UC Santa Cruz Computer Game Design program ranked top five in the nation by U.S. News and World Report

Students walking on campus
Students at UC Santa Cruz have the opportunity to live and learn in a close-knit, student-centered environment.
Students collaborate on computer game design in a campus lab
Undergraduates Matty Hill, left, and Ryan Hueckel, right, work together in the Games Design studio. The Computer Game Design program is one of the best in the country.

The Computer Game Design program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listed in the top five best game/simulation development programs in the nation according to rankings released today by U.S. News and World Report. The program tied for fifth place with Rochester Institute of Technology.

“As the gaming industry continues to grow in significance and complexity, our Computer Game Design program equips students with the technical, narrative, and creative skills needed to excel in this dynamic field,” Chancellor Cynthia Larive said. “This recognition is well-deserved, and also underscores the vital role of game development in today's cultural and economic landscape.”

The computer game design industry is a multibillion dollar industry, with a size and scope that continues to grow.  Its vast ecosystem spans developers, publishers, and a passionate player base in the hundreds of millions. 

Advancing excellence in game development and design

The Computer Game Design program, part of Baskin Engineering’s Computational Media Department, provides students with unique opportunities to engage in boundary-pushing research and education. Students integrate technical expertise, interpretive skills, and design work to create human-centered media solutions addressing complex societal challenges.

UC Santa Cruz has been a leader in game development education since 2004 when Professor of Computational Media Jim Whitehead launched a program for computer science students interested in game development. The introduction of the B.S. in Computer Game Design program in 2006 marked a significant milestone, being the first of its kind in the UC system and one of the few nationwide.

In the intervening years, the computer games design faculty have earned recognition for their outstanding contributions to the field. Among the highest accolades for computer games scholars is the distinction of becoming a Fellow of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA). UC Santa Cruz holds the record for having the most HEVGA Fellows among all universities worldwide—an unmistakable testament to their commitment, dedication, and excellence.

“I’m pleased that UC Santa Cruz has been recognized for its overall excellence in games education,” Whitehead said. “The campus is committed to educating a diverse student body that will actively contribute to the growing diversity of the California computer games industry. We take pride in our track record of offering an economically accessible education to students from various backgrounds.”

While the Computer Game Design program falls under the Baskin School of Engineering, students also have the flexibility to enroll in courses offered by the Department of Performance, Play, and Design within the Arts Division.

Grounded in the ethos of experiential learning, the Performance, Play and Design program immerses students in the fundamentals of artistic practice while delving into the rich history of both digital and non-digital game design. This interdisciplinary program ensures students receive a holistic education encompassing art, technology, theory, and practice, fostering adaptability and creativity.

Empowering students and amplifying our impact

UC Santa Cruz's unwavering commitment to nurturing intellectual curiosity, fostering critical thinking, and instilling a sense of social responsibility underscores its dedication to providing top-tier education and driving positive societal impact. The campus is one of very few members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) with both Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving (AANAPISI) designations.

In line with the university's mission to empower students from diverse backgrounds and promote socio-economic equity, UC Santa Cruz has been ranked No. 16 among national universities for top performers on social mobility, reflecting a two-point increase from the previous year.

The campus's dedication to creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment is further demonstrated by its top 20 ranking among public universities for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Recognizing the university's commitment to providing world-class education and resources, UC Santa Cruz has secured the No. 40 spot among top public schools in the nation and the No. 82 position among national universities overall.

UC Santa Cruz integrates cutting-edge research with a close-knit, student-centered environment through its ten distinctive undergraduate residential colleges. These colleges are defined by unique themes that profoundly influence academic and student life programs, creating an enriching and diverse learning environment.

UC Santa Cruz's achievements in the 2024 U.S. News and World Report rankings affirm the university's commitment to empowering students, fostering innovation, and strengthening communities.

“These rankings reflect the dedication and hard work of our faculty, staff, and students, who collectively contribute to making UC Santa Cruz a world-class institution,” said Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “We are thrilled to see our commitment to excellence and inclusivity recognized, and we look forward to continuing our pursuit of academic distinction and societal impact.”