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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan Dear­born and Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty Indi­anapo­lis are two top schools for an afford­able bach­e­lor’s in game design.
  • Find a pro­gram that offers a bal­ance between cost and edu­ca­tion­al quality.
  • Game design pro­grams cater to dif­fer­ent aspects of the field, includ­ing game devel­op­ment, ani­ma­tion, and inter­ac­tive media.
  • The pro­grams are designed to pre­pare stu­dents for suc­cess­ful careers in the gam­ing industry.

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan Dearborn

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty Indianapolis 

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

East­ern Ken­tucky University

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

SUNY at Canton

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Fer­ris State University 

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Shawnee State University

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Edin­boro University

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

SUNY Poly­tech­nic

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Wilm­ing­ton University

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
For­mat: On-Cam­pus

Ken­ne­saw State University

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, the medi­an pay for mul­ti­me­dia artists and ani­ma­tors hold­ing their bach­e­lor’s degree was $98,950. That trans­lates to $47.57 per hour. These sta­tis­tics fur­ther point out that, between the years 2022 and 2032, 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 $126k 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 $110,388 each year.

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.

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