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Students Flock To GMU For a Degree In Video Game Design

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the drink-up-my-uncle's-buying dept.

Education 225

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that officials at George Mason University are quickly finding out that they have vastly underestimated interest in the school's new bachelor's degree in video game design. 'We've been overwhelmed,' says Scott M. Martin, assistant dean for technology, research, and advancement at GMU. 'Our anticipated enrollment for the fall is 500 percent higher than we expected.' George Mason first offered the program last fall, when officials anticipated that it would enroll about 30 full-time students, but currently 200 students are enrolled and that number is increasing. Course titles under the program include 'History of Computer Game Design,' while other courses focus on computer programming, digital arts, and graphics and motion capture. Although many colleges offer courses and degrees in computer gaming in the United States, GMU offers the only four-year program in the DC area, an important market for gaming because serious games — those used to train military and special operations, doctors, and others who use simulators — are becoming a market force in the region because of the proximity to federal government centers."

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Tell me about it (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034636)

My university's new "Cannabis Horticulture" degree has quadrupled university enrollment. Who would have thought that offering a degree in something that every teenager enjoys would drastically increase enrollment?

Not to worry though, George Mason. Within about a year they'll come to the harsh realization that *designing* videogames is a helluva lot different than *playing* videogames. Shortly after your first C++ midterm, your numbers should stabilize a bit.

On a related note, am I the only one who went into a programming degree realizing that C++ and Java programming are nothing like playing Halo 3? I mean come on, not even on Legendary.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034846)

Dude, it's all about tightening up those graphics.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034924)

Unfortunately, as a Mason student, I can tell you that they won't be taking C++ unless they voluntarily opt to take higher-level CS classes. Our introductory language here is Python, which while not necessarily an easy course, it's still not as challenging as C.

I do know that the numbers for other programs do tend to drop off as the courses get more difficult pretty appreciably, so I'm hoping the same thing will happen here. It's frustrating to take classes with people whose greatest aspirations are to create the next Call of Duty. Not that I don't appreciate the process of game design--I was thinking about doing it on the side before I started into my Engineering degree--but the creativity of some of these students is fairly low.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035460)

No game designer should need to know C++. That's for programmers. You can design excellent games using existing engines without touching compiled code. Scripting in lua, python, SCUMM, whatever is all you really need.

Re:Tell me about it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035556)

Unfortunately, this is part of the college experience itself. As an engineer, I will probably never need to know Python, but it's part of my degree requirements to demonstrate the object-oriented approach, as well as other basics of computer engineering and computer science. Those who feel the need to do more in-depth work with an object-oriented approach will have to learn C, as that's the language Mason uses for the higher-level classes.

The degree isn't for specific fields in the industry, as I understand it, it's theoretically to expose students to the breadth of topics in video game design. If you're actually that interested in game design, theoretically you'd be doing work in all those on the side, or even in the specific class of engines you plan to work in. Theoretically.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034930)

My university's new "Cannabis Horticulture" degree has quadrupled university enrollment. Who would have thought that offering a degree in something that every teenager enjoys would drastically increase enrollment?

Yes exactly. Some film schools really needs to watch this too. I hear they're developing a pornography filming program - it's only a minor, though. No majors.

There may be a flood of folks wanting to take the class.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035260)

I hear they're developing a pornography filming program - it's only a minor, though. No majors.

>

Call the legal department STAT! Either that, or Polanski.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035364)

He said porno, not pedo. :)

Re:Tell me about it (1)

SecondaryOak (1342441) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035678)

He was making a pun...

Re:Tell me about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035726)

"it's only a minor, though."

joke
^^
(your head)

Tell you about it? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034990)

He's not even kidding. I am a graduate of Full Sail's Game Dev program; alumni of one of the first classes through their BS program (which was one of the first Game Dev BS programs).

My class started with 80 students and ended with 20. They do find out eventually! (Perhaps $20,000-$40,000 later.)

Re:Tell me about it (4, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035014)

I was the only one who went in realizing that programming in C++ was nothing like playing Halo 3, and also the only one who came out understanding how games like that are written in C++. (Halo 3 I'm not exactly sure, but Half Life 2 is) Funny how that works.

It's true, I went into computer programming FOR game design because my city there was nothing close to Game design. However, I know that I'm no artist, so I don't want to get into the whole character creation and animation. I know I want to be working with either DirectX or OpenGL and the Engine code. So really it worked out nicely.

First semester about half the class also was in it to help do games. Second semester a few people dropped out, the Java lessons killed them. We used Eclipse so I found it easy, but I guess a few people don't like logic puzzles. By the Second year - all of those game programmers except for me and one other had dropped out. They hated Multi-threading and Socket networking. I loved that stuff. The thing that REALLY drove them off, was relational databases. SQL is so easy to learn, I could probably educate half my friends how to use MySQL or Oracle in like 3 one hour sessons, but you won't find it interesting unless you have a use for it. Being big on the MMO scene, I instantly saw how a relational database could be extremely useful in a game like WoW.

Now I'm out and working in the real world. I won't get hired by EA right out of college though I don't know if I'd want to be. A lot of teenagers dream of getting on board with EA or Microsoft Games, but in reality those bigger companies give the new guys the shit jobs while the senior guys do the fun stuff. I know a guy who graduated from the art College in town with a degree in Animation, and he got hired by EA pretty much instantly. What did he get to do? Trees! He gets to animate trees all day. I don't know if he's still doing that now, haven't talked to him since. They've probably turned him into a zombie.

Before I had any college experience though, there was an opening at Bioware, before they released Mass Effect - so pretty much just before they got as famous as they are now. I really wanted to apply but they stated they wanted some experience before taking someone on for the position (I believe it was lead level designer). Shucks.

So now in my spare time I work on a portfolio. I've got a few maps I've created in Hammer for HL2 Deathmatch, some Maps I've done in Unreal for Unreal Tournament. A few flash games to show some of that skill. Working on a game in the Source Engine to show some skills and Idea's I've got floating around. When I'm done, I'll see who wants me for what price. Ideally, I'd like to get in at Lucasarts so they can start making GOOD games again, like I STILL play Xwing vs Tie Fighter... So we'll see how that goes.

Re:Tell me about it (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035102)

Halo 3 I'm not exactly sure, but Half Life 2 is

I've worked on half a dozen different types of game. All of them were written in C++. I'd be amazed if Halo 3 wasn't.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035270)

I can confirm from interviews with the bungie crew that Halo 1 and 2 were written in C++. Since H3 has a lot in common with H2 on a file level with the only difference being the endianness odds are high that it is C++ as well.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Insightful)

besalope (1186101) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035276)

Before I had any college experience though, there was an opening at Bioware, before they released Mass Effect - so pretty much just before they got as famous as they are now. I really wanted to apply but they stated they wanted some experience before taking someone on for the position (I believe it was lead level designer). Shucks.

No offense dude, but Bioware was pretty well known long before Mass Effect. Yes Mass Effect got their name out to the console crowd and maybe some of the fringe gamers, but anyone that really enjoyed RPGs with quality story lines knew of Bioware long before Mass Effect.

Bioware had worked with Black Isle on the Baldur's Gate saga, started the Neverwinter Nights saga, and did Knights of the Old Republic. All long before Mass Effect was likely even thought up.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035704)

I know. I wouldn't have bothered applying if I didn't know who they were. It's just now they've reached that status where the next thing they produce is going to be golden. People were so hyped about Dragon Age, even though some of them didn't actually like how it was closer to Baldur's Gate than it was to Mass Effect. You know if Bioware announced a new title tomorrow, news sites would be all over it.

That is the kind of company that'd be fun to work for: Where you can take risks in producing a new game even if people don't like it, because you know it'll sell decently regardless.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Interesting)

silverbax (452214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035424)

I wish you the best but you are going to almost 100% certainly going to take some crap jobs before you get a good job. Take what you can get, start learning and building your experience.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Insightful)

uniquegeek (981813) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035570)

"but in reality those bigger companies give the new guys the shit jobs while the senior guys do the fun stuff"

This happens in any field. The first job might not be what you want. That's why it's your *first* job.

I think a lot people come out of school expecting they're immediately get some rock star high-paying job in the field they just trained in (because they're so awesome and talented). That rarely happens. Newbies need to put in their time, then with a year or two of experience under their belts, they can move on to something better.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035782)

It just usually happens that because Game development is a field where the leaders are usually in it for the fun of creating games, they aren't going to give up their positions for a better job at another company.

If you started as a level designer in EA or Microsoft, I don't think you will ever get to lead designer, unless the current lead designer decides to create his own startup. He probably gets paid well enough, has a reasonable amount of job stability (because if it doesn't sell, blame the pirates), and enjoys what he is doing.

If he leaves, the borg company will purchase a smaller dev company and make their lead developer the new lead. It's not the first time it has happened.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035740)

Sounds cool, do you have a website showing off your skills?

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035882)

Hopefully by the end of July. Gotta move into a place that allows a business line so that my ISP doesn't block port 80.

Re:Tell me about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035292)

My university's new "Cannabis Horticulture" degree has quadrupled university enrollment. Who would have thought that offering a degree in something that every teenager enjoys would drastically increase enrollment?

Not to worry though, George Mason. Within about a year they'll come to the harsh realization that *designing* videogames is a helluva lot different than *playing* videogames. Shortly after your first C++ midterm, your numbers should stabilize a bit.

On a related note, am I the only one who went into a programming degree realizing that C++ and Java programming are nothing like playing Halo 3? I mean come on, not even on Legendary.

no, I went in fully well knowing what a GOTO was... and that was in 1999

Re:Tell me about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035386)

I think you are confusing design and programming. For example, I don't think Shigeru Miyamoto ever wrote a single line of C code, but he certainly knew how to design a very good videogame. You don't have to know C++ or Java inside out to create a good game.

In fact, a giant source of crappy games these days are coming from people who think that because they know C/C++ they can design a game. The result are swamps of World War 2 First Person Shooters you see littering the shelves.

A good videogame designer understands all that encompasses a videogame, and how everything must fit together in order to create the experience he or she desires. This includes programming, game structure, etc.

But in the end its all moot...the people best at their craft never had to go to school to learn their craft, just to fortify/improve it.

Re:Tell me about it (2, Funny)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035566)

...am I the only one who went into a programming degree realizing that C++ and Java programming are nothing like playing Halo 3? I mean come on, not even on Legendary.

Clearly you're not using vi to do your C++ and Java coding.

Re:Tell me about it (3, Insightful)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035696)

My brother attended Full Sail in Florida and he enrolled in the Game Design and Development degree. Allot of people enrolled thinking they were going to make the next great game only to face a harsh reality. Game Design and Development does not mean you are going to sit there and dictate to a bunch of programmers what kind of game you want. Rather, you are going to learn how to program a game and how its design will influence your programming. MAny failed out or dropped out one they realized thery were in a grueling programming degree.

After their second or third round of failings and drop outs the degree was renamed to to Game Development. That helped curb the starry eyed teens from thinking they are going to attend the course and become the next Sid Meier or Peter Molyneux. And those two were programmers first, they gained popularity as game developers after they worked hard programming a great game.

Re:Tell me about it (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035924)

Game Design and Development does not mean you are going to sit there and dictate to a bunch of programmers what kind of game you want. Rather, you are going to learn how to program a game and how its design will influence your programming.

Oh God yes. Mod up for +1 Truthfulness.

Re:Tell me about it (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035936)

Full Sail in Orlando has an MS program in game design and bachelor's programs in game art and game development. [fullsail.edu] (Game art is also available online.) And yeah, it's like you say--a lot of people go there thinking "games are fun to play, I bet they're fun to make" and yeah, the math and physics and programming (C or C++, I forget which) kicks a lot of their asses. (Posting as AC because I'm affiliated with them.) Around half don't make it through.

Know what this means? (4, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034684)

The job market will be flooded with applicants in a few years. If you're going to college soon and want a job afterward, for love of god, pick a different path. It'll be just like CS was in the early 00's.

Or follow your dreams, or whatever. You can always work at Starbucks after you graduate.

Re:Know what this means? (5, Insightful)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034804)

Between applications from recent grads that can't find jobs, ex-grads currently working at Starbucks, and those folks laid off to increase CEO paychecks, EVERY job market is already flooded. Might as well do something you enjoy for 4 years. You're going to be fucked after that no matter what field you go into.

Re:Know what this means? (2, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034974)

Or perhaps start working at Starbucks now and skip wasting your money on college.

It's funny that we've promoted college for so long that we forget that its economic value isn't infinite. If a degree doesn't open doors for a career it becomes a luxury some people can't afford.

Re:Know what this means? (3, Funny)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035158)

Between applications from recent grads that can't find jobs, ex-grads currently working at Starbucks, and those folks laid off to increase CEO paychecks, EVERY job market is already flooded. Might as well do something you enjoy for 4 years. You're going to be fucked after that no matter what field you go into.

Yes, and this way you get to carry around a large non-dischargeable debt to remind you of all the good times!

Re:Know what this means? (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035196)

You're going to be fucked after

What if that's precisely what you enjoy?

Re:Know what this means? (2, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035408)

The job market is flooded right NOW. What new college students forget is to think about the job market when they graduate. Fresh out of school, you have no experience to make you stand out from the rest of the applicants. Your GPA and any relevant projects/research will be all a potential employer has to base their decision on. To get a job in that kind of market you can't just be good, you have to be the best (or the best interviewee at least). So before you get a degree in game design because you:
- Like games
- Like art
- Like computers
- Think it will be fun
- Think it will be easy
Stop. Think it over. Are you THAT passionate about the field that you're willing to deal with potentially long stretches of job hunting and depressed wages from the glut of available workers? Are you good enough at it to even get that?

I got my degree in Physics, but took a few CS classes along the way. I was always struck by how many of the other students in my classes didn't seem to particularly like programming and weren't particularly good at it. Many seemed to be there because "they liked computers" and/or "there's money in computers" failing to notice the hundreds of other students next to them doing the same thing, who would eventually be looking for the same jobs.

After my first year in the program, I never saw that in my Physics classes.

Re:Know what this means? (3, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035886)

> After my first year in the program, I never saw that in my Physics classes.

Wait, so you're saying someone actually became a physics major because "there's money in physics"? :)

Re:Know what this means? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034856)

Well GMU is not a very good school at all (no offense to current students), and the video game job market doesn't seem to be a good market to go into (low pay, code monkeys), so this article shouldn't be anything to worry about.

Re:Know what this means? (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035344)

You're assuming all these students will stick through it. Lots of people daydream about designing games while going through some quick Halo matches. The reality is much different.

You may see a slight increase, but for the most part these people will drop out when they realize there's *gasp* work involved.

All because of the scouts viral marketing (2, Funny)

qwerty8ytrewq (1726472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034688)

This is clearly a result of the scouts merit badge for computer gaming.

Video Game Design is importantr (0, Troll)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034732)

It is crucial for teaching our young men, women and children in uniform about the great ideals that our Nation fights for against Terrorists who hate our God and our Freedom. Especially now, when our Leader Obama is Great and everything is Fantastic in Afghanistan where finally we can all eat the sweet Taste of Freedom in our Mouthes thanks to God and Video Games!!!!!!!!

Don't sell yourself short! (3, Insightful)

hemlock00 (1499033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034740)

If the people are interested, and have the ability to create video games, they may find doing a normal computer science degree much much more rewarding. If you major in computer science, you then have the ability to produce video games, but you also have the rest of the software world to look for potenial jobs. I would most likely discourage a friend looking into this for those reasons. You may not have super video game specifics, but you have more than the foundation to get there.

Re:Don't sell yourself short! (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035050)

I think your advice is on track for those that sorta-wanna go into video game development, but not for those that have to.

As with any art or entertainment, if you have a back-up plan you'll probably back-up.

Re:Don't sell yourself short! (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035528)

Which is immediately what surprised me. Why have a degree in such a narrow field? I could see a community college offering diplomas in a narrow field such as this, but I wouldn't expect a university to have a degree on something so focused. Seems to me like it could work from a marketing perspective to get students in initially, but that a lot would drop out. You would probably be better off going for a computer science degree and focusing your electives on courses that would help with video game design, as well as trying to get internships at video game companies.

Re:Don't sell yourself short! (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035652)

I find its all dependant on what exactly you want to be doing. When you look at the broad scheme of things, it basically boils down to this:

1) Do you want to be defining the gameplay?
This is where a CS degree is great. You learn about events, networking, and all about programming so its easy to pick up a tutorial on the subject and get rolling. There's tons of books in stores, and lessons online that deal with creating gameplay, learning DirectX, and modifying current architecture. All will be useful if you have an idea for a game based around a new game mechanic you've come up with. This stuff is generally so heavy that it will take at least 1 person's full attention, so he won't be able to work on the other fields.

2) Do you want to be defining the story?
I and everyone else on here will argue that a great game has the gameplay interlaced with the story. However, I find that it more heavily relies on your art director to actually bring that through. Yes, your guy or gal who set up the hitpoint system for your game has a say in how the story goes, but he essentially won't be applying anything other than through game mechanics. Your artists will be the ones creating the models, the textures, sometimes the environments. Since this is what people will be seeing, this position has a great influence on how the game turns out. A degree in Art and animation would be very useful here. Animating is probably one of the more exclusive jobs in game design. I may know a ton about Engines and C++ but none of that helps you pick up Maya and start animating professionally, something a lot of people think is easy. Doing something in Flash will give you a head start, but animating itself is practically a full time gig, given the scale that games get into. there are cinematics, basic world movement, every attack, and all that. And thats what make the art position so heavy, so that they artist can't really work on game development either, because dealing with models and textures is a huge job.

3) Level Design?
  It's not really covered in any major degree, since level design is not exactly something you would need to learn for any other job besides a video game developer. The good thing is, this is one of the things they teach you in those game schools, supposedly. Alternatively, there are lots of books on the subject. It's not as easy as some people might think, creating a good level. You have to make sure the lighting is just right to make sure the path is intuitive for the player. While not easy, its not as time consuming at the other jobs (or at least for me, ymmv), so this position lets you float around and help in the other areas of game development. The art director might be too busy with animating to do a landscape for a cinematic, in which case, you have the basic knowledge already on how to create environments to play in, so a landscape is pretty simple. Likewise, your codemonkey could be flying along with updates, and when it comes time to test the numbers for gameplay balancing, you've got the levels lined up to do so.

So, in my experience, I've found that it takes people with these 3 skills to pump out a quality feature 3D game. However, game design schools don't really focus on one aspect long enough for a person to be sure of what field they really want to be in. Someone with an Art degree will know a little bit more about various tricks they can use to increase that aspect of the game. Likewise, someone who works in C++ all day will likely come across a bug fix for their web app that might spark help with their game (I know I have).

I think banking on super video game specifics is probably less helpful for you than if you get a group of people together with specific knowledge in the other related fields.

won't take long... (5, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034758)

for these kids to realize that the "glamorous" lifestyle of the video game designer is a lie. More like death marches galore, low pay, and shady companies.

Research this stuff first kids!

Re:won't take long... (2, Insightful)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035086)

I studied CS with concentrations in AI and HCI, specifically to do game development. After a couple of years of beta testing games, I came to realize that I wanted to have a family, and working on a game for 4 years, with a 6-12 month crunch period entailing 80 hour work weeks, I decided that the two were not compatible. At least, the career path wasn't compatible with the kind of husband/father I wanted to be. Thankfully, I loved programming. Unfortunately, I hate documentation (Requirements, design, test plans, etc), and I seem to spend more time on that than coding. C'est le vie.

Re:won't take long... (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035122)

Yeah, everyone told me to stay away from Computer science lest I become a zombie at a cubicle staring at code all day.

But I did some research, and I know one day I want to be just like Steve Ballmer.

One day, I'LL be the one sweating on stage shouting developers over and over until people give in and start clapping. Who doesn't dream of a life like that?

Re:won't take long... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035482)

You do realize that's a Masters of Business Administration, not a Masters of Computer Science you needed, right? :D

Ooops shoot, I missed that detail as well. Now I'm stuck in a cubicle writing the next Astro Chicken game for Scumsoft while scary looking managers crack whips over my head!

P.S. Send help soon! Coordinates will be supplied to the first player to beat Astro Chicken: The clutchling continues!

Re:won't take long... (1)

ryan.onsrc (1321531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035198)

for these kids to realize that the "glamorous" lifestyle of the video game designer is a lie. More like death marches galore, low pay, and shady companies.

Research this stuff first kids!

Very true, but let's not forget another detail: many folks seem to think building video games == playing video games. I'd be willing to bet that while initial interest may be high, the drop-out rate will be through the roof. With a flurry of video game buffs enrolling in these classes (many of which are likely to be non-programmers), there is bound to be a lot of students caught like a deer in headlights when they learn that game development is one of the most difficult forms of programming in existence.

Of course, those who are artistically inclined might actually have an easier shot at making it through: as they could get into the art-design aspects of game development. I'd further suspect that most of the graduates will fall in this category -- and hence, will get the chance to experience the game development industry in it's full glory.

Re:won't take long... (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035752)

won't take long for these kids to realize that the "glamorous" lifestyle of the video game designer is a lie.

...are you implying by this contradiction that the cake isn't?

Re:won't take long... (2, Interesting)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035974)

for these kids to realize that the "glamorous" lifestyle of the video game designer is a lie. More like death marches galore, low pay, and shady companies.

Does it have to be? With the internet as the infinitely powerful distribution mechanism, the big distributors pissing everyone off with their DRM, the market for small indie games is bound to get bigger. Sure, the failures will fail, but there's plenty of room for those willing to go the distance to create games, put them out there and make enough of a profit to pay the rent, put food on the table and maybe hire a professional artist to increase sales on the next title.

No limits? (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034770)

I don't know how it works in the US, as we have free education here in Finland. But the downside is that any given program has a certain number of people admitted per year, so enrollment is based on test results.

Are there no limits in the US? I mean, if they have 500% of the people they thought they would that's gonna be a bit of a pickle?

Just being curious here. :)

Re:No limits? (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034866)

Most colleges limited the number of students they accept into their program, but they take as many as they can get. College isn't free here, so the more students they take the more money they get.

Re:No limits? (2, Interesting)

timothy (36799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035150)

There are trade-offs; colleges don't want to pay for more faculty / facilities than they believe they'll have the enrollment to support (and therefore justify), but when there's huge demand, they'll try to adapt to it.

Like anything else in which there's even a partial free market :) Milk, yoga lessons, vacations to Brazil ...

GMU, btw, is a state school (biggest university by enrollment in the state of Virginia), which means it's fairly cheap for people from Virginia, and cheaper than typical private colleges / universities for non-residents as well.

I'd heard of it, but knew nothing about it really until a few years ago -- now I'm familiar at least with the names of many of their excellent (libertarian leaning) economics professors, through the podcast called EconTalk (econtalk.org).

Cheers,

timothy

Re:No limits? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035818)

In the US you are admitted to the university as a whole, not to an individual discipline. In part that's because there's a lot more flexibility to change fields in the US.

You FAILED It Bro ! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034774)

Welcom to the New World Order [youtube.com] .

Sorry, losers, your video game skills won't let you till the soil behind your hovel so you can slave out an existence in the former U.S.A.

Yours In Astrakhan,
Kilgore T.

How many will flock away? (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034780)

After they realize it's not all fun and playing video games all day as "research", how many will flock away?

Numbers (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034810)

"What? You mean making videogames involves numbers? WHAT THE FUuuuuuuuuu..."

Hilarious, and it happens every time.

I feel sorry for the poor souls who'll have gone through four years of expensive 'education' to find that they really ought to have spent their time creating a decent series of demo games and applications instead. Oh well.

Re:Numbers (3, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034896)

to be fair, it's really only two numbers. ;-)

Re:Numbers (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035212)

And this is why I love coming here. Do you realize how tiny a percentage of the world's population would get that joke? If /. were a country, I would be packing my bags and filling out my immigration papers to get there right now.

Re:Numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035684)

I don't get it. :(

Re:Numbers (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035458)

I thought there were only 10 numbers.

Re:Numbers (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035658)

There are only 10 numerals. There are an infinite amount of numbers.

Liberal Arts versus Vocational training (5, Insightful)

Pro777 (90089) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034828)

I'm disappointed to see an institution with as good a reputation as GMU creating what is ostensibly a vocational training program. Programs such as this prepare students for one and only one role in a specialized industry, instead of preparing them with a more well rounded education. Mores the pity too. I guess GMU wants to compete head to head with schools that advertise on G4.

Re:Liberal Arts versus Vocational training (2, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035126)

I couldn't have said it better if I read it off the university brochure.

Perhaps this "well rounded education" idea started back in the days when the wealthy young gentlemen who exclusively attended college had little knowledge of the real world since all of their basic needs were met by servants.

Or perhaps I'm just full of shit.

Re:Liberal Arts versus Vocational training (4, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035138)

I had a friend who used to work at EA who said he would rather walk the Bataan Death March than to go back. I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking.

Re:Liberal Arts versus Vocational training (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035272)

What reputation? I graduated from GMU as an EE and it seemed more like a community college than a university. They offer a ton of vocational degrees, most of which are masters programs. It's called responding to the market and Mason is really good at it. If there's any good reputation, it's based on the law school, the economics program, and the basketball team. All of which rock, but are still a very small part of the entire university.

Liberal arts + vocation is best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035602)

Ideally you get your degree, THEN you spend a summer or a semester at a specialized vocational school learning the latest techniques. Universities are really not the best place for learning tech created in the last 3 years.

However I do agree there just are too many humanities courses in a typical degree. You may argue all about how knowing Chaucer rounds you out, but in reality, EVERYONE forgets that shit the instant the class is over. Knowing that Wordsworth wrote in a more common manner still has not proved useful in real life.

GMU -- well rounded? (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035808)

GMU has always (since at least 1981, when I entered GMU) existed primarily to turn out defense contractor employees, not people who would benefit society. Even the Slashdot summary alludes to this. That's why I'm striving to give my children the true education I never received.

200 future unemployed college grads (2, Interesting)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034858)

There can't possibly be that many job openings in this field. This is about as silly as Unv Florida cranking out tons of degrees in marine biology when the reality is that there are less than 1000 of these specialty jobs in the US.

Re:200 future unemployed college grads (3, Interesting)

Conchobair (1648793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034952)

This post made me think of Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. He has a PhD in Marine Science from the University of Texas at Austin.

Re:200 future unemployed college grads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035076)

I find it completely absurd that a man with a name as cool as Greg Street would want to use a psuedonym.

Re:200 future unemployed college grads (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035334)

Have you seen the forum trolls in WoW? You change a spell coefficient on a spell they've used like once in the last year, and they scream so loud you'd think he shot him in their face. I'd not want to use my real name there.

Re:200 future unemployed college grads (2, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035178)

Surprisingly enough, most game developers don't care about what education you have, just what skills you can show.

With computers, employers have found that self-taught basement perchers can be just as if not more skilled and efficient then your 4 to 8 year graduates in the subject.

Valve has been quoted as saying post secondary education not required, just send in a portfolio of your skills.

In fact, almost any game company position you want... Go to your favourite game dev website, look at their opportunities page. See anything you like? Look at the requirements: Its usually a portfolio demoing your skills, sometimes they want your name on something thats shipped, or at least 4 years working with the language. Almost next to never do they care if you have any education in the field. With game development, its worth next to nothing if you can't show how these skills help you create something creative.

Re:200 future unemployed college grads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035046)

That's not entirely true. There are a good number of jobs available from most state fish and game agencies, the national parks, zoos and aquariums, and of course one can go into teaching... There are probably fewer highly paid jobs than in some fields, but I certainly wouldn't say there are less than a thousand marine bio jobs in the country.

Re:200 future unemployed college grads (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035142)

That's not true. The gaming industry is in high demand for these future grads that will help them tighten up the graphics on level 3.

Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Interest (4, Insightful)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034868)

I know a ton of people that would love to think they're getting an education by being taught "video game design". Just because they've taken a few tests doesn't mean they can create a good video game, and no employer is going to take a degree in the place of experience and results to show for it.

If you owned a video game studio, who would you publish? Some guy who sat on his ass and got a degree in "video game design" from some no-name school? Or some guy that programmed and released for free an innovative game over the internet? I'd take the guy that has results. The degree is not going to help you, showing an employer you know what you're doing through a tangible product will get you hired. Bring a disc or web address to an interview, not a piece of paper.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (4, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035072)

Because you can't both be taking classes for this degree program and do video game design and programming on the side?

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035372)

Depends on how much of your time supporting yourself and doing the degree work takes up. For most people I know, these two things take up 120% of their time.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035536)

The real question you should have used as a rebuttal: does the GMU "video game designer" program give its students the opportunity to CREATE a RESULT that they can use to get hired? If so, golly. If not, it's a waste of time.

Education is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Just because you get a degree does not entitle you to the wonderful career of designing a video game for 60 hours a week while being paid peanuts.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (1, Troll)

Fallon (33975) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035118)

And actually writing a small game, or really nicely implemented mod/addon/map/level/etc. for an existing game is probably included as a senior project, if not earlier. I'd highly doubt your coming out of that degree with nothing that could be used as some kind of portfolio.

Most software/electrical/mechanical 4 year degrees from a good school will have a senior project you can use for a portfolio piece to prove your basic competence when you graduate.

What degree you have (in the IT world at least) matters very little, except for your first job. After that it's all based on your skills. Some jobs require a degree, but as long as you have one (even in underwater basket weaving or something) your fine, it's just a checkbox for a qualification.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035216)

Who's to say that they can't do both? Really, this goes for any degree you get. The school is just the framework around which you build an education. You can go to a really good school, and learn very little, or go to a very poor school, and learn a lot. You get out of it what you put in. The education is just the framework around which you build experience. You can get a really good education, and not turn it into anything useful, or get a very poor education, and become very successful via raw experience. Again, you get out of it what you put in.

The good thing about this kind of degree is that it can lead to several careers. It can lead to a career in marketing, based on the design aspects, or a career in software engineering, based on the programming aspects. In fact, it could even lead to a career in game development, but I doubt that most of the students who graduate (let alone enroll) will actually get into game development.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (2, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035218)

With the possible exception of casual games; the game designer, programmer, and artist are likely to be different people. So I wouldn't be looking to hire someone with all of those skills, but instead, the best people I could find in each category.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (1)

dbet (1607261) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035416)

If you owned a video game studio, who would you publish? Some guy who sat on his ass and got a degree in "video game design" from some no-name school? Or some guy that programmed and released for free an innovative game over the internet? I'd take the guy that has results.

Uh, perhaps the time spent in the course gives you some skills to make your own video game which you can use to impress people. It's not like you're just paying for a note from your teacher after 4 years of doing nothing.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035530)

The degree is not going to help you, showing an employer you know what you're doing through a tangible product will get you hired.

I wonder if the degree (or at least the courses that lead to the degree) could help you gain those skills?

Nah, people are either born knowing how to program or they're not. No one has ever matriculated from a university with more ability to program than they had when they first enrolled.

Re:Student Interest Does Not Equal Employer Intere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035620)

Really, simply getting a degree in video game design won't guarantee you a great job? Thank you captain obvious for that insightful commentary on an issue that is certainly unique to the video game industry.

Supply and demand? (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034942)

I have a feeling that producing 200 new game designers per year will vastly outstrip any conceivable demand. I hope these kids get enough of a grounding in general software engineering to be able to find decent jobs elsewhere when the bulk of them get turned down for the relatively small number of openings.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035356)

That's the problem though. Why would a prospective employer not in the gaming field take a video game design major over a CS major, all things being equal?

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035454)

There does seem to be a certain mistrust of video game design courses. A lot of employers thing that kids just go into them because they figure game development is an easy glamorous job that involves playing games all day. Ads about tightening graphics don't help with this image.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035544)

There does seem to be a certain mistrust of video game design courses. A lot of employers thing that kids just go into them because they figure game development is an easy glamorous job that involves playing games all day. Ads about tightening graphics don't help with this image.

Even beyond "mistrust" or bias, if you're applying for a programming job outside the graphics/videogame field, it would seem that having a degree focused on a CS subset you won't be using puts you at a disadvantage.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035842)

Even beyond "mistrust" or bias, if you're applying for a programming job outside the graphics/videogame field, it would seem that having a degree focused on a CS subset you won't be using puts you at a disadvantage.

More than likely, though my experience has been that job experience counts vastly more than education -- once you have a fair amount of job experience, anyway. I was an English major originally, but I've been working as a software engineer for the last fifteen years and have racked up enough attractive past positions and good references on my resume that my pay is on a par with my more formally educated colleagues. (With the giant caveat that I actually did have to self-educate rather extensively and continue to do so.)

The problem with any job in entertainment or the arts is that there are always more highly skilled workers available than there are jobs for them to fill. Success depends not just on skill in the specific field, but a whole bunch of largely unrelated skills -- not the least of which is being good at selling yourself and establishing an extensive network of contacts -- to say nothing of more than a little luck. As such, it's a little cynical of colleges to promote this sort of thing, but on the other hand, the same could be said of just about any liberal arts degree.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035904)

(With the giant caveat that I actually did have to self-educate rather extensively and continue to do so.)

To be honest though, most professionals need to do this to some extent. My low level C skills I had when I left college are pretty worthless today*.

*They would be useful for embedded development but I have no experience there.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035764)

...alternatively, that they are happy learning stuff for its own sake and not expecting to get high paying jobs related to their studies.

Is it really that surprising? (2, Informative)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034946)

I'd say at least 75% of the people I knew in CS originally got interested in the subject at least partially because of video games. Most people eventually move on to other areas, either because they don't want to deal with the harder math and classes involved, they don't want to move to one of the few areas that has game development, or they read about how horrible the working conditions and want to have a life outside of that instead.

But most of us started there. If there had been a video game dev track at my college, I would have been in it. I practically was, with all of the 3d graphics coding and gaming capstone I took.

And the military sim market is definitely a growing poor man's gaming industry. It's where I ended up... and it's fun, but nowhere close to as "glamorous" as a real game shop. I remember begging out boss to let us even do light maps, but it just isn't a priority.

Wow (3, Interesting)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034964)

Is anyone getting flashbacks of that Westwood College advertisement where the two losers are "working" at a video game production house, and explain to their boss that they need to "tighten up the graphics on Level 3?" (They've taken down the copy on YouTube, otherwise I'd post a link.)

I wonder if this is going to be similar to what happened in the late 90s in the field of systems administration. During the dotcom run-up, salaries went pretty high for anyone who had even the slightest clue about computers. TONS of places were pumping out certified but unqualified network and systems admins, and we're still dealing with a lot of them now. Now given that this is an actual college, and they get a real degree out of the deal, it might not be as bad. And I'm sure the video game houses appreciate at least a minimal amount of training. From what I've heard, there are legions and legions of folks who don't mind the low pay and 100 hour work weeks just so they can say they design video games for a living. Providing a games publisher with a steady stream of newbies who are qualified beyond, "I like video games and want to be involved in "the business." (Replace video games with computers, and you get what happened during the dotcom boom.

Re:Wow (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035308)

Two articles on slashdot about game dev treatment? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035030)

Have there not already been two articles on slashdot about how game developers are forced to work 14 hour days, six days a week? Also, isn't that stuff all being offshored, or given to guest workers?

Re:Two articles on slashdot about game dev treatme (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035496)

Have there not already been two articles on slashdot about how game developers are forced to work 14 hour days, six days a week? Also, isn't that stuff all being offshored, or given to guest workers?

There have been several. Game programmers get treated like crap because almost everyone with computer skills would rather be working on Epic Warfare 5 than Generic_Financial_Database. As a result, there's a real over-supply of talent, more so than other fields. Hollywood has the same problem with writers and actors/actresses. In the absence of SAG/WGA rules, the sheer weight of the fanfic writers and "was in a play in high school" actors willing to work for peanuts for a shot at becoming the next JJ Abrams, Tom Cruise, or Julia Roberts would dramatically force down writer and actor wages and working conditions.

anticipated/expected (1)

Sepultura (150245) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035626)

"Our anticipated enrollment for the fall is 500 percent higher than we expected."

WTF? This from an associate dean?
I hope their language is better in their games or we'll have another "All our base..." incident.

From a CS student at GMU: (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32035778)

What a lot of people publishing this story don't seem to realize is that this degree isn't just called 'Game Design', it's 'Applied Computer Science in Game Design'. Basically you're getting a -normal- Computer Science degree, but in place of a number of the electives you'd otherwise get to choose (ex: Robotics, Software Engineering, Data Mining), you're just taking the 'Game Design' courses instead.

So even if you fail at game design, you still have a Computer Science degree and the knowledge that comes with it.

[GMU also offers similar ACS programs in Geography, Biology, and Software Engineering]

Weak curriculum. Very weak. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035800)

That's a lightweight curriculum. It looks like a rehash of a theater arts course. And not a good one, like UCLA Film School. It's not technical at all. Nor does it include intensive art training. The people who come out of it won't be able to either program or do game artwork.

They don't even cover issues like playability, the psychology of reward systems, the social dynamics of multiplayer games, in-game economics, the management of game projects, or the economics of the industry.

There's no math at all. (Well, there's analytic geometry and calculus; high school level math.)

What are those graduates going to do?

I hope they give them extensive legal training too (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 4 years ago | (#32035942)

So that they are prepared to get sued by and counter-sue their publisher a half-dozen times.
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