Published in the April issue of GamePro magazine, the annual list names the top 10 undergraduate and top 10 graduate schools, plus five schools in each group as “Honorable Mentions.” Schools were chosen based on a comprehensive survey conducted by The Princeton Review into the 2010-11 academic year of 150 institutions in the U.S. and Canada offering video game design coursework or degrees.
The University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, ranked No. 1 on both the undergraduate and graduate program lists.
“I was pleasantly surprised, considering the company that we’re being held in. If you look at the size of the programs of the public institutions, and there were very few on there, I guarantee you we’re probably the smallest by half the student population,” said Greg Lyons, associate professor of 3-D and chair of the Fine and Digital Arts Department.
The program at SSU grew out of the visualist design program about five years ago. The program now includes a motion capture studio; and in December, the University System of Ohio designated Shawnee State University a Center of Excellence for Immersive Technology in recognition of the university’s gaming and simulation programs. Shawnee is also the home of the annual Interactive Digital Technology Conference, spotlighting student projects in computer game development, computer animation, digital graphics, and game-based art. Many industry leaders, researchers, developers and potential employers attend the conference.
“As people began to realize that this can be an academic pursuit, more interest in this area is going to develop. It’s not just games. It’s simulation. It’s that broad spectrum that actually makes these students marketable and desirable,” Lyons said.
The survey, which included more than 50 questions, covered a wide range of topics, from academics and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and career achievements. List choices were based on criteria that broadly covered the quality of the curriculum, faculty, facilities and infrastructure. The Princeton Review also factored in data it collected from the schools on their scholarships, financial aid and career opportunities.
“We salute the schools on our lists for their commitment to the field of video game design study and the innovative programs they offer,” said Robert Franek, senior VP/Publishing at The Princeton Review. “For students aspiring to work in this burgeoning field, and for the companies that will need their creative talents and trained skills, we hope this project will serve as a catalyst for many successful connections.”
The Princeton Review is also known for its annual rankings of colleges, law schools and business schools, which it reports on its website and in its published books.