The tech industry is well-known for its “experience over education” philosophy, and the video game segment all the more so; after all, the whole system was built on garage tinkerers and self-taught programmers. But today, with a competitive job market and increased professionalization all around, many video game designers and developers are choosing a bachelor’s degree over an associate’s degree. That includes people already in the business who want to increase their credentials to move into management and young adults who want to start their careers ahead of the game.
Working professionals who want to complete their bachelor’s degree and enhance their career have many factors to take into account: convenience, quality, job placement, and more. The same goes for other nontraditional students, including low-income and first-generation students. But for many, one factor stands over top of all the others – cost. And while there are many elements to trade off when calculating true cost, a program that gives honest, reasonable tuition rates will win out. That’s why the Bachelor’s Degree Center ranking of the most affordable game design bachelor’s degree programs is dominated by regional public universities.
Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Degree in Video Game Development
To rank the best values in game design bachelor’s degrees, Bachelor’s Degree Center editors sought out the best game development degree online and on-campus programs in the US. BDC features only accredited, reputable institutions that have proven themselves in education and on the job market.
When it comes to putting the most affordable game design bachelor’s programs in order, though, only one criteria matters: cost. Programs are arranged by price, from lowest to highest, according to current IPEDS data.
1. University of Michigan Dearborn
The BS in Computer and Information Science at the University of Michigan Dearborn focuses on the combination of creativity with technology to solve problems in modern life. By focusing on the whole process of development in the game design bachelors, you will have the skills to handle game programming, augmented reality technology, and improvements to user experience. The on-campus program allows you to develop the hands-on skills you need to work in game development and design.
The University of Michigan at Dearborn stands out from other universities for affordable degree programs and the opportunities within the school to gain hands-on experience. Students have opportunities to join the Society of Women Engineers or similar organizations on campus. It also offers internship and research opportunities to gain experience in game design or development before finishing a degree.
Degree: BS in Computer and Information Science – Game Design
2. Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
The Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis BS in Media Arts and Science Game Design and Development allows students to take an idea for a game or simulation and build it into an immersive experience. The goal of the degree in video game development is the ability to bring your ideas to life. The program teaches students to handle the technical aspects of game development and focuses on real-world application through hands-on projects.
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis differs from other schools by taking an immersive approach to the learning process. The school encourages students to explore different activities to improve their ability to create a game that keeps players interested in the story and experience. It also stands out by creating projects that focus on different aspects of the gaming experience. It is not only about creating video games for entertainment. The affordable on-campus program also strives to show how video games can improve real-world experiences through education and simulation.
Degree: BS in Media Arts & Science – Game Design and Development
3. Eastern Kentucky University
When you are looking for a game development degree, you may find the Eastern Kentucky University BS in Computer Science Interactive Media concentration. The program is an addition to the computer science degree that recognizes the value of video game development and design. The program teaches students the process of designing and developing video games and interactive media. It also works with the minor in Game Content Design that enhances your opportunities to learn game development skills.
Eastern Kentucky University stands apart because it is the first university in the state of Kentucky to offer a game design bachelor’s degree program. The affordable on-campus program teaches students valuable skills to design, program, and complete a game. While it does take an educational approach to the process, students gain hands-on experience in the classroom to develop and improve their programming skills.
Degree: BS in Computer Science – Interactive Multimedia
4. SUNY Canton
The State University of New York (SUNY) at Canton BS in Game Design and Development is a four-year program that recognizes the changing technology and platforms that allow gaming activities. It takes a well-rounded approach to the learning process by focusing on multiple media sources, including virtual reality, as part of the degree program. When students finish their degree, they will have the skills to work on different aspects of the development of a new game.
SUNY Canton differs from other schools by taking a well-rounded approach to the game development process. The school focuses on the real-world application of skills and emphasizes user-friendly game designs. It helps students recognize the challenges of each stage of development and teaches them to streamline the processes to improve the user experience through hands-on development and design projects.
Degree: BS in Game Design and Development
5. Ferris State University
Ferris State University offers a BS in Digital Animation and Game Design that focuses on developing the skills you need to work in digital animation or in the development of a video game. The program focuses on helping students create stunning 3D art and programs that help with their long-term goals of working in the video game industry. The education also helps students who want to work in computer animation for movies.
The way Ferris State University stands apart from other schools is its focus on modern technology and techniques in the classroom. Students have access to up-to-date technology and professional-grade programs to help with their education and experience. Students use modern tools to create works of art and develop new games. They also learn the programming skills required to create an immersive experience for the player.
Degree: BS in Digital Animation and Game Design
6. Shawnee State University
Shawnee State University offers two game design bachelor’s degree programs that focus on different aspects of the gaming experience. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game and Simulation or the Bachelor of Science in Digital Simulation and Gaming Engineering Technology help students move into a career as a professional game developer. The BFA program focuses on the design aspects of the game. Students learn to create 3D animation, design characters, and design the interface for the game. The BS program focuses on the technical aspects of the gaming experience. Students learn software development, programming, and computer science as it relates to game development.
Shawnee State University differs from other schools by offering a low student-to-teacher ratio. The affordable tuition costs and the options to focus on specific aspects of game design and development help students improve their skills for their careers. Students on-campus also have access to clubs and organizations for more hands-on experience when developing and creating a game.
Degree: BFA in Game & Simulation or BS in Digital Simulation & Gaming Engineering Technology
7. Edinboro University
The BS in Game and Virtual World Development at Edinboro University gives students a well-rounded education to improve their skills in the creation of video games or related fields. Since the program teaches students the computer science skills, programming skills, and mathematics skills involved in the creation of a new game, students are able to work in a variety of fields and careers. It also puts a focus on art and 3D animation, which allows students to create interesting worlds for their games.
Edinboro University stands apart from other schools by focusing on experiential learning and providing modern facilities for student learning. The experiential approach to learning means students take a hands-on approach to the learning process. They work with faculty for collaborative research projects and have opportunities for internships to learn from mentors and professional game developers. The modern facilities mean students have access to up-to-date technology and programs to enhance their education.
Degree: BS in Game and Virtual World Development
8. SUNY Polytechnic
SUNY Polytechnic’s BS in Interactive Media and Game Design is an affordable game design program that takes a hands-on approach from the first year of education. Students work with industry-standard software and design suites on up-to-date computers to design games from the start of the program. The program allows students to concentrate in one of three areas of video game development: software development and interaction design, marketing and entrepreneurship, and art and asset production.
SUNY Polytechnic stands out by offering a hands-on approach to video game design and development in the first year of education. Students begin working on creating a game from the start of their education, which gives them greater experience with the software and design process before they move into a career. It also allows students to learn the marketing aspects of game design, which plays an essential role in the video game industry.
Degree: BS in Interactive Media & Game Design
9. Wilmington University
The degree in video game development from Wilmington University recognizes the value of game development skills in all areas of life. The BS in Game Design and Development teaches students the 3D modeling skills, video production skills, and interactive design skills they need to handle the creation and development of a game or interactive media program. The on-campus laboratory allows students access to industry-standard technology to enhance their skills and give hands-on experience with the game design process.
Wilmington University differs from other programs by offering online and on-campus educational options. Students can take classes online when they have a complex schedule or personal obligations that limit their time for education. The program is accredited and is only one of a few programs available in the region. It also stands out for the flexible class schedules that allow students to focus on studying when it fits their schedule, including weekend classes and night classes.
Degree: BS in Game Design and Development
10. Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University BS in Computer Game Design and Development is an on-campus program that teaches computing and software engineering skills to students who want to design and develop video games or computer games. Students take a hands-on approach to the design process and work with cutting-edge software and technology. Their ability to focus on design and development allows students to gain experience before moving into a career.
Kennesaw State University differs from other schools by teaching students the skills they need to handle a variety of gaming environments and situations. Students learn the skills they need to handle the creation and development of massively multi-player role play games via a computer, or MMORPGs, as well as newer designs for virtual reality and smartphone applications. It also recognizes the value of simulations in professional settings and helps students develop the skills they need to create educational games.
Degree: BS in Computer Game Design and Development
Is a Game Design Degree Worth It?
Students who have an interest in the creative, technical, and visual aspects of game design benefit from the foundations they’ll find in a bachelor’s in game design. They may have questions about whether or not a video game design degree is worth it, as well as what the video game designer job outlook holds for them.
Not only will they have a choice in either studying the artistic side of video game design but also the technical as well. A wide variety of career opportunities exist for those holding a bachelor’s in game design. For example, a video game designer’s job outlook includes as an art director, graphic designer, multimedia designer, or video game designer.
When determining if a video design degree is worth it regarding careers, the video game designer job outlook is positive. According to reports by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2017 the median pay for multimedia artists and animators holding their bachelor’s degree was $70,530. That translates to $33.91 per hour. These statistics further point out that, between the years 2016 and 2026, there’s going to be a projected growth in employment of eight percent. The main reason is that there’s a growing demand for those in this field.
How Much Can I Make with a Game Design Bachelor’s?
Before discussing a video game designer’s salary, it’s essential you know a little about the role you’ll be playing as a game designer. Those working as game designers will not be working in an entry-level position, so they’ll need to have solid leadership skills and be able to communicate well. It will be their responsibility to make decisions regarding the game’s core elements, themes, characters, gameplay, and so on. Therefore, the game designer will be working in coordination and communicating with several departments on projects. Typically, these roles begin as a junior game designer and develop into a video game designer, which commands a higher video game designer salary.
It isn’t uncommon for those entering into a game design bachelor’s program to wonder about a video game designer’s salary. Statistics reported from Glassdoor indicate that the average video game designer salary is $73,182 annually. On the low end, a video game design salary could be $51,000 per year. On the high-end, a video game design salary could be as much as $102,000 each year. A game development salary also includes additional cash compensation that averages up to $6,765 annually.
Can I Get a Game Development Degree Online for Free?
While it isn’t usually possible for students to get a degree entirely for free, there are a wide variety of opportunities where it’s possible to find free game design online courses. In doing so, students will learn some of the foundations necessary to get them started before embarking upon their bachelor’s. Many of these game design online courses are free and are available through sites including Massive Open Online Course.
These game design and development courses require students to watch videos, participate in modules, and commit to a particular amount of weeks. Each of these game design online courses is offered by different websites and set up according to that website’s guidelines. So, even though students will be working with a free service, they’ll still need to follow requirements set up by the moderators, course instructors, and the website. That way, they can get the most out of these game design online courses and the learning experience will be a positive one. Students can also use Alison’s website to explore free game design online courses. In doing so, there are opportunities to earn diplomas, as well as certificates in HTML, bot building, and more.