What are the Pros and Cons for Online v. Traditional Schools for Game Design?

According to a Reuters article, the video game market is a $66 billion industry, and those who want to enter the field often investigate the pros and cons of online schools versus traditional ones for majors in game design. The fun of playing video games should not in any way obscure the work and technical skill it takes to create these often complicated games. Also, video game technology is often used for more than entertainment purposes as some games fulfill requirements for simulated training. Whether designing video games for entertainment or educational purposes, game designers need solid programming skills that are acquired through intensive academic training and hands on development. A review of the benefits and disadvantages of both online and traditional game development degree programs shows the best fit for aspiring game designers.

Comprehensive Curriculum

It was only until recently that colleges and universities incorporated video game design into their degree programs as a major, but today majors of varying names represent the art and science of video game development. Recently, the Princeton Review conducted a survey of the best video game development degree programs in the country, and the University of Southern California’s (USC) Interactive Media & Games Division ranked number one. The keys to their successful program are solid foundational computer programming coursework, advanced animation design classes and fine arts courses that inspire creativity for the games developed. This interdisciplinary approach to learning is most likely found at traditional schools. A traditional school that has reputable fine arts and computer science programs could produce effective curricula for both a traditional and online format. Usually this is not possible for a strictly online school that specializes in computer programming and graphic design.

Computer Systems and Infrastructure

Although simple video game creation requires few high dollar tools, more advanced studies need specific software and hardware depending on the course requirements. Also, team projects require collaboration efforts that are better conducted in a computer laboratory environment and not decentralized computer systems. If one’s curriculum does not include complex group projects nor specialty tools, then the online format is a convenient way to earn a degree in this field.

Faculty Credentials and Mentoring

Another feature of the top ranked game design program at USC is the multidisciplinary faculty that they have upon which to draw. USC has been recognized for years for its cinematic academic achievements and award-winning faculty in that department. Those faculty members have experience promoting creative ideas that become the plots for many of the student’s video game creations. Under the tutelage of these types of instructors, students have the skills to create a gaming experience for their future customers and not just another commonplace video game. Interaction with these types of faculty members are usually found within a traditional school. However, a traditional school with an online program could provide the level of mentoring needed for this type of degree.


Today’s generation of young people have grown up playing and mastering complicated video games so it is only natural that the brightest among them would want to pursue a career in video game design. These dreams are best realized through an academic program that stresses proficiency in software development fundamentals, mathematics and fine arts. That mix is usually found in a more traditional university setting.