7 Best Best Online Game Development Schools Reviews in 2021 | Our Detailed Guide to Help You Make the Right Choice

Have you ever dreamed of creating and developing computer games or even starting your own game development business? We're pretty sure that it has crossed your mind dozens of times before, especially if you're a hardcore gamer who appreciates the excellent effort that's put into developing these games. Luckily, getting started as a game developer is easier than you think. Also, while here, dig into these top-rated Deep Learning courses, or the best programming certificates here.

3 Top Online Game Development Schools

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[Best Online Game Development School Overall] 

1. Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D - Udemy

This online course is taught by Ben Tristem, the founder of GameDev.tv, a team of game designers and developers dedicated to helping anyone interested in game coding to get into the field and develop their skills. 

4.9/5 

  • Rich content with many learning resources and downloadable materials
  • Great for beginners and experienced professionals alike
  • Project-based learning approach
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[Best for the Money] 

2.Computer Science for Game Development - edX

Computer Science for Game Development is a professional certification program offered by HarvardX on the edX platform.

4.8/5 

  • Rich content
  • Suitable for those who don't have any previous programming experience
  • Engaging video sessions
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[Best for the Beginners] 

3.Create Your First Game with Python - Coursera

The Create Your First Game with Python course is a beginner-friendly game software development program on Coursera that follows a project-based, interactive learning approach. 

4.7/5 

  • Hands-on project experience
  • Doesn't have any prerequisites
  • Relatively cheap

If you want to explore this exciting field, we'll set you on the right track by helping you learn from the best online game development schools so that you can kickstart your career in the industry right now! And if that's not your cup of tea, get VBA certified with the help of these courses, check out the Business Intelligence ones, or get familiar with the Full Stack Developer role in this review.

7 Best Online Game Development Schools Reviews

[Best Online Game Development School Overall]

1. Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D - Udemy

4.9/5

The Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D course is arguably one of the best video game development programs on Udemy.

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This online course is taught by Ben Tristem, the founder of GameDev.tv, a team of game designers and developers dedicated to helping anyone interested in game coding to get into the field and develop their skills. A considerable portion of the materials is also taught by Rick Davidson, a career coach with over 14 years of experience in video game design and development.

The online program isn't just a set of video sessions put together for the students to watch.

 Instead, it follows a project-based model to help students develop some real hands-on experience in the world of 2D game design and programming. 

Here are the games that you're going to build on your own using Unity's built-in physics engine and Tilemap tool:

  • Laser Defender, a top-down space shooter
  • Block Breaker, a breakout-styled game
  • TileVania, a side-scrolling platformer
  • Glitch Garden, a tower defense game

This online program is suitable for complete beginners who want to work in the video game development industry. It's also an excellent opportunity for software developers who want to re-skill to game design and programming.

On top of that, there's a vast online community for the program, where you can get in touch with the instructors and other colleagues.

The online course is currently priced at $129.99, but you can get it at just $11.99 whenever there's a discount.

What's Included In the Course:

  • 35 hours of video content
  • 27 downloadable resources
  • Mobile and TV access
  • 3 articles
  • Lifetime access to learning resources
  • Certificate of completion

Learning Outcomes:

  • Write code in the C# programming language
  • Get clued up about object-oriented programming
  • Acquire transferable problem-solving skills in programming
  • Comprehend the fundamentals of game design and programming
  • Learn how to use the Unity Engine
  • Create your own projects from scratch to add to your video game design portfolio

Advantages:

  • Rich content with many learning resources and downloadable materials
  • Great for beginners and experienced professionals alike
  • Project-based learning approach
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Shortcomings:

  • Some of the topics aren't thoroughly covered
  • Doesn't teach you how to create 3D games

4.8/5 

Computer Science for Game Development is a professional certification program offered by HarvardX on the edX platform. The program consists of two courses: Introduction to Computer Science and Introduction to Game Development.

As its name implies, the first course covers computer science's basic principles, including software engineering, algorithms, data structures, resource management, encapsulation, web development, and security. You'll also learn how to write code in several programming languages, including C, SQL, Python, CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.

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The course lays the foundation for the second course in the program, centered around computer science applications in game programming. You'll learn how some of the most popular games were developed, including Angry Birds, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, and Match 3.

Additionally, you'll learn all about 2D and 3D modeling, as well as using frameworks like LÖVE 2D and Unity to create mind-blowing animations, sounds, and collision detection elements.

The program's duration is 6 months, and you need to dedicate 6-14 hours each week to watch the videos, do the assignments, prepare for the exams, and finish the projects. This is an excellent program for those who have little to no computer science experience and are trying to explore the video game design field. You still need to be familiar with the basics of computing, though.

What's Included:

  • Video sessions
  • Two full courses in computer science and game coding
  • Assessment assignments and exams
  • Hands-on projects, including a final project
  • Certificate of completion (at $358)

Learning Outcomes:

  • Get familiar with the principles of computer science and software development
  • Understand the foundational concepts of game design and programming
  • Write code in multiple programming languages, including C, C#, Lua, and Python
  • 2D and 3D graphic modeling
  • Using the LÖVE 2D and Unity frameworks

Advantages:

  • Rich content
  • Suitable for those who don't have any previous programming experience
  • Hands-on experience
  • Engaging video sessions

Shortcomings:

  • Certificate of completion is offered at extra fees
  • Doesn't teach you how modern games are built

4.7/5 

The Create Your First Game with Python course is a beginner-friendly game software development program on Coursera that follows a project-based, interactive learning approach. The online course is taught by Amit Yadav, a machine learning instructor who created 41 courses in the software development field. He currently works as an Engineering Manager at LinkedIn.

During this online course, you'll learn how to create and design your first game using Python, one of the easiest programming languages that people with zero experience in programming can learn pretty quickly.

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First, you'll understand how to set up your project. Then, you'll start creating your first game with Python from A to Z by learning how to initialize it and create a loop.

You'll also learn how to load, transform and display images with PyGame, a set of Python modules commonly used in writing video games. Additionally, you'll get clued up about handling events and adding the final touches to the game.

The online course is pretty small, and it shouldn't take you more than 2-3 hours to finish, making it an excellent choice for those who want to learn more about game coding without going all-in.

However, the online course assumes that you're already familiar with Python, so make sure to watch some Python tutorials on YouTube before starting this project.

What's Included:

  • Interactive workspace
  • Video sessions
  • Downloadable materials
  • A guided hands-on project with a split-screen video walkthrough throughout the project steps
  • Final quiz
  • Certificate of completion

Learning Outcomes:

  • Scratch the surface of the basics of programming with Python and its applications in video game design
  • Handle keyboard and mouse events, and load, transform and display images with PyGame
  • Learn about initialization and game loop
  • Handling events

Advantages:

  • Hands-on project experience
  • Doesn't have any prerequisites
  • Suitable for complete beginners
  • Relatively cheap

Shortcomings:

  • Not suitable for those who want comprehensive coding materials with more in-depth content
  • Requires prior knowledge in Python coding

Unlike other online courses, Start Your Own Game Company with Job Romero focuses on game development from a business perspective.

The instructor, John Romero, is a widely acclaimed entrepreneur, game designer, and programmer who has won several awards. Throughout his career, he founded 11 breakthrough companies in a variety of tech-related industries. He was also directly involved in the development of more than 150 games.

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Throughout this online course, Romero walks you through the steps of registering and starting your own video game start-up business, creating a business plan, as well as acquiring the necessary funds that you need to cover the business expenses.

On top of that, this online course explains how to cover equity, protect the company when founders leave, and the total costs associated with running a game design business. 

You'll also learn how to grow the business and move it in the right direction and understand why it's essential to ensure that everyone gets paid under any circumstances and how it'll affect your business.

Above that, this online course covers legal matters and whether it's necessary to hire a full-time lawyer for your company. You'll know the things you need to learn as a non-programmer, in addition to scouting for game coding contractors and keeping all the paperwork organized, including the contracts.

What's Included:

  • 90+ minutes of video content
  • Certificate of completion

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand how to start your own game development business
  • Create a business plan
  • Build relationships with investors
  • Game design business development and growth
  • Handle HR and legal matters

Advantages:

  • Discusses game development from a business perspective
  • Can be accessed from mobile devices
  • No official requirements
  • Easy to understand for beginners
  • Relatively cheap (free for first-time LinkedIn Learning users)

Shortcomings:

  • Doesn't cover the technical aspects of video game design
  • Content is somewhat shallow
  • No hands-on projects or assignments to test your knowledge

CS50's Introduction to Game Development is a self-paced course offered by HarvardX, Harvard University's online learning school. In this course, you'll learn everything you need to know about the principles of 2D and 3D design, as well as implementing animations, collision detection, and sounds into video game design using Unity and LÖVE 2D frameworks.

What's more, the course walks you through how some of the most beloved retro games were developed, including Pokémon, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Portal, Angry Birds, Breakout, 3D Helicopter Game, Pong, Dreadhalls, and Match 3.

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Not only will you get a comprehensive learning experience, but also satisfy your curiosity by understanding how the games you played as a child were created. On top of that, the course gives you the opportunity to gain some real hands-on experience with several projects to test your understanding of the materials.

The instructors are Gordon McKay and Colton Ogden. McKay is a computer science professor who's passionate about game coding, while Ogden is an ex-technologist at Harvard who currently works as the Chief Technology Officer at From Zero LLC.

The course requires that you've either completed CS50's Introduction to Computer Science course or have any prior programming experience using any programming language. So, if you're confident about your programming skills and want to start learning video game design and programming right away, CS50's Introduction to Game Development would be an excellent option for you.

The course's duration is 12 weeks, and it requires 6-9 hours of time commitment each week.

What's Included:

  • Video sessions
  • Hands-on projects
  • Assessment assignments and exams
  • A verified certificate of completion (for $199)

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the fundamentals of 2D and 3D design
  • Learn about collision detection and animation
  • Understand the basics of game design and programming
  • C# and Lua programming

Advantages:

  • Free
  • Provides students with practical experience
  • Not so hard for beginners

Shortcomings:

  • Must be familiar with programming before starting this course
  • Certificate of completion requires additional fees

The Unreal Engine C++ Developer course is created by GameDev.tv Team in collaboration with Epic Games, one of the industry's most prominent companies. The instructors are Ben Tristem (the founder of GameDev.tv), Sam Pattuzzi (a software engineer from the GameDev.tv team), and Rob Brooks, a gameplay programmer.

Just like other online programs from GameDev.tv Team on Udemy, this program follows an interactive learning approach. Throughout the course, you'll learn everything you need to know about Unreal Engine 4 and how to use it to create fun AAA-quality video games, even if you've never used the software before.

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On top of that, you'll learn how to write code in C++, one of the most commonly used languages in-game coding. And the best part is that you'll get the chance to apply everything that you've learned with hands-on projects.

This online can be the perfect learning resource for complete beginners who want to explore the video game industry or experienced programmers who want to try something new. 

It's worth noting that the Unreal Engine is very resource-intensive, so make sure that your computer can run it before enrolling in this program.

The full program is currently priced at $129.99, but you can easily get it for $11.99 whenever there's a discount.

What's Included:

  • Lifetime access
  • 31.5 hours of video sessions
  • 13 articles
  • 9 downloadable resources and materials
  • Mobile and TV access
  • Certificate of completion

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn how to code in C++
  • Be familiar with what object-oriented programming is
  • Utilizing the Unreal Gameplay Framework to create video games
  • Develop confidence in using the Unreal Engine 4 Editor
  • Apply vector maths in gaming physics
  • Use Artificial Intelligence to control the behavior of enemies
  • Use Unreal's Terrain Editor in landscape creation
  • Acquire transferable problem-solving skills

Advantages:

  • Comprehensive coverage of the applications of the Unreal Engine 4 in-game coding
  • Hands-on projects
  • Community-based learning
  • Suitable for beginners and experienced programmers

Shortcomings:

  • Some parts are inadequately explained and fast-paced

Introduction to Game Design is an online game design program offered by MITx on edX tailored for beginners who want to start a game design career. All of the instructors are from MIT's staff, and their names are Eric Klopfer, Sara Verrilli, and Philp Tan.

Throughout the course, you'll be familiarized with what gaming is, designing prototypes and creating coherent and usable games. Moreover, you'll be introduced to game design from a business perspective by seeing how some big companies started and how they grew to be among the most well-established names in the industry.

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You'll also know about smaller companies that managed to find their way into the business and get recognized in a relatively short time.

The course is divided into 7 modules that you need to complete over 7 weeks, and it requires 8-10 hours of time commitment per week to do the assignments and activities and study for the exam. At the end, there's a final project where you'll be asked to create a simple paper-based game.

This online video game program doesn't have any specific prerequisites, but of course, you need to be aware of the basics of video games and their types.

The learning materials can be accessed for free, but you'll have to pay $99 to get a verified certificate of completion. You can check the financial assistance portal to see if you're eligible for a discount on the certificate.

What's Included In the Course:

  • Video sessions
  • Hands-on project
  • Interactive digital prototyping activities
  • Assignments and exams

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn the fundamentals of game design
  • Create a delightful experience for the gamer
  • Analyze the mechanics of video games
  • Create prototypes of your video games with an iterative design process
  • Learn about game design from a business perspective

Advantages:

  • Free
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Self-paced

Shortcomings:

  • Not intended for experienced programmers

Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization is a comprehensive game art and design program offered by the California Institute of the Arts on Coursera. The specialization emphasizes the artistic side of game design. It consists of 4 individual game art and design courses that include:

  • Introduction to Game Design
  • Story and Narrative Development for Video Games
  • World Design for Video Games
  • Character Design for Video Games
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Whenever a company decides to create a new game, the game's actual programming isn't the first thing that needs to be taken care of; the game art and design, storyline, characters, and gameplay take the lead.

 These areas are exactly what this specialization covers.

The instructors are Fran Krause, Theotime Vaillant, and Dariush Derakhsani, all experienced in-game art and design and character animation and development.

At the end of this online program, you'll work on your own game art and design document for a game of your creation that must include the game's narrative, conceptual, and aesthetic aspects. This online course can be completed in 6 months if you dedicate 2 hours/week to watch the video sessions and do the assignments and quizzes.

What's Included In the Course:

  • 4 courses
  • Video sessions and readings
  • Graded assignments and quizzes
  • Peer feedback on assignments
  • Final capstone project
  • Certificate of completion

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn the basic concepts and mechanics of games
  • Understand how to create a compelling game
  • Move the gameplay's progress with engaging storytelling
  • Create the "world" of video games
  • Design video game characters
  • Learn how character development works

Advantages:

  • Great for beginners
  • Hands-on final project
  • Self-paced
  • Subtitles are available in several languages

Shortcomings:

  • Doesn't go beyond the basics

How to Choose a Suitable Online Game Development School

Choosing the right game design program for you isn't as simple as you might think. Not all game coding courses are intended for the same category of students. There are several factors to consider, like your background, experience level, skills, and current job. Here's how to make sure you choose the right course for you.

Education and Background

Before deciding to enroll in an online video game design program, take a few moments to think about your existing knowledge, educational background, and skills. For instance, if you're a computer science or computer engineering major, you'd be ready to take an online video game design or development program straight ahead.

On the other hand, if you have a non-technical background, you'll need to teach yourself programming and other software development concepts and competencies before pursuing an online game development and design program.

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And while most video game developers are already familiar with programming languages and software development, this doesn't necessarily mean that you can't kickstart your game software development career from scratch.

Typically, the requirements for each game design program are clearly specified in the course description, so make sure that you take a look at them before starting any course.

Education Goals

Before starting an online game design degree, you must research the job market and determine your learning goals based on that research. One way to do that is by studying the available vacancies in the companies that you wish to work at one day and checking the required competencies for these roles. After that, you can look for online courses that will help you master the necessary skills for these jobs.

Career Goals

There's a common misconception that game design and game development are more or less the same, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, there's a substantial difference between the two specializations.

A game designer is usually involved in the game's creative aspects, like the storyline, characters, and gameplay. On the other hand, game developers are more concerned with the technical aspects of the game. 

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Another less-known specialization is game art. As a game artist, you're responsible for the game's artistic aspects, such as drawing the characters, objects, weapons, settings, and other elements.

So, do you want to work as a game developer who writes the code of the game and debugs it? Or a game designer involved with the creative aspects of video game creation that include designing the mechanics and systems? Or do you want to become a game artist who draws the characters? Based on these questions, you can decide on a suitable course for your career goals.

Course Length & Cost

Are you 100% sure that you want to take the game coding path? Or are you still exploring your options? If you're still not confident that you want to become a game designer or developer, a shorter course would be great for you as it'll allow you to scratch the surface of this intriguing field without investing too much time and effort.

Another factor to keep in mind is cost. Obviously, if you're simply trying to develop a better idea about interactive design and game development to consider it as a career choice in the future, it wouldn't make sense for you to pay lots of money in an online program.

On the flip side, if you're serious about it, then investing in a well-rounded game design degree program from a reputable video game design school would definitely be worth it.

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Course Structure

Game development is a highly practical field, which means that you need to have some real hands-on experience if you want to develop your skills. Video game design programs that follow an interactive, project-based learning approach deliver higher value than traditional video game design programs.

Instead of skimming through some video presentations that you'll probably forget later, you get the opportunity to work on interactive design and game development projects and experiment with everything yourself. Many design schools have concluded that this approach is much more effective and significantly boosted the students' comprehension of the course materials.

So, before enrolling in a game software development program, make sure that it includes some hands-on projects.

Related Questions

What Are the Best Schools for Online Game Development?

There are hundreds-if not thousands-of online game design and development schools that offer game design programs in many forms. These include online bachelor's degree programs that include computer science education, fully dedicated game programming and 3D modeling programs, individual gaming design courses, and interactive design programs.

There isn't a one-size-fits-all best school – it all goes back to what you're looking to achieve out of the course.

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Is a Game Design Degree Worth It?

A bachelor's degree in game art and design is a new type of degree offered by colleges and universities. Many colleges and universities started adopting a new form of undergraduate programs similar to computer science but emphasize its application in game programming.

Such a program is usually marketed as a "game development degree". For instance, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers a game design degree online, and here are some of the courses included in the curriculum:

  • Introduction to Scripting
  • Introduction to Digital Imaging
  • Gameplay Systems Development
  • Design of Virtual Game Environments
  • Software Development with C#.NET
  • Software Development with C++.NET
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Information Technology
  • Graphics and Layout in Print Media
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Game design students who successfully pass all the courses and earn the required credit hours will earn a bachelor's degree in gaming design. Many other colleges and universities across the country, like the University of Advancing Technology and Academy of Art University, offer similar game art and design bachelor of science and bachelor of arts degrees.

Is Video Game Design Hard to Learn?

Becoming a video game designer is by no means easy, but it's not unbelievably hard either. Just like with many other career choices, it'll take a while before you establish yourself as a reputable video game designer.

Most design and game development professionals spend around 3-4 years of their careers as junior developers. There's no guarantee of how fast you're going to climb up the ladder, though.

One of the most challenging aspects of game design and development is that it's a fast-paced specialization that keeps evolving year by year. Nevertheless, if you invest enough time, money, and effort into developing your skills and staying up to date with everything new in the field, expect to be granted the "senior" title in a relatively short time.

And if you want to get a glimpse of what you need to succeed in the field of interactive design and game development, here are some of the most relevant game development competencies that employers look for when scouting for candidates:

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  • Creativity
  • Teamwork and communication skills
  • Interest in gaming and the current trends
  • High level of proficiency in at least 2-3 programming languages like C and C#
  • Basic familiarity with additional 2 or 3 programming languages
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Refreshing your knowledge and skills as technology evolves

By acquiring these skills and continuously improving them, you should be able to stand out from the crowd in this competitive field.

Is It Hard to Get a Job in Game Development?

It depends. Entry-level video game designers and developers usually start as interns in large video game development companies to learn from gaming design professionals that have several years of experience up their sleeves. This seems to be your safest bet if you want to get into game programming as quickly as possible, especially if you don't have a computer science or engineering degree.

A bachelor's in game design or an online game design program can help you progress faster throughout your career, though.

Can One Person Make an AAA Game?

Realistically speaking, one person can't create an AAA game on their own, even if they have a degree in game design. The resources and workforce needed to develop video games are way beyond what many people may think. Fully dedicated teams work in the development process, and even then, it'd take years for these teams to develop games worthy of claiming the AAA quality title.

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Designing and developing a new video game requires vast knowledge in several disciplines, like game programming, 3D modeling, and interactive design, which explains why such games are created by large teams that have members with unique skills and knowledge.

Not to mention, brainstorming ideas can be quite challenging for one person to do, and it's an integral part of creating a top-chart video game that'll appeal to a good number of gamers.

What Is the Salary for a Game Designer?

According to payscale.com, the average salary of video game designers in the United States is $65,886 per year, while the data gathered by glassdoor.com indicates that a game designer earns $58,627 per year.

However, we'd take these numbers with a pinch of salt since dozens of factors influence the salary of a game designer, like years of experience and the company they work at.

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Are Game Designers in High Demand?

Yes! Game designers are highly in demand, especially if they have a degree in game design or have passed an online game design program. Did you know that more than 10,000 games were officially released in 2020 only? That's right, more and more game developers are thriving to release more and more games every year, which is why the opportunities are surging for game developers.

It's estimated that there are around 287,200 game designers in the United States, with an estimated job market growth of 9.3% between 2016 and 2026.

However, it's important to keep in mind that the way we play games is changing. More and more companies are investing millions of dollars in Virtual Reality and mobile gaming, which may cause a decline in the number of opportunities for console/PC game designers.

Is It Worth Becoming a Game Developer?

If you're really passionate about computer science, combining your creativity with your technical programming skills, and coming up with unprecedented ideas, then game programming would be an excellent career choice for you.

Bear in mind, however, that it's not an easy job by any means. You have to put a lot of hard work into learning new skills and staying up to date with technology trends year by year.

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What Is a Game Arts Degree?

Unlike game developers and programmers who handle the technical aspects under the hood, there are game artists who take care of the game's visual aspects. A game designer may have a bachelor of fine arts or any other degree in art and design.

However, with advancements in gaming technology and visuals, visual game designers need to be familiar with game design and drawing before working in the field. That's why several universities, like the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, have created game art degrees that teach art concepts along with gaming-oriented 3D modeling and drawing.

Arts in game design have come a long way, and companies seek to hire designers who have the talent to create unique game characters and elements.

Are Online Game Development Courses Better Than Classroom Programs?

Online learning has become mainstream in the past decade. Whether online game programming courses deliver the same value as in-person courses or not is debatable.

Those who favor online game design degrees like the flexibility that this learning approach offers and that they can learn at their own pace. Not to mention, online courses are easier to enroll in, and the application process usually takes a few minutes to complete. Also, you can take several online game programming courses simultaneously, which can be hard to achieve with in-person classes. Other advantages of online learning include:

  • Virtual study groups
  • Course materials can be reviewed multiple times
  • Excellent for demonstrating self-discipline and self-motivation
  • Credit hours can be transferred
  • Classroom subject discussions are more accessible
  • More eco-friendly
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On the flip side, many people believe that classroom learning is better because they can interact with the instructor, discuss their ideas, ask questions, and get assistance throughout their projects and assignments. Here are some of the advantages of this learning approach:

  • More accessible for those who have limited access to technology
  • More reliable
  • Better for those who aren't motivated enough to learn on their own
  • Communicating with the instructor is much easier

In Conclusion

We've laid the groundwork for you to kickstart your game design and development career by providing you with some of the best game development and design schools. Now, it's your turn to choose the right course for you based on the criteria we've discussed earlier.

If you want to learn game development from a business perspective, the Start Your Own Game Company with John Romero course would be your best bet.

On the other hand, Create Your First Game with Python would be a wonderful choice for beginners who are somewhat familiar with Python programming and want to know how to create a video game with it. Not to mention, it's one of the most affordable online game programming courses.

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Alternatively, if you want an in-depth program, consider HarvardX's Computer Science for Game Development course that allows you to learn computer science and its applications in game development.

Finally, those interested in the artistic side of game design should consider going for the Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization.