UCF’s graduate game design program is No. 1 in North America, according to The Princeton Review and PC Gamer magazine, which today announced their 2020 rankings.

This is the second time in the past five years that UCF’s interactive entertainment graduate program at the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy has taken the top spot. UCF’s undergraduate program in game design also ranked highly at No. 14.

Both programs are both located at UCF Downtown, where approximately 130 graduate and 770 undergraduate students learn the tools and techniques to be artists, programmers and producers in the gaming industry.

“Our students are primed and ready to work well before they leave our labs and classrooms,” says Ben Noel, FIEA’s executive director. “We teach the most advanced game-design skills, but we also provide the skills employers want in terms of problem solving, teamwork and project management.”

As part of the graduate program, students must either complete an internship or take a course that prepares them to start their own companies. FIEA, now celebrating its 15th year, has over 700 graduates working at over 230 entities around the world. Upon graduation, student entrepreneurs can also choose to develop their own business plans from FIEA Venture, a digital media business incubator on campus.

Gaming has become a $130 billion industry. According to WalletHub, Orlando is the fourth best city in the country for gamers, in part due to its developer opportunities. Game-design companies EA Sports and Iron Galaxy studios are based in Orlando, and regional leaders are focusing on attracting more esports tournaments to the area.

Access to the talent provided through UCF’s programs is one of the key reasons EA Sports announced it will relocate from Maitland to the Creative Village in downtown Orlando in 2021. There are more than 100 UCF graduates currently working in EA Tiburon’s office in Maitland and dozens more FIEA graduates at other EA Worldwide Studios.

“FIEA is a major source of talent for our EA Sports development studio in Orlando, resulting in one of every two new graduates hired over the last 2 years,” says EA Sports vice president Daryl Holt.

“UCF Downtown has quickly become a hotbed for media and innovation,” says Robert Littlefield, director of UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media. “We’re an anchor to Orlando’s Creative Village and our students are experiencing the benefits of being immersed with some of the industry’s top players in the rapidly growing game-technology sector.”

“It is a tribute to all at UCF who have played a leadership role in the program’s continuing growth and transformational UCF Downtown campus. To all involved, including the program’s dedicated faculty, researchers and students who contribute so much to game design and to the Orlando community, we join in the praise,” says Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review.