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Top computer science programmes for working in the gaming industry

By Aisha K

Updated May 24, 2022 Updated May 24, 2022

As a multi-billion-dollar industry bigger than movies and sports combined, gaming is undeniably one of the most successful forms of entertainment of the 21st century.  

Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic saw an accelerated level of interest in gaming, and with an endless range of possibilities from smartphone apps to virtual reality, it’s no surprise that it’s become a popular career choice for those with a passion for playing games. In the United States alone, the number of employees in the gaming industry reached over 273,000 in 2021

The requirement for technical expertise in roles such as game developers, software testers and audio engineers means that a degree in computer science remains a solid choice for those looking to break into this highly competitive sector.  

So which computer science degrees prepare students for a potential career in the gaming industry? Using the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022, we’ve compiled a list of top universities for computer science which also offer specialisations in game development and design.  

You can find out more about the methodology used to produce the rankings here

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022: Top computer science programmes for careers in gaming 

Subject rank 

School 

Location 

National University of Singapore 

Singapore 

12 

University of Toronto 

Canada 

20 

Columbia University 

United States 

28 

University of Texas at Austin 

United States 

44 

McGill University  

Canada  

McGill University  

McGill University

The School of Computer Science at McGill offers a variety of courses and directions to specialise in, whether students want to do game research, find a job in the gaming industry, or just want to understand games better. 

Students can either enrol in the new Major in Computer Science – Computer Games option, a special version of the Computer Science Major with an emphasis on Games, or students can include relevant courses in any of the Computer Science and Software Engineering major programmes. 

The programme’s core and complementary courses either focus on games or develop techniques that are considered essential to computer game development. Examples of courses include Modern Computer Games and Fundamentals of Computer Graphics.  

The school’s location in Montreal, which has several local game companies and branches of larger companies, makes it an ideal hub for career opportunities. Graduates have gone on to work for renowned companies such as EA and Ubisoft.  

McGill University is ranked 44th for computer science, making it the fourth-highest university in Canada.  

University of Texas at Austin  

University of Texas at Austin

The undergraduate programme at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) offers a concentration in Game Development, serving as a launchpad for students to take on compelling roles in the game development field.  

As part of the Game Development concentration, foundation courses will be taken in Computer Graphics, Game Technology and Game Programming Paradigms. The concentration also features capstone courses in 2D and 3D development where students will design, develop and evaluate computer games. Classes are collaborative as teams will consist of students from other disciplines such as film, radio and fine arts, giving students a feel of the environment and practises that are used in professional game studios.  

Texas has the second largest concentration of game studios in the United States, and Austin has more game studios than the rest of the state combined, indicating promising career opportunities for graduates who wish to work in industry.  

UT ranks 28th for computer science and 13th in the United States. 

Columbia University 

Columbia University

Columbia University’s upper-level curriculum in computer science is organised into tracks of electives that allow students to select one of five major areas for study in greater depth. One of those tracks is the Vision, Graphics, Interaction and Robotics track, designed for students interested in vision, graphics and advanced forms of human-computer interaction.  

Students can choose courses such as Computer Vision and Computer Animation, in addition to further electives in Special Topics in Computer Science (Video Game Technology and Design) and Computational Techniques in Pixel Processing.  

For those eager to get involved in research groups, Columbia’s Computer Vision and Graphics center aims to make a fundamental impact on the way visual information is captured, manipulated and experienced. Their work is motivated by applications to many areas, including games. Recent research includes low latency input for virtual reality and reducing motion sickness through dynamic field of view adjustments. 

Columbia University ranks 20th for computer science and 11th in the United States.  

University of Toronto 

University of Toronto

Beyond programming, students enrolled in the Computer Science Specialist programme can tailor their degree to focus on game design and have this specialisation added to their transcript, highlighting their skills to employers. Professor Steve Engels, who teaches the Introduction to Video Game Design course said: “The course helps students understand everything about the game design process, from coming up with an idea, pitching and producing a first playable prototype to presenting a final demo in front of an audience. 

“For every one of those milestones we bring in a panel of industry guests to give students feedback. We sample from all the game studios in Toronto from large ones like Ubisoft and EA to indie studios. By the time students have finished the course, they’ve had exposure to dozens of industry experts, giving them varying feedback to help make their games better. 

“We’ve had students hired straight after finishing this course as a result of working with industry panels. Our alumnus, Adam Robinson-Yu, started his own game studio and made a game called A Short Hike which is doing really well.  

“We also run video game design research. For example, I have fourth-year students who are working on designing video games to help diagnose math anxiety. I work with other game design professors and run programmes such as the Level Up Showcase, which is a big event to show off student talent in Ontario.  

“We have an incredibly strong computer science programme that a lot of people respect and we’re able to give students those transferrable skills and pursue that in the context of game design”. 

The University of Toronto is ranked 12th for computer science and is the top university for computer science in Canada.  

National University of Singapore (NUS) 

NUS School of Computing

Professor Lee Wee Sun, Head of the Department for Computer Science said: "Undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Computer Science programme are required to study a focus area in depth, and Computer Graphics and Games is one of the focus areas that they can select. Students doing this focus area can choose to take courses in graphics, animation, as well as game development. These include project courses where they develop games (for example, the Game Development module). Furthermore, they can opt for courses in related topics such as artificial intelligence, multimodal processing, mobile platforms, interaction design, user interface development, and virtual and augmented reality.

NUS alumus, Dominic Chong, who graduated from the programme in 2021, said: "The two project-based Game Development modules were the most demanding, interesting, and also fun modules in the Focus Area of Computer Graphics and Games. Taking two demanding modules that push you to create an incredible project, driven by your passion to make your creative ideas come to fruition and have others (including those who are not into game development) appreciate the game - this was a very fruitful experience.

"The Graphics modules were also eye-opening. We do not usually think much about how our beautiful games are visualised on a flat screen at high frame rates, and in real time. Studying graphics makes me, as a Computing student, think deeply about the performance of our day-to-day programs and how capable our machines are."

Commenting on the practical nature of the programme, Lionel Lim, a third year NUS student currently completing the degree, said: "I love how there is a lot of focus on practical work, as most of our assignments are project-based. I get to immediately apply what I have learned in a meaningful way, and I also gain valuable practical experience from each project. Best of all, I get to share cool and fun games with my friends.

"One of my proudest works would be CULLinary (https://angryeggplant.itch.io/cullinary-2). It was a year-long project to develop a game together with seven other group members. This project was awarded first place twice in a project showcase organised by NUS Computing. I have learned a lot from this project and it is definitely one of the highlights of my university life."

The National University of Singapore is ranked sixth globally for computer science, as well as being the top university for computer science in Singapore.  

This article was originally published in April 2022 . It was last updated in May 2022

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Written by

Aisha is Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, creating and publishing a wide range of articles for an international student audience. A native Londoner, Aisha graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in Philosophy and has previously worked in the civil service. 

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