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Princeton Review Names USC Top Game Design School
Princeton Review Names USC Top Game Design School
March 1, 2010 | By Chris Remo

The University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division maintains the top university-level video game design program in North America, according to The Princeton Review's new top 50 list.

Assembled in conjunction with GamePro Magazine, the list ranks the top eight schools by quality, then includes the remaining 42 as a general group. The Princeton Review publishes a variety of guides to universities and colleges.

After USC, The Princeton Review says Redmond-based DigiPen Institute of Technology, Drexel University, Becker College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were deemed to be the continent's next best options for prospective developers. Although the list pertains to both Canada and the United States, only one Canadian school -- the Art Institute of Vancouver -- was included.

The Princeton Review says it assembled its list from a pool of 700 schools, 500 of which it surveyed. It based its selections on criteria including curriculum quality, school staff and infrastructure, scholarships and financial aid, and career opportunities.

Some frequently-cited development courses, including those at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center and Southern Methodist University's Guildhall, were not included in the top 50, since they do not offer undergraduate programs.

"Our core mission is providing parents and students with good admission advice," said The Princeton Review content development director David Soto in a statement. "We're hoping this can add legitimacy to an emerging market."

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Daniel Piers
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CMU and SMU's graduate level programs were not included because the list is for undergraduate programs.

On a related note, my school (University of North Texas) made the top 50. You can check out our program here:

Simon Carless
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Thanks, Daniel, piece edited.

Roberto Dillon
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Good list. It'd be interesting to know whether the different criteria considered were weighted (and how) or if they were all given equal importance.

Joseph Vasquez II
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"Our core mission is providing parents and students with good admission advice," says David Soto, director of content development at The Princeton Review. "We're hoping this can add legitimacy to an emerging market."

Dear parents, here's some admission advice Mr. Soto seems to have overlooked:

-DigiPen's total tuition is less than half that of USC, yet includes 26 more credits, including double the math and physics courses.

-DigiPen's student games have won over 25 student showcase awards at IGF. USC has 5 (I think). DigiPen students have won best student game every year it's been offered, and have also won in the professional category. Four days ago a sophomore team won $100,000 in the Indie Game Challenge.

-DigiPen's faculty founded Nintendo Software Technology, won Boeing's Technology Supplier of the Year award, and yes, includes many game developers and game console technology patent holders. My freshman game prof had shipped 20 titles, my junior game profs worked on Fable II, and my AI prof is the editor of the AI Game Programming Wisdom series, to name a few.

-There are over 70 game development studios within a 20 mile radius of DigiPen, a couple of which were founded by DigiPen grads.

-DigiPen's curriculum is guided and updated by a committee of game developers from various studios in the local area.

-DigiPen students have engineered their own handheld console.

Apparently the criteria used for judging the top 8 schools missed all that, so I guess Princeton Review will have to keep on hoping to add that legitimacy.

Andrew Grapsas
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Here's something else:

All of us industry folk tell you to go get a normal degree. Duh.

Taro Omiya
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It seems that these rankings are based on commercial successes. It's the only explanation I can find that makes RPI ideal for the list, and why USC is ranked higher than DigiPen.

Michel McBride-Charpentier
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@Andrew That was good advice 5-10 years ago, and still is to a certain extent now, but these programs are really coming into their own and teaching the kind of skills you can't get sitting in your dorm room or basement working with a mod team scattered across the world. I'm not a professional yet so my advice might be worthless but I think designers should start with a BA at least and then do a 1-2 year "Masters" (in spirit if not fact) in game design.

edit: I'm talking about actual design, not the design-wait-we-actually-mean-programming of some of these schools.

Joseph Vasquez II
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If the rankings were actually based on commercial successes, then there's no way DigiPen would be less than the #1 spot, and it would be a far way down to number 2. That's not my opinion, that's quantifiable fact based on the commercial successes at Valve, Nintendo Software Tech, 5th Cell, and many other companies where DigiPen grads have made their impact. And in case you weren't aware, Ubisoft is now sponsoring a new DigiPen campus (with fully subsidized tuition, btw) and with an agreement to hire the graduates. Ubisoft has opened up a new studio for nearby for them.

My understanding is that Princeton Review just doesn't know enough about the game industry or DigiPen, and wasn't willing to do much research. If they would at least give some information about how each school was ranked in each category then at least we'd have something to go on. For all we know they could have given USC the top rank because they offer on-campus housing or something. But leaving us to speculate gives the ignorant reader the idea that USC has the strongest curriculum and more career opportunities, which simply isn't the case, easily verified with little research.