Earn a Game Development Degree Online
- $320/credit (120 credits)
- Learn computer programming languages C++, C# and Java
- Use Unreal Engine to construct games for various platforms
- Transfer up to 90 credits
- Apply 3D modeling with Autodesk and Adobe Creative Suite
- No application fee or SAT/ACT scores required
Online Game Development Degree Program Overview
Become a master game developer and programmer with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Game Programming and Development online from Southern New Hampshire University.
SNHU's game development degree goes beyond traditional software development training to give you the technical expertise you need in a competitive field.
You'll be prepared beyond gaming, too. Industries everywhere are creating meaningful experiences with game development tools and technologies. Med students, for example, are turning to virtual simulation software to rehearse complex surgical procedures. The military, on the other hand, is creating synthetic training environments (STEs) to prep soldiers for combat. In between is a host of other opportunities for those who can master the tools behind these incredible virtual environments.
In the Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development online, you'll learn how to:
- Use various programming languages (C++, C# and Java) and game engines (Unreal) relevant to professional game development
- Create realistic, dynamic gameplay experiences, including game AI, game physics and 3D modeling and sculpting with Autodesk and Adobe Creative Suite
- Articulate and solve complex logic problems associated with programming interactive game systems
- Apply effective, industry-standard design, production and testing techniques through all phases of game development
- Adhere to the standards of the professional game development community, especially regarding effective communication, teamwork and ethical decision-making
- Research, develop and contribute to advances and trends within the field of game programming
Upon graduating from the program, you'll be positioned for success in a multi-billion dollar industry. You'll be able to apply these skills and techniques to various gaming platforms, including PC, console, web and mobile devices.
Explore the Art of Gaming
Looking for a degree that emphasizes game art over programming? Our game art degree will give you the skills you need to bring your front-end character designs and virtual environments to life.
According to Newzoo, the global video game industry is projected to grow to more than $180.1 billion by 2021.1 The global market for virtual, augmented and mixed reality products is projected to grow to $49.7 billion by 2023.1
In other words, with numbers rivaling the film industry and dwarfing the music industry, a professional game development degree could be your gold coin to a rewarding, dynamic career.
"The beautiful part of this program is that it’s really going to position students to do what they really want to do," said Dr. Gwen Britton, academic associate vice president of online STEM and business programs at SNHU. "If they want to be game developers and play with the big kids out in the game world, it will position them to do video game development or simulation development because they are learning so many different things."
This online BS in Game Programming and Development empowers you to pursue or advance your career as a:
- Game programmer or game developer. Create the back-end coding for video games. Many programmers and developers specialize in one area of game programming, such as AI, simulations, audio or graphics.
- Tools programmer. Work on internal software that helps programmers, artists and designers create games more efficiently.
- Simulations programmer. Develop situational models that can help predict and prepare for real-world scenarios. Common examples include military or medical training software.
- Software applications developer. Design, build and test application software for various digital platforms.
The software development field in particular will see job growth of up to 21% through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.2
The programming skills you'll gain from this program can be used for more than just pure entertainment – you can create "serious games," too. From exer-gaming to city planning simulations to virtual aviation training, there are plenty of opportunities to combine purpose and play.
For Megan Bohland, game programming is a vehicle to create more inclusive experiences. Inspired by her grandmother, who lost her eyesight at age 60, Megan has set out to create mobile games for the blind.
"People who have lost their vision can still get immersed in these worlds," Bohland said. "Even when (my grandmother) was blind… I would pick games that had vocals so she could hear, and I would describe the rest to her."
Your game programming skills could also score you a career in a number of industries that use gaming technology.
"Game and simulation programming skills are in demand in a growing range of fields, including health care, defense, communications and more," said Max Callahan, associate dean at SNHU.
Start Your Journey Toward an Online Game Programming & Development Degree
Why SNHU for Your Online Game Programming Degree
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
Take advantage of some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation, plus financial aid for those who qualify. We also make it easy to transfer to SNHU by accepting up to 90 credits from your previous institution.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 100,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, SNHU has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
- “Most Innovative” regional university honors from U.S. News & World Report each year since 2015
- A $1 million grant from Google.org to explore soft skills assessments for high-need youth
- Recognition as a 2017 Digital Learning Innovator by the Online Learning Consortium
At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll have access to a powerful network of more than 200,000 students, alumni and staff that can help support you long after graduation. Our instructors offer relevant, real-world expertise to help you understand and navigate the field. Plus, with our growing, nationwide alumni network, you'll have the potential to tap into a number of internship and career opportunities.
96.5% of students would recommend SNHU.3 Discover why SNHU may be right for you.
Part of our mission to expand access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials.
Acceptance decisions are made on a rolling basis throughout the year for our 6 (8-week) undergraduate terms.
How to Apply
Simply contact an admission counselor, who can help you explore financial options, answer all your questions and walk you through the application process. Start by:
- Completing a free undergraduate application
- Providing previous institutions attended – so SNHU can retrieve transcripts for you at no cost
Test scores are not required as part of your application.
Courses & Curriculum
The curriculum is designed to help you tackle game genres and platforms, interface design, game theory and e-collaboration. You'll also learn how virtual game environments create experiences through rule design, play mechanics and social interaction.
"Most people don’t think of the game development program as an engineering program," said Gwen Britton, academic associate vice president of online STEM and business programs at SNHU. "But if you look under the covers, it has a lot of engineering flair. You have to know how to do physics. You have to know how to do math. You have to be able to write programs. Think about it: If you’ve got an animal coming at you and it’s coming at a certain velocity, you have to know how to make its arms wrap around you, you have to know how to make it go fast – velocity and force and all of that."
You'll have room to play with hands-on courses like Design of Virtual Game Environments and Gameplay Systems Development, where you'll master the tools pros use.
And with experienced instructors and subject matter experts at the helm, the program is constantly improved to keep up with a fast-evolving industry.
"Game programming and development courses were developed to reflect, and are regularly updated to keep pace with, the dynamic and ever evolving nature of the technology utilized in game development and related industries," said Max Callahan, associate dean at SNHU. "Instructors bring real-world experience to the classroom that provide students with current production processes and methodologies."
Introduction to Quantitative Analysis and Precalculus are dictated courses for the General Education Program.
- General education courses: All online bachelor's degree students are required to take general education classes, if not obtained in prior coursework. Through these foundation, exploration and integration courses, students learn to think critically, creatively and collaboratively, giving you the edge employers are looking for.
- Technology resources: We provide cloud-based virtual environments in some courses to give you access to the technology you need for your degree – and your career. Learn more about our virtual environments.
- Save time and tuition: Depending on your scores, you could earn up to 12 math credits – the equivalent of 4 courses – toward your degree for less than $50 per assessment with our Pathways to Math Success assessments.
Earn credits for what you already know: Did you know certain work and life experience – like industry-recognized certifications, law enforcement training and math knowledge – could save you time and money at SNHU? Learn how you could get credit for work or life experience.
|View Full Curriculum in the Catalog|
|BS in Game Programming & Development|
|Courses May Include|
|BS in Game Programming and Development Online|
|COM 230||Graphics and Layout in Print Media||This course is an introduction to the principles and practices of graphic design. Students are introduced through lecture, demonstration and hands-on computer work to the basic elements of graphic visual communication. Adobe Illustrator is used as a primary tool in exploring visual perception through a variety of creative exercises that familiarize the student with basic visual principles such as figure/ground manipulation, shape grouping, letterform shape creation, and grid and system creation. Formal elements of graphic design such as line, shape, color, texture, pattern, balance, symmetry, rhythm, space and unity are thoroughly explored by example and hands-on computer exercises; special topics included are: designing with type, layout strategies, logo design, symbol and pictogram development and stationery systems.|
|GAM 207||Information Technology and Digital Games||Introduction to digital games and information technology covers game genres and platforms, interface design, game implementation, artificial intelligence, business economics of the game industry, game marketing and design, e-collaboration, and e-commerce. Students learn how to use software packages to design and implement digital games and how to use the Internet to market and distribute digital games. The course includes a project which will culminate in the conception, design, and prototype of an original digital game. The course is designed for students who have an interest in IT and games, including original game concepts, design and implementation, and executive leadership in the game industry. Knowledge of computer programming is not required.|
|GAM 303||Design of Virtual Game Environments||This core topic addresses the fundamental ideas behind the design of electronic games as virtual environments. It touches on relevant formal fields such as systems theory, cybernetics, and game theory. Included are basics of interactive design, including interface design, information design and human-computer interaction. Emphasis is placed on how virtual game environments function to create experiences, including rule design, play mechanics, game balancing, social game interaction and the integration of visual, audio, tactile and textual elements into the total virtual game environment experience. Game documentation and play-testing are also covered.|
|GAM 305||Digital Game Development||To provide a technically well-founded introduction to game development using programming languages and various gaming editors. On completing this course, the student will have acquired a fundamental understanding of the Windows API, the use of sprites, animation and audio in an integrated game environment. This course is cross-listed with IT 305.|
|GAM 312||Gameplay Systems Development||This class builds on the programming fundamentals learned in previous courses, and covers topics relating to technical systems for video games. Students will learn how to create complex game systems using scripts and will learn advanced scripting techniques. The technical aspects of common gameplay systems will be explored and implemented in various projects.|
|GAM 415||Graphics Game Engine||Students get an introduction to advanced graphics topics including skeletal animation, ray tracing, particle integration, lighting, shaders and materials. Projects are introduced to implement these important visual effects. The knowledge obtained will be assimilated and applied to a wide range of usages and application. Linear Algebra algorithms will be refreshed and/or introduced specific to the topic at hand. Students will learn the basics of Direct X, Open GL, and Rendering solutions (forward and deferred).|
|GAM 465||Digital Multimedia Development||This course presents digital multimedia theory and develops skills that meet the design and technical requirements of professionally created multimedia for World Wide Web commercial applications on a variety of platforms and Internet applications. Each student develops a professional portfolio consisting of CD-ROM material. Students also develop working Web sites that display their multimedia projects. Topics include sound, animation, video, interactivity and multimedia distribution.|
|GAM 495||Game Programming Capstone||This course integrates previous coursework and practical experience with a focus on authentic demonstration of competencies outlined by the program. Rather than introducing new concepts, students will synthesize and integrate prior learning to develop a capstone project. The course will be structured around this critical task so that students have the appropriate support and resources required to be successful.|
|GRA 202||3-D Modeling and Animation||In this course students will be introduced to 3DS max. It will give them an overview of what max does specifically for games. This course will be focused on modeling. Students will learn the basics of modeling low poly and high poly models. How they are unwrapped and used in conjunction with textures. It will also show a wide range of techniques used in the industry for modeling for mobile, PC and current generation consoles.|
|GRA 211||Interactive Animation||This course focuses on programming capabilities to enhance graphic animations and user interfaces to provide spectacular interactive results. Those benefiting from this course include students in game development, advertising, marketing, education, web development, art and other fields that can benefit from interactive animated graphics helping to convey concepts. The course is intended for those with no programming experience as well as those with some programming background. The use and creation of animations will be covered at a level of interest to both those new as well as experienced. The results can be displayed by a browser from the internet or as standalone results displayable on a range of operating systems. This is a hands on computer based course in which the students create a number of individual projects based on their interests and capabilities, focusing on creativity and programming aspects of interactive animation. The course utilizes emerging technologies in interactive animation.|
|GRA 220||Introduction to Digital Imaging||Using Photoshop and Illustrator software, this course is an introduction to professional computer graphics creation and to the software and hardware typically used in the graphic design, video, photography and interactive Web/multimedia industries. Emphasis will be placed on the professional use of image-capturing devices, such as scanners, digital still cameras and video cameras. Image editing and color management systems will be discussed and demonstrated. The important differences between vector and bitmap graphics will be defined, as will the significant differences in preparing images for print, broadcast and Web distribution. Students will be encouraged to experiment with their own and pre-existing images using sophisticated digital editing techniques such as layering, channel masking, filtering, cloning and montaging. Special attention will be paid to copyright awareness in the age of digital image.|
|GRA 310||Digital Graphic Design for the Web||This course focuses on digital graphic design theory and its application to web design. Students learn about the technical requirements of professionally created digital web documents. Students will be focused on designing communication and marketing applications for the World Wide Web all the while considering user experience and functionality. Differences in designing for the desktop computer and mobile internet appliances will be a topic for discussion and incorporated in hands-on exercises and projects. Each student will develop several minisites and by the end of the semester will have produced at least one deployable site. Topics include design strategies, web authoring/editing environments, color calibration and aesthetics, web typography, style sheets, template use, graphics format selecting and optimization, and HTML coding and debugging.|
|IT 140||Introduction to Scripting||Students will learn the fundamentals of programming concepts including data types, variables, decision statements, loops, functions and file handling. By developing simple scripts, students will understand how to use common scripting language constructs including lists, literals, and regular expressions to build useful applications.|
|IT 145||Foundation in Application Development||Students will use programming as a problem-solving technique in business and engineering applications. In writing computer code in a logical, structured, and organized manner, students will learn how to incorporate the key concepts of object orientation into their programming. Additionally, students will learn to write, review, and document interactive applications and work with Software Development Kits and Integrated Development Environment tools.|
|IT 230||Software Development with C#.NET||This course is designed to introduce C#, an event-driven, fully object-oriented, visual programming language. The course covers the Visual Studio.NET integrated development environment (IDE) while covering the basics of the C# language. Topics include input / output statements, arithmetic and logical operations, control structures, program modules (methods and classes) and arrays. Students will be involved in writing programs of increasing complexity throughout the course. This is a programming course.|
|IT 312||Software Development with C++.NET||This course teaches students how to design, implement and test applications in the C++ programming language. Topics include C++ data types, operators, functions, classes and inheritance. The course introduces students to issues associated with developing real-world applications by presenting several case studies. The concepts of object-oriented design and programming are covered. This is a programming course.|
|IT 328||Project Management in Information Technology||Employ project management strategies specific to IT projects. Examine responsibilities of key stakeholders. Explain project planning with key considerations related to risk management and project tracking.|
|IT 450||Artificial Intelligence||This course explores contemporary tools and principles of artificial intelligence that focus on Web commerce applications and business intelligence in particular. Topics include mining data for business intelligence and collaborative software agents that utilize resources on the Web to carry out tasks for individuals and organizations.|
|MAT 225||Calculus I: Single-Variable Calculus||Calculus is the mathematical study of change that has widespread applications in science, engineering, economics and business. This course provides a rigorous introduction to single-variable calculus. Topics include limits, continuity, differentiation and integration of algebraic, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions, applications of derivatives, and integration, including the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. This course will encourage students to think beyond memorizing formulas and to work towards understanding concepts.|
|MAT 350||Applied Linear Algebra||This is a first course in linear algebra and matrices. Topics include systems of linear equations, linear independence, matrices of linear transformations, matrix algebra, determinants, vector spaces, eigenvalues and eigenvectors. After mastering the basic concepts and skills, students will use their knowledge of linear algebra to model a selection of applied mathematics problems in business, science, computer science and economics.|
|Total Credits: 120|
Game Programming and Development Minimum Hardware and Software Required Specifications
Windows 10, 64 Bit
Windows 10, 64 Bit
Intel 8th Gen i5 or i7
Intel 9th Gen i7
8 GB RAM
16 GB RAM
500+ GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
Discrete/dedicated (such as NVIDIA or AMD)
802.11 a/c dual band
802.11 a/c dual band
Office 2013 Professional or newer
Office 2013 Professional or newer
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
CD/DVD drive, external hard drive, extra power cord and headphones/earbuds
CD/DVD drive, external hard drive, extra power cord and headphones/earbuds
SNHU Purchase Programs
Tuition & Fees
Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer financial aid packages to those who qualify, plus a 30% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
|Online Undergraduate Programs||Per Course||Per Credit Hour||Annual Cost for 30 credits|
(U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty)
Tuition Rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually.
No Application Fee, $150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a degree to become a game developer?
While there are many pathways you can take to become a game developer, earning a degree could be a good place to start. Many opt to study game programming or a related field, like computer science or software engineering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, typical entry-level education for a software developer is a bachelor's.2
The right degree will not only help you build skills, a portfolio and even networking connections in the field, it could help you gain the confidence you need to stand out in a highly competitive industry.
This can be especially valuable to populations that are underrepresented in tech industries. The BLS reported that, while women made up 57% of professional occupations in 2018, they contributed to only 26% of professional computing occupations.2 That number was even lower for software developers, where women represent a scant 18.7% of all occupations.3
For STEM leaders at SNHU, changing those numbers isn't just part of a broader university mission – it's personal.
"I think for everyone starting out in a field, you naturally suffer from imposter syndrome," said Angela Foss, associate vice president of innovation at SNHU. "You could be the most confident woman, but there’s that fear that you don’t belong there. For women, especially if you’re outnumbered, you’re afraid that if you say something, you’re all of a sudden representing all women."
As someone with years of gaming experience, Foss knows firsthand what it's like to be the only woman in the room. "I was always nervous the guys were going to shred my code and say, 'See? We shouldn’t hire these girls.' That’s a challenge, because you’re always dealing with natural feelings around thoughts like: 'Can I be here? Can I be technical? Are they going to judge me because I’m a woman?' It’s important to remind yourself that it’s okay to be who you are – and that goes beyond gender."
At SNHU, our goal is to even the playing field by providing an accessible, affordable education for all. We take it a step further, too – by offering students opportunities to network at events like the Grace Hopper Celebration and the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing. Because we know the value of the face-to-face interactions that can help you get your foot in the door.
How do you become a game developer?
The path to becoming a game developer often starts with earning a degree in programming or a related field, like computer science or software engineering. You'll need to learn technical skills, including programming languages like C++ and C#, which help you build the mechanics behind a functional video game.
A game programming degree will also explore more advanced topics like Artificial Intelligence for games, game engines, multiplayer video game development and game engine development.
The ability to work as part of a team is another essential skill to become a successful game programmer. Much like a movie set, many video games require a large collaborative team. This typically means programmers or developers will specialize in a specific area – such as audio, AI or simulation.
But having these skills is not enough – you'll need to apply them. Make something that will impress industry insiders and employers, then network. Attending industry conventions, for example, is great way to make connections. Come armed with a strong portfolio, and you could be one step closer to finding work in your field.
"We tell our students they should always be working on projects outside of what they are working on in class," said Ed Brillant, a game artist and instructor at SNHU. "This work can become published titles for students before graduation, helping them build an amazing portfolio and resume."
"Most definitely have something in your portfolio that is above and beyond everything else," he said. "You should be able to specialize in one area and be able to confidently navigate other areas in your field. You don't want to be a jack of all trades and master of none. Work hard and always create new art, projects and games."
How long does it take to be a game programmer?
The time it takes to break into the field of game programming depends on a variety of factors.
If you decide to earn your bachelor's, that will generally take about 4 years to complete. There are, however, several other factors that can help position you to earn your degree faster.
At SNHU, our programs are designed for optimal transferability. In fact, we accept up to 90 credits toward your bachelor's. That means, if you have enough previous college experience under your belt, you could already be 3/4 of the way to completing your program – saving you time and tuition.
Should I go to college for game development?
This all depends on your personal goals and priorities. If you're interested in the technical side of gaming, a game development degree from the right university could help you gain invaluable skills, experiences and connections.
At SNHU, our game programming and development program is taught and updated by experts who know firsthand how to play the field. We offer some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation and, with 24/7 access to coursework online, our programs are flexible, too.
We also understand the power of networking and experiential learning. That's why we offer online students a number of hands-on experiences outside of the classroom, including:
- PAX East. Held in Boston every spring, the PAX East gaming festival offers networking opportunities for video game developers, media companies, colleges and other gaming professionals. The event features panel discussions, game demos, tabletop tournaments, speeches and more, and often serves as a forum for companies to debut or showcase new titles.
- Grace Hopper Celebration. Billed as the largest gathering of women technologists, this annual event includes an impressive roster of keynote speakers, workshops led by trailblazers in technology and a massive career fair with some of the country’s top employers. This event aligns with SNHU's mission to even the playing field for women in tech – which is why we send some of our best and brightest women in STEM to attend each year.
How can I create a game?
Creating a game requires a mix of creativity and technical aptitude in areas like coding and software engineering. Collaboration is also key. Artists, developers, producers and designers are all essential to the process. Depending on the scope of each game, those roles can become even more specialized.
Think about all the elements that go into a successful game: 3D environment and character design, story, audio – and this is just what the user can detect. Programmers control the back-end of these often vast worlds, ensuring that game play and mechanics are up to snuff before they reach their audience. Everything, from the physics of your character's movements, to the point system that helps you reach the game objectives, needs to be carefully considered and executed.
The only way to really master the process is to learn by doing – and that starts with assembling your dream team.
What's it like to work for a large video game company vs. a smaller, independent video game company?
While every environment is unique, the difference between working for a large video game company versus a smaller, independent video game company can be vast.
AAA video game companies (in other words, mid-sized or major game publishers), are typically much larger than their indie counterparts. Oftentimes, these teams consist of hundreds of people, many of whom take the reins on a very specialized area of game development.
These companies tend to have access to larger budgets, with major "blockbuster" titles costing millions to make. Beyond paying employees, these costs will usually be allocated to marketing and research, ensuring that these big investments pay off.
Indie game companies may lack the spending power of giant publishers, but more than make up for it with an "all hands on deck" sense of camaraderie. These tight knit teams may consist of about 30 people or less – all of whom must be resourceful to get their projects in front of consumers.
Smaller budgets mean less room for "big swing" financial risks. But, on the other hand, smaller companies may have a certain degree of creative freedom that would be impossible under the leadership of a "major player" game studio or publisher.
Can I work from home as a video game programmer or artist?
The short answer is yes. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, collaboration is a major factor in game development. While this can most certainly be accomplished remotely, there is something to be said of live, in-person teamwork, particularly when brainstorming a new game idea or troubleshooting challenges along the way.
The ability to work remotely depends, of course, on the team you're working with. If you're pursuing a startup with friends, remote work could be a viable option. If, however, you're working with a larger team, that shares a host of complex responsibilities, working on site could be beneficial.
Your experience level could be a major factor, too. Veterans in the field with years of firsthand experience under their belt may be better equipped to work from home, as they've built a proven record of success.
Ultimately, establishing yourself in the field is the best way to ensure a working style – and setting – that best matches your professional goals.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
Sources & Citations (1, 2, 3)
1 Newzoo Adjusts Global Games Forecast to $148.8 Billion; Slower Growth in Console Spending Starts Sooner than Expected. Newzoo, on the internet at https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/newzoo-adjusts-global-games-forecast-to-148-8-billion-slower-growth-in-console-spending-starts-sooner-than-expected/ (viewed May 12, 2020)
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the internet, at:
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm (viewed May 12, 2020)
- https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm (viewed May 12, 2020)
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
3 According to survey responses from over 9,200 SNHU online students conducted in the fall of 2019.