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Top 10 Cities for Game School

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Top 10 Cities for Game School

6 May , 2014  

Choosing the right game school can be overwhelming. There are many out there, and many factors to consider: faculty, placement numbers, awards and reputation. I’d like to help narrow down your choices by focusing on the best cities to consider for game school.

Obviously not everyone is able to move for college/university, and it can make a lot of sense to stay at home. If you are able to relocate, I’d recommend choosing one of the cities listed below.

My criteria for creating the list were, in order of priority:
1. Game industry presence (studio numbers gathered from here)
2. Game schools available
3. Cost of living (using data from here) – note that the figures I am using are relative to the cost of living in New York City. Lower is better.
4. Additional resources (conferences, organizations etc.)

It may seem counter-intuitive that I am prioritizing Industry presence over School Quality, but this was very deliberate. School quality is very difficult to assess. There are some resources, such as the Princeton Review Guide, which attempt to rank School Quality, but many reviews you will find are either from student comments (which are not always reliable) or biased articles heavily influenced by advertising.

Cities with a heavy game industry presence are your best bet for the following reasons:

1. Better teachers – more local studios means a regular pool of skilled teachers, and teachers who are still working, and are up-to-date on the latest industry trends and technologies

2. Better employment opportunities – internship opportunities, summer jobs as a game tester, and better turnout at school ‘Industry Nights’.

3. Better events – conferences such as GDC or Siggraph are invaluable for learning and networking, and going to school in the same city means it is easy to volunteer and attend.

Remember that even if you are already attending a game school, or have already graduated, these are also excellent cities to consider moving to to convert your education into a job in the industry.

The Top 10:

Best Game School City 10. Paris10. Paris, France

Studios: 27, including Ubisoft Paris, Gameloft Paris, Quantic Dream, Cyanide, Dontnod, Eugen Systems

Schools: GobelinsLa Fémis, Lisaa, 42, Isart Digital

Cost of Living and Rent: 96% of NYC

Events: Paris Games Week, Game Connection Europe

Okay, so you’ll need to brush up on your french to consider studying in France, but if you are bilingual there are many reasons to consider Paris. First, the city boasts some major studios, including the worldwide headquarters of both Ubisoft and Gameloft, along with a host of mid-sized independent studios making innovative and high quality games, including Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls), Cyanide (Blood Bowl 2) and Dontnod (Remember Me).

The second major reason to consider Paris is that it has some of the best (if not the best) art and animation schools in the world (Gobelins student reels will blow your mind). When combined with many of the best art museums, including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the National Museum of Modern Art, you could be in for an absolute world-class art education.

 

Best Game School City 9. Toronto9. Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Studios: 29, including Ubisoft Toronto, Rockstar Toronto, Digital Extremes, Capybara,

Schools: Sheridan, Seneca, Durham, Centennial, George Brown, Toronto Film School, Max the Mutt, Humber

Cost of Living and Rent: 70% of NYC

Events: Gamercamp, TOJam, Canadian Videogame Awards 

When I started this list, I was a bit nervous that my current hometown of Toronto wasn’t going to make the cut; I wanted to make sure the ranking was as unbiased as possible, and there is some steep competition. In the end, after staring at a spreadsheet of collected data, I am confident that Toronto deserves it’s spot on the list.

I must admit, it is difficult for me to stay unbiased in my description – I grew up close to Toronto, went to school at both Seneca College (for 3D Animation) and Max the Mutt (for Classical Animation), and work here at Ubisoft Toronto. This having been said, I think it is a great city to consider; it has a lot of options for schools, a strong indie scene, including studios like Capybara Games (Below, Sword & Sworcery) and Drinkbox Games (Guacamelee), and, thanks to strong tax incentives, growing AAA studios such as Ubisoft Toronto and Rockstar Toronto.

 

Best Game School City 8. Chicago8. Chicago, Illinois, USA

Studios: 29, including Netherrealm Studios, Wargaming West, High Voltage Software, Robomodo

Schools: Depaul University, Columbia College, Sanford-Brown, American Academy of Art

Cost of Living and Rent: 68% of NYC

Events: Video Game Summit, Chicago Experimental Game Development Group

As written up by Kotaku last year, Chicago has a booming indie scene, and much of it is thanks to the strength of the Game Design program at DePaul University. Chicago also boasts several larger independent developers, including Netherrealm (Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us) and Wargaming West (World of Tanks for Xbox 360).

 

Best Game School City 7. Montreal7. Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Studios: 36, including Ubisoft Montreal, EA MontrealEidos Montreal, WB Games Montreal, Gameloft MontrealBehaviour Interactive

Schools: Concordia University, Inter-Dec CollegeUniversité de Montréal (french only), Dawson College, Ubisoft Academia, Syn Studio Art School

Cost of Living and Rent: 58% of NYC

Events: Montreal International Game Summit, Montreal Game Jam

Montreal features some heavyweight AAA studios: it is home of Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Batman: Arkham Origins. Additionally, it is the most affordable city on this list.

While a fluency with french is a benefit in Montreal, unlike Paris it isn’t necessarily required to study and work there – most of the studios and schools above support both English and French. In fact, why not take advantage of the bilingual nature of the city and become fluent in french while learning how to make games?

 

Best Game School City 6. Vancouver6. Vancouver, BC, Canada

Studios: 43, including EA Canada, Black Tusk, Capcom Vancouver, Next Level Games, Relic Entertainment, Slant Six, UFG

Schools: Vancouver Film School, Arts Institute of Vancouver, Visual College of Art and Design, VanArts, Centre for Digital Media

Cost of Living and Rent: 76% of NYC

Events: SiggraphFan Expo VancouverXDS 2014

I lived and worked in Vancouver for 8 years, and absolutely loved it there. The Mercer 2014 Quality of Living survey rated Vancouver the best city to live in in North America (and 5th best in the world), and a lot of game studios seem to have come to the same conclusion. While the Vancouver game industry has declined in size a bit over the past few years, it is still going strong. Microsoft’s Black Tusk studios was recently announced as the new home of the Gears of War Franchise, Capcom Vancouver recently released the hit Dead Rising 3, and EA Canada is responsible for one of the biggest gaming franchises in history (FIFA).

Vancouver is also the only city on this list with 2 schools on the Princeton Review’s Top 25 Undergraduate Schools for Video Game Design: Art Institute of Vancouver and Vancouver Film School.

 

Best Game School City 5. Austin5. Austin, Texas, USA

Studios: 77, including Bioware AustinArkane Studios, Crytek Austin, Retro Studios, Cloud Imperium Games, Twisted Pixel Games

Schools: Denius-Sams Gaming Academy, University of Texas at Austin, Art Institute of Austin, St. Edward’s University, Austin Community College

Cost of Living and Rent: 65% of NYC

Events: Captivate Conference, SXSW Interactive

Thanks to strong tax incentives, a relatively low-cost of living, and a thriving culture, Austin’s industry has been rapidly expanding over the past few years. At the moment only California has more game jobs than Texas, and the vast majority of those jobs are in Austin.

Austin also has some very exciting schools, including the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at University of Texas, which is extremely selective (20 students per year), but features free tuition and was created by some industry legends, including Warren Spector and Blizzard COO Paul Sams.

 

Best Game School City 4. Seattle

4. Seattle, Washington, USA

Studios: 81, including Nintendo of America343 Industries, Bungie, ArenaNet, Monolith, Sucker Punch Productions, Turn 10 Studios, Valve

Schools: Digipen, Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Art Institute of Seattle, University of Washington in Seattle

Cost of Living and Rent: 74% of NYC

Events: Unite, PAX Prime

Seattle is a powerhouse in the games industry. Microsoft, Amazon and Nintendo are all headquartered here, and the city features many of the premier game developers in the world: Bungie (Halo, Destiny), Valve (Half-Life, DOTA 2, TF2), Sucker Punch (Infamous), Turn 10 (Forza) and ArenaNet (Guild Wars 2).

In addition to a ton of amazing AAA studios, Seattle also features the first dedicated video game school in the world, Digipen, which is ranked #3 on Princeton Review’s list.

On a personal note, PAX Prime is one of my favorite game conventions of the year; while it doesn’t really have a development focus, it is a ton of fun and a great place to meet and hang out with developers and gamers alike.

 

Best Game School City 3. London3. London, England

Studios: 106, including Media Molecule, Lionhead Studios, EA’s Criterion Games, Rocksteady Studios, Sony’s SCE London Studio

Schools: Uxbridge CollegeUniversity of SurreySAE Institute, City University London, Lambeth College, Guildford College,

Cost of Living and Rent: 105% of NYC

Events: EGX London, London Games Conference, Game Music Connect, The London Game Jam

While the British games industry suffered a rapid decline a few years ago, London, and in particular the nearby commuter town of Guildford, still has a very strong industry. Though the cost of living is the highest of all cities on this list, the schools are typically less expensive than in North America, particularly if you are from the EU (but probably even if you are from the States).

There are also a lot of other perks to living in London: tons of culture (most major museums are free), very inexpensive flights to Europe, and lots of events and opportunities for networking.

 

Best Game School City 1. San Francisco2. San Francisco, California, USA

Studios: ~130, including Maxis, Crystal Dynamics, Oculus VR, Double Fine Productions, Ubisoft San Francisco, Telltale Games, Toys for Bob, 2K Games

Schools: Academy of Art University, Art Institute, Ex’pression College

Cost of Living and Rent: 95% of NYC

Events: Game Developers Conference, Casual Connect, Mobile Gaming USA

San Francisco, and the nearby ‘Silicon Valley’, has more game studios than any other region on earth, and is also home to the premier game conference of the year, GDC. Additionally, San Francisco is a major hotbed for new tech startups, which often results in innovative companies like Oculus VR.

The only thing holding San Francisco back from the top spot is the cost of living, which is high and has soared over the past few years. This particularly affects rent, which can make it difficult for students to afford to live in the Bay area. If you’re comfortable splitting an apartment with a couple of roommates, or can afford the price tag, San Francisco is worth some serious consideration.

 

Best Game School City 2. LA1. Los Angeles, California, USA

Studios: 102, including Blizzard, Naughty Dog, EA, Sony Santa Monica, Infinity Ward, Insomniac Games, Respawn Entertainment

Schools: University of Southern California, Art Institute LA, Los Angeles Film School, Westwood College

Cost of Living and Rent: 64% of NYC

Events: E3GDC Next, LA Games Conference, Game Sound Conference

Los Angeles has long been ‘The Entertainment Capital of the World’, and this certainly spreads to the games industry. Activision’s corporate headquarters are here, as well as the main development studios for World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, God of War, Uncharted, Titanfall and many other AAA (or maybe even AAAA) games.

Combine this with some of the biggest gaming events of the year, amazing weather, a decent cost of living, and the top rated game school on Princeton Review’s list (University of Southern California) for the past 4 years running, and LA takes the crown as the city I would most highly recommend to students interested in relocating for an education in Game Development.


 

I know there are many great cities that didn’t make the cut for the top 10 – please let me know your favourites in the comments below. Also, I’d like to offer a caveat, that while I am familiar with a number of the schools, there are many that I have only researched online, and cannot vouch for their quality – if you feel that I have missed a strong school, or have had a poor experience at one of the schools that I have linked please let me know and I will amend the list.

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49 Responses

  1. As a spanish my envy is over 9000.

    • Toni says:

      Same here 😛

    • Matt says:

      I’m getting quite a few visitors from Spain – I’ll have to look up some specifics on any game related programs over there!

    • Dennis José da Silva says:

      There is a Digipen Campus in Spain.
      https://www.digipen.es/

      You should see here in Brazil, there are just a few Universities and schools which have games courses, and none of them are famous, also there are just a few game studios here and almost all of them only make mobile games.

      Unfortunately The country which I live is really bad for games developers who dream to make console games. 🙁

  2. Sentionaut says:

    For some reason I don’t find surprising the absence of my country in this list (Spain).

  3. SpencerHarrill says:

    I Live in toronto and i’m in sheridans new Game design program, glad to hear that its a good city

    • Matt says:

      Hi Spencer,
      Good luck at Sheridan! I’d be really curious how their Game Design program is, but I’m sure it will be great. I love living in Toronto, and I’m sure the industry here is only going to grow over the next few years. You should become a member of the IGDA here – one of my colleagues, and an amazing Producer at Ubisoft Toronto, Lesley Phord-Toy runs the local chapter and they put on a lot of great events.

  4. Elke V.H. says:

    What about UOIT (University of Ontario Institute of Technology) in Oshawa, for their Bachelor of IT/Game Design? You didn’t mention that university in your Toronto list. Is that because it’s a bad program? Or University of Toronto’s Computer Science/Game Design?

    • Matt says:

      I didn’t know about the program at UOIT, but it looks like it is a pretty solid curriculum, so I have added it to the list. Also, University of Toronto’s Computer Science program has a solid reputation, and I work with a couple of people that graduated from it.

      Thanks for pointing them out!

  5. Joel Lee says:

    Hi Matt !

    If you don’t mind , can you make an article on each specific fields – requirements , what they do , about it and so on . 😀

  6. Carl Farra says:

    Hey Matt, what are your thoughts on New York City? I heard that it has a booming indie scene and holds a few events such as IndieCade East and NYU’s No Quarter. Parsons’ Design and Technology program and NYU’s Game Center (although the latter’s campus is actually in Brooklyn not too far away) have interesting curriculums and both schools are in the top 25 graduate gaming schools.

    • Matt says:

      NYC is a great choice, and just barely missed the list – it would have been number 11. When I started the list I thought it would make the top 10 for sure, but it just fell off due to a high cost of living and lack of AAA studios. There are, however, some really excellent schools there as you mentioned.

  7. Jiří Královec says:

    Same problem here 🙂 (Czech republic)

    I was thinking about architecture, I want to work as 3D graphic artist. Is it good start? I mean it’s art school and it’s quite similar (buildings, environments etc.)

    What do you think, Matt? 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Architecture is an interesting choice. I do know one person that did that to get into the industry, and it is a very useful skill to have, but it is generally overkill – Architecture school is very long and very difficult, and if it isn’t really your passion you’ll have a tough time.

      I would say you’d have better luck going to a traditional art school and learning figure drawing/painting/sculpture, then teaching yourself the digital tools.

  8. Marco says:

    Thanks for the article, this has been very helpful!

    However, I notice most of these schools only offer bachelor programs. Since I’ll be graduating uni next year, I think I’ll look into the diploma programs at AI Vancouver, Sheridan, and Dawson.

    Unless you know of some other schools with game design masters programs?

  9. Maria says:

    Is there a good school anywhere in Italy? I could go to England, but I would like to know if I have any opportunities here.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Maria,

      Wish I could help you out here, but I really don’t know the answer, and it is tough to research as I don’t understand Italian : )

      Anyone else from Italy that can help out?

  10. Quinn says:

    Hi Matt,

    I really enjoyed reading your list. I was happy to see Seattle and San Fran in the top 5. I wish the Bay Area could have taken the top spot, but you are damn right about the price. Keep up the good work.

    Thank you for your time,
    Quinn

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Quinn, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article! The Bay Area was originally in first place, but was demoted last minute due to the cost of living. Still, I love it in San Francisco and would be happy to live, work or study there.

  11. Nathan Penley says:

    Hey.

    I have always wanted to create video games! I even went to a community college that had a program called Simulation and Game Design. I completed almost two years before they ended the program. I love to do level design, modeling, and programming. So, would it be smarter to just focus one, or do all of them? And last question, if I pursue programming, would it be smarter to just join a computer programming degree or do something like they have at digipen and go for computer science and game design?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Nathan,
      I would recommend focusing on one thing to start, as you need to get something up to an industry level to get hired; you can always branch out from there once you get a foot in the door.
      For programming, if you’re interested in Gameplay programming or AI programming I would probably recommend checking out one of the ‘game school’ programs around, but if you are interested in being a Generalist Programmer, Tools Programmer, Engine Programmer or 3D Programmer then any strong Computer Science program would be fine.

      For more info on all of those positions, check out my latest article here: http://www.gameschoolprep.com/who-exactly-makes-games-anyway/

  12. Fred says:

    Thanks for making this information available. I heard about this site from a Game trailers segment called Mandatory Update. I also live in Toronto, well Scarborough tbh and I’ve notice T dot spreading it’s wings so to speak on the international stage for Entertainment in General (barring our famous mayor). Why does Max the Mutt call themselves that? I looked at their site and like how they mentioned that alot of art schools expect people to be great out of the gate but there’s people who don’t have good art skills however they aspire to become better. I’m turning 28 this month Time to reflect on where I want to be in life.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Fred!

      Ah… the infamous question of how Max the Mutt got their name. I’m afraid if I told you that I’d have to kill you (joking!). In all seriousness though, it is a good school if you’re interested in being a Concept Artist – I went there for Classical Animation many years ago, and have been teaching there for the past 2 years in their Concept Art program. Some of the portfolios of students coming out of the program are crazy.

      Toronto’s industry is definitely growing – pretty exciting time to be here.

  13. Pablo says:

    Hi Matt:

    Thank you for this great list… i just have a couple of questions.

    Is this list about every camp of game development or it’s just about the art and/or game design side?

    I’m studying right now Game Development in Mexico as a programmer , but i’d like to continue my studies out of my country (maybe Canada), so, what school would you recommend?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Pablo,

      Glad you liked the list!
      The list applies to every area of game development, but many of the specific programs I linked were more relevant to Game Design. Many of these schools also offer game programming courses though – check their websites.

      As far as schools go, depends on what you want to do. For pure programming stuff, Waterloo University has a good reputation, but for more game specific stuff you could check out Vancouver Film School, AI Vancouver or a number of others around.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Melissa says:

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for writing this article.
    I was reading the place to go to a game school and London is the best choice for me[ because I live in The Netherlands] and because off the distance 😐
    Keep it up!Can’t wait to read more!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Glad you enjoyed the article! You might also want to look into Cologne, Germany – it has a substantial industry, is the host of GDC Europe, and has some excellent schools.

      Hope that helps,

      Matt

  15. Anthony says:

    Thank you a lot!
    This blog gave me a lot of useful information about my project! Subjects are well chosen, well written and well explain! It’s a great initiative for all who looking for information about this sector whom structure are not enough explain.
    I’m happy that Paris have nice High-school in gaming.
    Good continuation !
    I look forward to your next article!

  16. Alejandro Rozen says:

    What about Berlin?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Alejandro,

      I don’t know a ton about the games industry in Berlin – I believe the industry is a bit bigger over in Hamburg, but Berlin still has quite a few studios, and some excellent art/programming schools. Sorry I can’t be of more help here – anyone else know more about the German industry? 🙂

  17. Megan says:

    Whoo! Go Depaul! I graduated from their in 2011 and I’m glad to see they made the list. Not only is Chicago a great for Indie Devs, but a lot my school friends (and myself) have managed to land a job in the industry thanks to their education. Great program, and great opportunity for networking.

  18. Tuuli says:

    Interesting list and thanks for sharing 🙂 Finland has also raised its profile in the past few years. We have a lot of very well known studios such as Rovio, Supercell, Remedy and RedLynx, plus countless indie developers. Universities have also noticed the need for games education and are now offering new degree programs that are specifically tailored for the needs of the games industry. One of the not so good things is that the living costs especially in the Helsinki area are very high… If you want to know more about the Finnish games industry, check out the Neogames website: http://www.neogames.fi/en/ They updated the brochure of the Finnish games industry not so long ago and it contains interesting info.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Tuuli,

      Thanks a lot for your comment! Finland actually very nearly made the list, and I’m ashamed to say that Helsinki may have slipped away from 10th place as I penalized it a bit for language difficulty, given that the majority of my audience doesn’t speak Finnish. Lots of great studios there, and a flourishing game development community.

  19. Irvin Lira says:

    Matt! After reading almost every article in your blog, it definitely helps out tremendously. Thank you so much. I have a quick question. What would you say about Florida? I recently read an article here on our major newspaper and they wrote that the industry here was getting bigger. Would you say it’s a good place to live for someone trying to break into the industry or would you say that it would be a better option to move out? Thanks!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Irvin,

      Glad you liked the blog! I’ve never been to Florida, but I’ve worked on three different co-productions with EA Tiburon out of Florida, which is a pretty major studio. Additionally, there are a number of smaller studios cropping up in Miami and Orlando – not a huge industry, but it is definitely growing. Florida does boast quite a few Game Dev Schools – Ringling, UCF, AI, IADT, Fullsail etc.

      Give it a shot locally, but keep in mind that it will probably take longer to find something than if you broaden your job search a bit. For school, I think there are a lot of good options in Florida.

  20. Itzjac says:

    It would be great to elaborate more on programming oriented education.
    I am a programmer and I have found some nice Bachelor and Master’s programs (one in Netherlands and a couple in US), do you know a good resource on this matter? I am looking forward on doing a Master’s in Computer Science but specifically oriented to Animation Programming, regardless I know very good MCS’ programs must of them lack on animation programming specialists.
    Great post! Thank you

  21. Philip says:

    that you have London rather than Dundee seems strange to me, the University of Abertay Dundee is widely regarded as being the best computer games course in Britain and one of the best in Europe, regularly featuring in Edge and with strong links to Sony. It has a strong industry history with lots of games companies and it’s almost a quarter of the price to live there. (I live there and pay 1/4 what my friends in London do for rent).

    • Matt says:

      Hi Philip,

      University of Abertay Dundee is an excellent school – in fact, I applied to attend there 14 years ago. My cousin is also currently studying Game Development at Abertay University.

      That having been said, I still think London is a better option for many in the UK. While the cost is very high, there is a far more substantial game industry in and around London, as well as more events, a big indie community and lots of options for schools.

      Anyone in the UK though, this is a great tip and you should definitely check out Dundee as well.

  22. Philip says:

    Glad to here you are at least aware of it, what year is your cousin in there’s a chance I could know them, I would stand by Abertay as the best place in the UK for getting into the games industry, particularly as a Coder. I went to a q&a with a large number of games Industry representatives in Leamington and they all stood by the Computer Games Technology and Computer Games Application Development courses as the best in Britain by a distance. London obviously has more games companies due to it’s size but Dundee has an incredible depth of companies including game jams such as DARE (recognised by the BAFTAs) that make it a far greater choice than London. Abertay’s Graduate show also attracts representatives from some of the biggest games companies in Europe.
    I would even recommend Birmingham before London with Birmingham City’s well regarded master’s course and the huge amount of activity in and around the Midlands.

  23. Jeff says:

    What are your thoughts on Boston? Lots of schools offering a wide range of Game design programs. Northeastern has founders of global game jam and indie cade on its staff, Berklee has Game Scoring minor and is actually in the process of making it a major, and Mass art has a lot of people entering game art. On top of the schools there are TONS of studios in the area http://www.bostonpostmortem.org/boston-area-game-companies/ . Not to mention Pax east is also in Boston.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Boston is a great city for game development, and just barely missed the list. Definitely a lot of good studios there, good location and great schools.

      Matt

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