportunities to choose from. Our facilities, faculty, and hands-on learning approach are designed to provide you with the tools you need to succeed in this exciting industry.


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Take the first step.
Or call 415-274-2222 to request more information about this program.
3D Character Artist
Bring characters to life as a 3D character modeler. You’ll build complex character models, organic meshes, and work across teams to rig, light, texture, and animate your creations.
Animation VFX
Animation and Visual Effects gives a game its personality. The most well-designed and crafted character doesn’t come to life until someone makes them move and give them some personality. Visual Effects, such as fire, laser blasts, and warp gates, grab the player and transport them to another world altogether.
Environment Concept Artist
Combine a playful imagination with a high degree of artistic skill. Concept and flesh out all aspects of environmental design, from small props to full culture kits.
Game/Level Designer
Balance gameplay elements to keep games engaging. You will also improve systems, contribute to features, and participate in testing to create immersive worlds and evoke emotions.
Gameplay Programmer
Gameplay programmers are the heart of any game. Your job will be to bring the game to life by implementing the core gameplay mechanics. You'll work very closely with designers to build the game itself.
UX/UI Designer
Use your knowledge of game features, design, motion graphics, and user paths to create an immersive experience.
Company logo for Blizzard Entertainment
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Company logo of Sony Interactive Entertainment
Naughty Dog


Game Design Schools FAQs

What classes will I take in a game design program?

Choose your own adventure! Your curriculum requirements depend upon the path you choose. Besides the required liberal arts and general education classes, your classes will depend upon your chosen specialty within the major. See more about coursework above.

How much will a game design program cost?

Cost of attendance depends upon the video game school’s specific program. The cost estimate for the academic year starting in fall 2022 for full-time undergraduate domestic students is $30,544. For more tuition specifics, see our Cost of Attendance page. You can also compare tuition costs between the Academy of Art University and other similar art and design programs.

Is game design a good career path?

Absolutely! We are only at the beginning of what gaming can do, especially with VR/AR. Our faculty has connections at Lucasfilm, Adobe, Pixar, Sony, Dreamworks, EA, and more. Our faculty is not composed of stuffy college professors in ivory towers: our instructors are still actively working in the gaming field. With extensive real world experience, they provide students with an inside look into the industry’s latest.

What jobs can I get with a game design degree?

Jobs possible to graduates include 3D Character Artist, Environment Concept Artist, Tools Programmer, UX/UI Designer, Animation VFX, Game/Level Designer, and many more. Plus, our alumni support network is over 50,000 strong, featuring some of the gaming industry’s best. Alumni are excellent resources for navigating post-grad life, ready to help you get a foot in the door or look over a portfolio. Companies that have hired graduates of our game design school include Blizzard Entertainment, Arenanet, Sledgehammer Games, among others.

What application materials are required?

We accept online applications on a rolling basis. No standardized testing is required. An English speaking language test and student visa are required for international students. Official transcripts are required for all applicants and undergraduates must supply proof of high school completion. All applicants must pay the application fee.

Does the Academy of Art University offer college level sports?

Yes. We are more than just an art and design school, we also offer a robust athletics program. Did you know that Academy of Art University is the only higher arts education institution in the U.S. to have an NCAA athletics program? We have 16 intercollegiate NCAA sports teams. Join our team and become an Urban Knight!

What is the school’s policy on diversity and inclusion?

The Academy of Art University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, religion, physical handicap, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, scholarship and loan programs, and other school-administered programs.

How does the Academy of Art University compare to other game design schools?

There are lots of fun facts about us, but we have a couple of favorites. For example, the School of Game Development was ranked by College Consensus as among the Top 25 Best Online Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in Game Design in 2021. Additionally, Academy of Art University was the very first art university to be invited to show student work at New York Fashion Week not once, but twice a year.

What are the differences between the M.A. and M.F.A.?

In short, the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is a four semester program with no thesis project, whereas the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree includes a thesis project and lasts for six semesters. The specialty track offerings are the same for both graduate programs. Students in both programs complete portfolios.

The M.A. has 36 total required units, comprising primarily in-major units. Its three graduate liberal arts units come from an Art Historical Awareness and Aesthetic Sensitivity course. M.A. classes include Rapid Game Development, Drawing Bootcamp for Games: The Human Figure, Scripting for Games, 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), User Experience Design, and more.

Course offerings for the M.F.A. include Writing & Research for the Master’s Student, Prototype Game Development, Directed Study, and more. 63 units are required for the M.F.A., comprising 30 in-major units, 18 directed studies units, 9 graduate liberal arts units, and 6 elective units. Successful thesis completion in your chosen path is required for the M.F.A. degree.

What are the requirements for passing each program?

Here are the requirements for undergraduates vs graduates:

  • Undergraduates must receive a C- is all major coursework and certain liberal arts and general education courses with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA.
  • Graduates must earn a minimum of a C in all units. A minimum of 2.0 cumulative GPA is required for successful completion of graduate degrees.
What are the schedules like for each of the programs?

For all classes in the School of Game Development, you can go at your own pace, either in person, online, or both. Be a full time or part time student – you have the freedom to choose what works best for you.

  • The A.A. degree is a four semester program with some recommended summer classes.
  • The B.S. and B.F.A. are eight-semester programs designed to be completed in four years, with some recommended summer courses, including an internship.
  • Going at a traditional pace, the M.F.A. degree is designed to be completed in three years, including recommended summer courses, whereas the M.A. is designed to be completed in two.
What Financial Aid resources are offered?

Academy of Art University offers different types of financial aid, including state and federal aid, alternative loans, and work studies. We also offer grants and scholarships. The Spring Forward Scholarship is for prospective students wanting to make a change in direction from a previous career or course of study. We also offer scholarships for emerging artists and prospective graduate students. For graduate students, federal aid may come in the form of a Direct Stafford Loan, Federal Work Study, or Direct Graduate Plus Loan. Although our admissions are rolling, it is important for prospective students to keep track of important financial aid deadlines.

What to Expect at the Academy of Art University

Choosing to complete a degree in this competitive space is a big decision. Naturally, you want to know exactly what you are getting into before committing to a 2-4 year program. Do you have summers off? Internship opportunities? What is the campus culture? Here’s what to expect as a student.

About the Academy of Art University

With approximately 11,000 students, the Academy of Art University is a tight-knit community in a big city. Built in 1929, we have seen a lot of change, expansion, and improvement over nearly 100 years of higher-level education. We have 17 student housing facilities throughout the city, convenient meal plans, and a free student shuttle. We believe in giving students everything they  need so that they can focus on what matters most — their education.

Beyond the School of Game Development, Academy of Art University offers Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture, Art Teaching Credential, certificate programs, and continuing art education courses in 72 areas of study. Our founder, Richard S. Stephens, began this school to teach advertising art to just 45 students. Now the Academy of Art University teaches thousands of talented students across many different artistic disciplines.

So what about fun stuff? We host a variety of events for our students all year round, keeping you inspired and engaged with our community. Want to have some competitive fun? Every week, our E-Sports Lab is abuzz with either a game night or tournament. Represent the Urban Knights in competition with other universities in playing League of Legends, Overwatch, or Valorant. Shared work spaces with Animation, Illustration, and Music students means you never know what interdepartmental gaming competitions or collaborations can happen!

We believe that when our talented students come together, they’re a creative force to be reckoned with. When you join our community, you’re sure to find your people at the Academy of Art University.

About San Francisco

Academy of Art University is based in San Francisco – a melting pot of cultures, famous for stunning views and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. With this beautiful city’s proximity to Silicon Valley, students are in the best place to learn the latest software and design trends and skills. San Francisco is a natural place to network beyond the classroom and score valuable internships for real world experience.

Our city is full of creativity and inspiration, which is why we encourage our students to get out and experience it. The Academy of Art University puts on over 70 art shows and gallery exhibitions for students and alumni around the city every year. Collaborating with other art students and appreciating their work doesn’t just inspire you — it also creates lifelong friendships.

Being an Online Student

Even when students join our online video game design school remotely, they will benefit from the professors’ infusion of San Francisco’s inspiration into the coursework. Any game development or programming degree can be completed online, in person, or a combination of digital and in person. We are not new to the online learning game: we’ve been in the remote learning space for 20 years. Rest assured that your online experience with one of the best game design schools will be comprehensive and engaging.

Expect the same quality experience as in person, but you’ll have more flexibility with an online degree. We understand that students have other obligations equally as important as academics, such as family or jobs. With an online gaming education, students can expect access to robust online programming and resources, such as guest speaker events, workshops, tutorials, and more.

Online courses are in 7.5 and 15 week formats. The online Learning Management System keeps everything students need for classes in one place. Registering as an online student at Academy of Art University also includes free tools and resources, such as an online subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Support for International Students

As of 2022, we are proud to announce that 36% of our current students come from 115 countries worldwide. Diverse perspectives and life experiences enrich the learning, creating, and storytelling that comes with gaming. Refer to detailed information about tuition, student visas, how to apply, and scholarships. International applicants can also call 1-415-274-2208 or email with further questions.

Still have questions? Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about game design schools.

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