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A Master's In CS or a Master's In Game Programming?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the career-choices dept.

278

Rustcycle asks: "I'm attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which has just announced that they are offering a Master's Degree in their Games and Media Integration (GMI) program. There is a fair amount of overlap between the GMI curriculum and the CS courses, so I'm considering a switch in degrees. If you were hiring MS grads outside the game industry for visualization work, am I worth more to you with the more specialized program or would you be more interested in me if I had more exposure? Within the gaming industry, how much does a specialized degree compel a company to hire a recent grad?"

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Get the CS degree (5, Informative)

daVinci1980 (73174) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891564)


As someone who's worked in games and in game related industries, I'll tell you that the 'Games' degrees are largely laughed at by those of us in the industry.

Good fundamentals are what I care about. I can teach you the domain specific knowledge you need to know, but if you don't have the fundamentals you'll never be good enough for me to bother with.

Good luck!

Re:Get the CS degree (3, Insightful)

jfclavette (961511) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891624)

I would agree for a B., but a M. is different. A masters will most often than not be relatively narrow, so why not narrow toward something you want to do ? Of course, my advice real advice would be to find a job..

Re:Get the CS degree (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891816)

MS's aren't usually *that* narrow. If they let me, I'd consider doing my degree in CS, taking some elective classes is the games department, and seeing if they might let me do my research project for a games prof. At my univ., that sort of thing happened all the time.

Re:Get the CS degree (3, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891820)

A masters will most often than not be relatively narrow, so why not narrow toward something you want to do ?

It's not a bad idea, but don't narrow it down so much that you end up with a graduate degree that only helps you get work in one single small, cutthroat industry.

Many universities allow matriculants to design their own course of study. Take courses and do research projects involving graphics, artificial intelligence, and distributed multi-user systems, but don't call it "Game Programming" -- call it "Interactive Multimedia Design" or something.

Re:Get the CS degree (2, Informative)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892646)

Yes, thats true if you are looking for a job within the gaming industry. But he was asking about jobs outside the game industry and in that case, you absolutely do not want a degree that just says "I got into this field because I like video games, and I'm going to leave your boring company as soon as I get an offer from EA".

Re:Get the CS degree (4, Informative)

adisakp (705706) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891780)

I also work in the games industry and here are the degrees which are probably most useful to you if you want a job programming games:

Bachelor of Science: Computer Science
Bachelor of Science: Mathematics
Bachelor of Engineering: Electrical Engineering (computer or digital design emphasis)

They're certainly not the only degrees to get but they do stand out on a resume as someone likely to be able to handle game programming. Those "BA:Film Appreciation" resumes with "I wanna kode a gr8 game idea I had" go straight into the trash.

Also very important is experience -- any experience. For guys who have never worked on a commercial game, being able to show demos of personal or even class projects covering aspects of game programming on graphics, sound programming, networking, etc will vastly improve your hireability as a beginning game programmer (not to mention probably get you a better starting salary). Being able to describe in depth some of the techniques will get you pretty far on an interview.

Now what's interesting is that while the Game Programming degree will get you some of the experience and prossibly a cool demo, there is still a stigma that the Game Programming degree covers mainly some practical applications and doesn't cover enough theory to allow you to delve into solving new and more complex issues outside of the learned practical applications. Therefore, your best bet is to take one of the tradition degrees and if possible AS ELECTIVES take classes from the Game Programming track.

Re; Get the CS degree (4, Informative)

Scrithy (919074) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892000)

I'd say definitely go for CS, but as a game programmer that has been in the industry for over 14 years I'd say #1 on the list would actually be: Bachelor of Arts: Computer Science More math courses, less "engineering" courses. At least that's how I remember it when I was in school (getting a BA in CS, of course).

More math? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892368)

Where I went to school CS didn't even take DiffEQ. Some skipped the last semester of Calc. None took post calc stats.

They beat set theory to death, took course work in data structures and a few more languages (fewer then I already knew as an incoming freshman).

It all depends on what school CS is taught out of. If taught out of 'Arts and Sciences' CS is a puffed up math degree. If taught out of business it's a puffed up business degree. If taught out of engineering it's a dumbed down engineering degree. YMMV

I have a generally poor impression of CS majors. Do the extra work, get the EE or CompE. There is much value in the engineering core ciricula (spelling not being part it).

Re:More math? (2, Informative)

Longtime_Lurker_Aces (1008565) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892620)

From my experience and everything I've read, I'd say you must have just gone to a poor school for computer science, Horn. I've never heard of a CS degree out of the college of business (My school offers a "Management Information Systems" out of biz which is what CS dropouts major in) but I would agree its probably a joke.

My school has CS in college of liberal arts & sciences and CprE in engineering, we have a lot of classes in common between the majors and there is really no difference in difficulty between the two, and majors from both programs tend to get high paying jobs right out of college.

The difference here is that CS does theory and advanced topics while CprE does hardware and low-level (assembly, embedded systems, etc). Neither is "better" or "harder" its just a different focus, with about 50-60% classes in common.

Re:Get the CS degree (2, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892190)

From what I remember the main skills you need are huge amounts of 3D vector geometry to a level that is mainly taught only in the Physics field.

But who wants to work in games software anyway. As a general rule in the real world - the more rewarding a job is the less you can expect to earn for it.

Re:Get the CS degree (2, Funny)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892260)

I'm using a thing in my colleges degree to get a BS in game design and a MS in CS. In case i prove to be a complete creative failure in the industry and add nothing new, I can still throw myself into a corporate hell hole to survive.

Re:Get the CS degree (2, Insightful)

rblum (211213) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892436)

They *used* to be laughed at. I heard good things about Guild Hall.

Ultimately, I don't care what your degree is, though. Convince me that you are smart and get things done, and I'll recommend we hire you.

Re:Get the CS degree (1)

pixel_bc (265009) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892632)

I've been working for 9 years in game development.

I assure you, most of these game programs are laughed at.

Go CS degree, BS or Msc, and you'll do fine.

I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892718)

I have worked in video and computer games for in fact 20 years and must agree with the above. The "game" degrees are less valuable than CS degrees. You're going to get a programming test anyway at any place worth their salt, so mastering programming is the important thing.

My suspicion is that the game degrees go light on the programming in favor of fairly useless courses on theory in which the professors are probably not from our industry and are probably not employable.

Having a game degree never meant anything to me when reviewing a candidate. Now, an exception is a game *demo* that might have been made as part of the degree course - but then it's always hard because those are made by multiple people and I can never tell who did what. Everyone will lie and claim they did 75% of the work. So, a self-made demo - that's what's best to show.

easy (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891568)

from what I've heard, you don't come out with anywhere near the amount of math that you need to do game programming from a CS degree. Since game programming is WAY harder in that area, you definitely need that degree, trust me. Disregard what anyone says about what degree people will hire you with because all they really care about is what you've learned and what you can do because of it. It sounds like they did a decent job with the degree too in that it takes out everything you don't need for game programming but leaves in the basic and advanced universal programming skills that you'd need in both.

Re:easy (1)

Ohrion (814105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891598)

I'm actually going back to college specifically for math classes. I'd like to be able to work on Game Engines and need to understand all the math involved. How much math is appropriate? What would you suggest?

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891626)

linear algebra...discrete mathematics

discrete math (3, Funny)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891678)

Yup. You definitely don't want to use loud math in a game. It's very distracting.

Re:discrete math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891796)

I can see that you're making a joke, but if it's a spelling joke, you might want to know that his [reference.com] spelling is the correct one, and it's unambigious [reference.com] in English as far as I know.

(The reverse pun is fun, too, especially when people do the misspelling thing and ask others to be "very discrete".)

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891836)

Computational geometry

Re:easy (1)

libkarl2 (1010619) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891912)

You will want Trig, Discrete, Physics, and at least a relevent subset of Calculus (which aids greatly in the physics area). Physics is gaming's evil conjoined twin. Most game engines contain one or more forms of (optimized|bastardized) physics engines.

Re:easy (1)

reverius (471142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892602)

Don't forget linear algebra. A proper understanding of matrices is quite essential.

Re:easy (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891702)

Unfortunately, I suspect that when it comes to actually getting HIRED, having a "game programming degree" may wind up weighing you down. My personal opinion is to go for that CS degree and take the needed extra mathematics courses on the side.

Agreed (1)

harurenu (842749) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891784)

I might consider you to work in my department, but only because I understand the IT requirements of a true game design degree. However, most people, including my company as a whole, would turn you away because of your degree.

All of the commercials you see on television about "Get a degree in game design in two years! Play games for a living!" typically tend to attract the type of employee that you don't want to be associated with.

Re:Agreed (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891870)

"Get a degree in game design in two years! Play games for a living!"

Too often people think working on video games is all fun. It stopped being fun for me after the first six weeks and I worked in the industry for six years. I'm now a help desk specialist working 40 hours a week but making the same amount of money when I was working 80 hours per week testing video games. It's nice to have a life. :)

Which degree... (-1, Offtopic)

Quaoar (614366) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891572)

(Bad pun alert) Do you want to be a Master...or a Slave?

I say stick with the CS (2, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891588)

Forget a specialist restrictive subset of development, keep your options open for the future.
However, find a group of buddies and sit down as a team and code up your own games.

Have fun.

Re:I say stick with the CS (2, Informative)

JNighthawk (769575) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891674)

I disagree with you saying that it's a restrictive subset of development. The best analogy I read before was "Game programmers are to surgeons what normal programmers are to physicians. Surgeons can do everything the physicians can, and surgery on top of that." My education at Full Sail not only taught me programming, math, and the development life cycle, but we also had *two* actual game projects to work on. The most current project I worked on at Full Sail is Ultimate Fairy Battle, which is competing in the 2007 IGF Student Showcase.

Re:I say stick with the CS (2, Insightful)

nightgeometry (661444) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891708)

I think what you meant to say is "Game programmers are to normal programmers what surgeons are to doctors."

But then I don't agree with that anyway, so what do I know?

Re:I say stick with the CS (5, Funny)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891854)

I'd agree with you, but for the simple fact that when a surgeon says to a doctor 'I'm a surgeon' - the doctor doesn't laugh in his face.

That said - if you are going for an advanced degree, go MS/CS.

Re:I say stick with the CS (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892292)

"Game programmers are to surgeons what normal programmers are to physicians. Surgeons can do everything the physicians can, and surgery on top of that."
I don't think this carries over so well. Surgery is something you learn on top of everything that you learn to be a physician. Game programming, AFAICT, is much more detailed in some areas (especially math), and more or less doesn't include others.

Of course it's a subset. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892476)

The fact the people teaching game programming are telling you that you're better then other coders and can do anything they can just proves how stupid and narrow minded they are (egos of surgeons without the skills).

In their minds any game coder could write real time control system code for just about anything. After all games work just like digital control systems. Don't bother them with control system theory, poles, half-planes etc etc. They can write difference equation code so they can do anything.

Any game coder could write database code. After all games work just like databases. Don't bother them with normal forms, query plans etc etc etc. They can write multi-player server code so they can do anything.

Morons.

Do Not! (5, Informative)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891590)

Do not get the games degree. Stick with CS. It's worth something.

Please.

Nope (3, Interesting)

aarku (151823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891594)

A gaming degree doesn't mean squat to me when I'm looking for people. What is important is what they've done and how they are as a person. Passion is the strongest dye on the planet and it stains everything that someone does. If you don't have a lot to show then you're not passionate about games and you will be left in the dust by the people who are.

Re:Nope (5, Funny)

OG (15008) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891728)

Passion is the strongest dye on the planet and it stains everything that someone does.


Yeah, just turn on a blacklight in a room at a Motel 6 for proof.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891896)

best response ever

Re:Nope (1)

nickheart (557603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892242)

This is on the spot. I was reading an article in Electronic Design's recent release "Your Most Important Issue Of The Year 2006". It outlined how many professionals in the Tech field do not have specialized degrees. As a matter of fact, on average tech pros that have never gone to collage, or even opted for a GED as opposed to finished High-School make more than their counterparts that took some college, or got an associates degree.

Being a viable resource is less and less where your piece of paper came from (diploma), and the title on it (major) and more and more what you have accomplished and how you work with others.

I would have to recommend getting the CS degree, but working on some game in your free time if you really want to secure a job as a Game Programmer.

but then again, I'm just some collage drop-out turned electronic engineer, so their's your grain of salt.

What's in a game? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891602)

That which we call coding, by any other job would smell as sweet.

work experience, not masters degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891606)

i'd be happier hiring someone with practical knowledge.

Waste of time (0, Flamebait)

bobetov (448774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891612)

A Master's degree is next to worthless in CS. What impresses me when hiring is actual experience. Unless you're doing something algorithmically interesting (in which case, go math, but anyway...) most CS work is about a mindset and experience solving real problems. Theory beyond the undergrad level is superfluous.

If you have to choose, go with the game-centric one, but I'd spend two years writing games instead.

My two cents.

Flamebait? Certainly not! (1)

Ohrion (814105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891966)

I don't understand why this is flamebait? Does anyone?

Re:Flamebait? Certainly not! (1)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892148)

All the CS masters students just got back from grueling labs and annoying TA duties. They're pissed because they see MS students in stuff like Theater, taking a break on fridays. All they want to do when they come home is collapse in their comfy chair and read /. Their patience is not to be tested.

I should know, I live with one. ;)

Re:Flamebait? Certainly not! (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892188)

I'm replying, so I obviously didn't mod it as such... but I'd have to say because it's an assinine comment. I'm just getting immersed in my M.Sc. in CS and so far it's like going from night to day.... I would strongly argue that in the CS realm you don't start really getting into CS until you start working on your thesis. I got strong marks in undergrad, took a boatload of theoretical courses as well as a large number of coding projects, and none of them come close to what I'm working on now in terms of sheer theoretic complexity... Saying that theoretical CS work beyond the B.Sc. level is superfluous is just uninformed. I mean, cripes, this [ted.com] wasn't done by undergrads, and I'd say it's some cool shit... so yeah... the GP looks like a cleverly disguised regurgitation of a number of other trollish posts about the subject.

In general terms... (3, Insightful)

noz (253073) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891644)

Man gotta have skillz.. No seriously. ;-) Demonstrate an understanding of principle concepts across different computing niches; that's what makes you an asset to your employer and, should you need other work, yourself.

Skillz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892528)

These people got skills [untergrund.net] . Compete.

I'm about to graduate from a gaming school (3, Interesting)

JNighthawk (769575) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891646)

I'm about to graduate with a BS of Game Design and Development from Full Sail. It's mostly just development, since designing is something hard to teach, but, from my experience, Full Sail, Digipen and Guild Hall are among the best if you're trying to become a game developer. Ignore the people that say people in the industry laugh at gaming schools. Ignore the people that say if you don't go to a gaming school, you can never become a game developer. It really depends on you. Education is a tool, among many, not the one and only thing that will determine whether you'll get the job. So, do your research, and figure it out. Honestly, screw the paper that says you graduated, go with what gives you the best education. That's why I chose Full Sail.

Re:I'm about to graduate from a gaming school (4, Insightful)

daVinci1980 (73174) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891730)


You might be different. Maybe you're great. I've worked with one guy from Full Sail, and he's painted a bleak picture of what they let through as graduates.

Since then, I haven't had a single candidate make it past phone screens from gaming universities. Maybe you're the exception.

Education is a tool, but it's pretty much the only thing I have to go on for recent graduates.

Best of luck!

Re:I'm about to graduate from a gaming school (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892362)

I'm sure Full Sail is like most tech schools: 95% of the people in them have no business being there. I think a good demo reel and some experience go a long ways further than any degree. A CS Master's degree will certainly gain you some clout in the end, more so than any "game degree" (or no degree), but it's having a stand-out portfolio and good references that will usually get you hired. The main thing a game school can get you that you can't get elsewhere is great networking opportunities. And the main thing any kind of degree can get you is proof that you have the ability to finish what you started.

I'm about to graduate from DeVry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891744)

"Ignore the people that say people in the industry laugh at [trade] schools. Ignore the people that say if you don't go to a [traditional] school, you can never become a [computer programmer]."

Re:I'm about to graduate from a gaming school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892072)

I've seen bad things about Full Sail.

Re:I'm about to graduate from a gaming school (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892774)

Even the gaming industry doesn't take it seriously.

Sorry.

My biggest error in college CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891734)

Was taking a compiler and OS theory rather than data base. Compiler theory is MUCH more interesting, BUT all the jobs are for data base. So if you want a job take basic CS, if you want a FUN job, but don't mind flipping burgers awhile before finding the
FUN job, take the game option. If you have the $$$ consider a dual degree if most of the course work is the same.

Go for a regular CS degree... (4, Informative)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891742)

The fact of life in the video game industry is that once you been in the industry for 10 years and/or over 30 years old, you're no good to the cheap bean counters who run a lot of these game companies. Once you're out of the industry, you're need to get a REAL JOB (TM)! Get a regular CS degree and take any game-related classes you might be interested on the side. The key thing outside of school is always keep learning new stuff, have an exit strategy to get into the next job, manage your career that benefits your situation the best and stay healthy.

Re:Go for a regular CS degree... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891856)

Or you could choose to set up your company, as all the veteran programmers from the home computer days in the UK have done (and many of the new graduates are doing as well), and avoid all the crazy politics such as directors giving the interesting works to their mates, rather than to the most experienced staff.

And those employers then compalain that they can't find qualified candidates...

Skip them both. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891768)

Get a masters in pure math or a non "ology" science, then learn C/C++ on your own. Java is a waste of everybody's time.

Ever see an OS written in Java? You never will.

Re:Skip them both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892308)

C++ is dead. Plus why would want a job developing an OS anyway??

direct from dice.com:

C++ jobs --> 8158
java jobs --> 15969

and for those who think ruby is taking over the world
ruby jobs --> 297

enough said

You idiot (0, Troll)

cheesekeeper (649923) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891770)

You idiot. If you're going to bother getting a degree, get a degree. If you're just trying to learn how to make games, go to trade school.

Re:You idiot (1)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891824)

That sort of strategy works if you're getting a degree in say, Art History or Philosophy. In the humanities and social sciences, most graduates end up working in fields unrelated to what they studied in college. With the sciences and engineering, it's quite different. I doubt many biotech companies would consider hiring someone with a degree in Civil Engineering.

The choice of degree does matter.

Comparison (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891776)

Lets see. Video games have been out for a while. Most of the programmers are Comp Sci degree holders. So you can do Game Programming with a CS degree, but can you do Comp Sci with a Game Programming degree?

Most people have multiple careers. Choose wisely.

If you even need to ask that... (1, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891800)

If you can contemplate other work then you're already not dedicated enough to work in the games industry.
Its crazy long, hard hours for low pay. You gotta know why you're there.

Degrees in general (4, Insightful)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891810)

As someone in the game industry, I care absolutely zero for what degree you have. Seriously. It makes no difference to me if you have a MS in game development or a PhD in agriculture. I simply don't care. If you wanted me to hire you, you'd have to have some proof of your skills - a game you worked on, a significant amount of code you'd done (or art, if you were an artist). Something that can prove you actually know what you're doing, and not simply that you have a piece of paper.

The "game degree" path may push you through making an actual game. Or it might not. I really don't know, and I honestly don't care. Pick your classes based on what you'll learn from them, not what your diploma will say.

This assumes you want to get a job at one of the smaller more personal companies, not a code-monkey job at a behemoth company.

Re:Degrees in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892010)

I write software for Navy flight simulators(basically really expensive video games) and the last team I was on had 7 people, all with different degrees. There was math(me), physics, electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, aerospace engineering, and then there was a guy with a phD in agriculture. No kidding.

Bling bling (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891872)

Getting a degree in game programming instead of CS is a bit like getting a degree specifically in rap instead of all music. Sure, everyone wants the bling bling and the fly girls that most well-known rappers get for basically reciting bad poetry and appearing in videos, but the music cabal can (or will) only support so many people. If you don't make it in rap/game programming, fat lot of good that degree will do you.

That said, most CS degrees don't focus on the specific techniques used in game programming, so you will need to do some additional learning on your own if you're planning on going into games.

What you need for a job in the games industry (5, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891882)

If you want a job in the games industry (as a developer), you need the following (forgive the things I've forgotten):
1: Good C++ engineering skills. Have this as part of your portfolio you send with a resume
2: A good understanding of algorithms in general, both single and multithreaded
3: Datastructures
4: Linear Algebra
5: If you want to be a rendering guy (which I kind of am, though more generally I'm a high performance guy), you need calculus.
6: Basic physics
7: Depending on what specifically you want to do, some 'advanced' (ie second year) physics
8: Operating systems. That is, how does the OS work, how does that impact me as a software developer.

Things that can't hurt: Familiarity with some game specific problems, such as rendering, game AI, the slightly different philosophy for some of the advanced topics like networking and distributed systems. Obviously you need to know how to program in Windows, even minimally. If you have C++ skills by the time you graduate you can easily apply those to consoles and probably mobiles.

Can you get all of those with an MSc in either CS or Game development? I suspect yes. With the game development you're probably marginally more prepared for game dev, after all this is MSc level, not BSc. Being at the MSc level means you're focusing your research interests and advanced topics on the details of some game related problems, but you can do that in a regular MSc just as well as in GD (that's what I'm doing/did, which is graphics stuff as an MSc in CS).

So which is better? The GD might give you a tiny edge over an equivalent CS person (after all you've demonstrated your interest), on the other hand, the CS MSc means you can, after working 80 hours a week for 3 months of 'crunch time' decide to screw this and work somewhere else, and be equally valuable. Also your employer knows you at least on paper are more attractive elsehwere, meaning they may be willing to do a little extra to keep you, at worst they treat you the same as every other developer they have.

Personally, I would do the MSc in CS, with a research topic/thesis on a topic that impacts game developers. If they like you, they'll give you a job, if not you still have a normal sounding MSc on paper you can use to work elsewhere. Esspecially if you're a graphics guy like me, diversify: Take medical imaging as well as game related graphics.

That's mostly what I got from a conference held in london ontario a couple of weeks ago (futureplay).

The only other useful tidbit I picked up, was a game dev studio can be picky enough to take the only the top 10% of CS grads out there. The huge desire to go into the game business means they have a large talent pool, and while right now you may feel you measure up, the last thing you want is to get your degree and find out 3 months from now that you don't.

P.S. I met some of the people setting up this programme at the conference, I may even have met you if you were there (I was the tall thin loud one), it looks like a good program though I'd prefer a MSc in CS with a research topic in game development than a MSc in game development, I don't think you're done a disservice with either.

Baiting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891898)

Get a masters in baiting.

I have one, and it rocks.

Probably the CS degree. (5, Informative)

John Carmack (101025) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891904)

Game programs have been somewhat useful for finding employees, but we don't actually think that the students are learning particularly valuable skills in the programs.

A CS or EE degree will almost certainly serve you better throughout your life than a game/media degree, but if getting into the industry immediately is your overriding concern, a game program will help with contacts and opportunities.

Exceptional merit will eventually be noticed (perhaps not as quickly as you would like, though), and a degree of any sort is not required if you can conclusively demonstrate that you will contribute great value to a company. However, many entry level positions are filled based on people's opinions about potential, and honest assessments from faculty that work with lots of students does carry some weight.

The best advice is "be amazing", but "diligent and experienced" counts for quite a bit.

John Carmack

Re:Probably the CS degree. (1)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892078)

Would it make a difference if the Game Dev degree were from a 4-year university, as opposed to say, an art school? I'm thinking that the 4-year might be better for making contacts, as you said, although the art school could have some good hook-ups as well.

Probably the CS degree-Real Deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892142)

Well if this is John Carmack. I believe that you didn't go the CS route.*

*In other words you're one of the old school programmers who basically learned it "on the job" so to speak. At least that's the impression "Masters of Doom" gave.

Get the CS Masters and Forget the Gaming Degree (2, Informative)

Cappadonna (737133) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891958)

Gaming Degrees is where most online degrees were 5 or 10 years ago -- they're not taken to seriously in industry and they somewhat limit your options. Looking at the syllabus and the school, it appears to be a new direction for a decent third tier E-school. However, you're going to have a difficult time moving into another industry beyond general tech support -- simply b/c some HR bean counter isn't going to know WTF your degree with mean.

If you decide to leave Gaming and go into other forms of IT, that Degree won't have the same traction as a Comp Sci or Math degree. ITOH, you can get the CS Masters, focus your research or thesis on gaming and still get your dream job.


- Cappa

This FP for GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16891986)

Theo de raadt, one prospects are very

Get a job! (2, Insightful)

Tuirn (717203) | more than 7 years ago | (#16891998)

Please give this serious consideration. Having received a BS in CS and spending a little less than a decade creating software professionally (not game programming). From my experience, I'd rather higher someone with a BS who is intelligent and has several years of good experience than someone who only has an MS. I've unfortunately run into too many of these folks who lack the ability to cope with the real world. It seems like the best use of these advanced degrees are if you want to stay in school and teach.

If you really are determined to get an advanced degree please, please, please get a general CS degree (Software Engineering possibly?). It will serve you much better in the long run than some thing like game programming.

Whatever path you choose, good luck.

A "serious" side. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892012)

Well everyone's thrown in their two cents. Now while I can't tell you what degree to get. I can add another perspective to the issue.

Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform [amazon.com] and Learning by Doing: A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy in e-Learning and Other Educational Experiences [amazon.com]

Most of the advice here about games (and anything related) is shaped by people's exposure to them. But games and the technology surrounding them has a serious side [seriousgamessource.com] as well as serious applications. [watercoolergames.org] You can even tour Notre Dame [gamers.org] .

I have plenty of PDF's related to the application of games outside peoples narrow view of them. e.g. Urban planning, virtual tours, architecture, etc.

c) none of the above. (0, Troll)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892032)

If you were hiring MS grads outside the game industry for visualization work, am I worth more to you with the more specialized program or would you be more interested in me if I had more exposure? Within the gaming industry, how much does a specialized degree compel a company to hire a recent grad?"

How about going back to suck on your momma's teet for a few more years until you're ready to make your own decisions?

Nothing wrong with asking advice, but you're not asking which path might match your interests. You're asking which piece of paper might look better to some hypothetical employer at some point in the future.

Let me find my crystal ball...oh yeah! I don't have one! Neither does anyone else here. So no one can answer your question. You think one field is hot, so everyone who doesn't know what to major in goes to that field. Then when you graduate there's a glut and you're S.O.L.

How about you say, these are my interest, these are the types of classes I want to take. Is there a degree program to match those?

If there's any hope of avoiding the troll mods, here is the answer to your question. Best degree to help you get hired? MBA and learn Chinese.

It probably helps a bit (2, Interesting)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892064)

Note: I am a game developer, and therefore have at least an informed opinion on this.

If your dead focused on going into games, then getting the GMI degree is probably a better bet. But if you want to keep your options open, go for the CS degree.

The primary difference would be that with the GMI degree, you will end up taking courses that are very important to Game development at the expense of some other skills. (ie: I would guess that the GMI degree will get you courses on Matrix and Vector math, and the particulars of pixel shaders, instead of things like compiler theory and systems programming).

The trade off is that there really aren't a whole lot of jobs out there that require the particular combination of 3d Math and graphics knowledge that game development requires. The graphics and animation stuff will come in handy if you decide to try your hand at making special effects software, but knowing how to transform a point from local space to screen space wont help you get a job doing Linux programming for a telecom company.

On top of that, the games industry is just not as mature an industry as other programming jobs. Things like the ea_spouse incident with EA's overtime practices are one aspect. And the industry as a whole needs to get a much better grip on the project management side of things. Things have been improving, but there is still a long way to go.

Anyway, if you just want to be a programmer, the CS degree is the way to go. But if you want to be a game programmer specifically, go for the GMI degree.

END COMMUNICATION

the industry is rude and arrogant (1)

QX-Mat (460729) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892068)

I've just started an MSc in Comp Games Systems...

I generally spend my time reading LWN, dabbling with gdb trying to extend programs, and coding glue backends with perl.

My C and C++ skills are great. I was the best programming I knew at my undergrad course (computer systems)... I think in terms of the bits and bytes, fastest code paths and about the underlying processor architecture. I am simply a very good programmer. (and not so arrogant)

However. I started this course so I could do a portfolio. I known for a while that I have to learn and cover pixel and vertex shaders in my own time, and implement them in my MSc project (my BSc FYP was low level image process and it was bloody brilliant... No extern APIs!)...

Nottingham hosted a "game developers" thing, where you could meet some developers. All I can say is I think it was the worst organised "thing" I have ever attended. To compound the issues, the developers were dry and the one who did take my email did not email me back.

I've asked and asked; emailed and and emailed. All I want is a game development company to sponsor my masters thesis - I want someone to set the deliverables and give me an area on which to focus; I don't need monetary support... I want an aim!

Sadly, as I said, I never get replies. The one reply I've had was for 16-yearolds introducing computer games as a very hard subject for people with real degrees (note: i just got a f*cking Computer Systems degree from a Russell group uni [think ivy league])... *sigh*. It kinda sucks when I know that I know a helluvalot about the underlying processor systems than the people that flog me off...

So yes. I'm rambling but I have no respect for the system. I have no respect for learning anything other than more math as MSc level... It's algorithms you want. Try focusing on more linear algebra and itterative work (ie: some image processing - matricies)

Maybe put the money you'd spend on that MSc into a bank account... Live at home. Study game engines yourself... Ogre? Hell start with gwin... get some books (Mathetics for 3d Game Programming & Computer Graphics by Lengvel is a must but steep!)

I hope, i really do, that come October I'll be eating my own words, playing a wonderful prototype I've created.

Matt

(nb: browsing the quake 3 src and reading LKML/lwn or eric raymond's blog is a great way to expand your understanding of theories and practice)

Re:the industry is rude and arrogant (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892498)

All I want is a game development company to sponsor my masters thesis - I want someone to set the deliverables and give me an area on which to focus; I don't need monetary support... I want an aim!

I work in aviation and I can't speak for the games industry, but you do seem a bit overqualified to be working on that kind of stuff.

To pick a silly example: go to a company which digs ditches for a living and ask them to be involved in your masters thesis on ditches.

Much of the software industry is as low tech as that. They churn stuff out. New ideas are a risk for them so they won't want to promote it. I know a few people at my workplace who have postgrad qualifications. They work on the same crap as everybody else. The only way up is management so your best best for improvement is an MBE.

The star performers where I work are promoted away from development within a few years.

A Master's In WHAT?! (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892084)

Our Universities are so degraded. Next will be a degree in "Gamer Studies".

Re:A Master's In WHAT?! (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892116)

Is specialized vocational training really a degradation, or is it just more specialized?

Masters in CS (2, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892114)


If you have a Masters in CS and have a keen interest in writing games you should be able to create proficient demos showing your technical and artistic skills for creating games.

If you get a Masters in Game Programming you will have a harder time convincing someone outside the Game industry that your skills are appropriate to their industry.

Assuming you absolutely only intend to go in to Game Programming related jobs then either are probably equally good choices, but if there is any chance at all you'll take a job outside of the game industry then there isn't really a choice.

Game Degrees are worthless (2, Insightful)

skap35 (1026252) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892162)

Any game degree is laughed at by most IT shops. I've always thought of gaming majors as kids who just want to play, whereas people with a CS degree are more serious about their work. Whether or not that's true in all cases is another story, but when an employer is looking at your resume and he sees "Masters in Videogame Devel" he's not going to take you seriously; it doesn't matter how good you are. And remember that if your goal is actually to be a videogame developer I still say go with CS. You can still be a game programmer with a CS degree plus you have a more general degree to fall back on.

how about a Masters of Digital Media? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892166)

http://www.gnwc.ca/mdm/index.htm [www.gnwc.ca] I'm in Vancouver and this discussion reminded me that this new program is set to begin here. Not sure how unique it is. And I have no affiliation with it.

My own (good I might add) two cents... (1)

platypuszero (825061) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892180)

Bioware was started by two medical doctors who wrote code in their garage for fun. Just don't suck, or be really good at what you do, and you will find a job.

Plumbing.... (2, Insightful)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892262)

Everyone wants to change their bathroom.

Consider a double major (1)

nontrad (773342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892322)

You may want to take the few extra courses you need to get a MS in both areas. You would be taken more seriously.

Plus, many online job applications have drop down boxes to fill in your major. I can pretty much guarantee that games programming will not be on them. I found this out when I pursueed my degree in Information Assurance. By getting a dual in IA and COmputer Engineering, I was able to "fit into the box" for job applications (and got a nice job from one of them)..

Keep in mind that the skills required for gaming may also be desired for developing things like flight simulators or battlefield simulations. Don't limit you focus to entertainment-type games.

CS with an emphasis in game development (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892336)

I will be starting my Master's degree at the University of Southern California this coming January. They have just started offering a Master's Degree in Computer Science with an emphasis in Game Development. All of the core classes (algorithms, computer graphics, artificial intelligence, etc.) are applicable towards either a traditional CS degree, or the more specialized Game Development CS degree. I would recommend finding something like this... you get the basic theory and knowledge of a traditional CS master's degree, with specialized attention in specific areas relating to game development.

If you do not have a program like this available, take the advice of the majority of the people on here, and go for a regular CS degree, or find a job and get experience. I work for USC, so I gain experience while they pay for my education :)

http://gamepipe.usc.edu/ [usc.edu] for more information.

Easy Choice (1)

hellomynameisclinton (796928) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892352)

It depends on your inventory.

An MS-CS absolutely kills an MS-Gamer if the gamer has anything less than the Shield of Work Experience.
However, an MS-Gamer ought to come out on top if he can quickly cast Shackes Of RSI.

And now for something completely different.

I'm an avid gamer. I love it, and I love making games. The industry is cruel and rarely about delivering a great experience to a player. There are few if any great places to work right now as a game developer. Of the friends I have in the industry, they almost all say they wish they'd kept games as a hobby.

My suggestion would be to go the CS route, because it's more broadly applicable (just in case you can't get the exact job you're hoping for). No development house worth their salt will deny you because you don't have "Game" in your title - they will be able to recognize your skills and passions with either degree. Just make sure you keep doing games-related stuff with your free-time.

CS degree sounds much smarter (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892374)

Not only because it's broader and probably more respected, but also because the game industry market can be a quite volatile one.

Get over the vocational degre mentality (2, Insightful)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892404)

Do not get the Games degree. Stick with CS, or get a Management degree (or both if you can).

And, please, get over this "degrees are for jobs" mentality. It destroys your education. With a good CS degree you may become a researcher someday and win a place in next century's schoolbooks. With a Games degree you will just get hired to work 15 hours per day with unpaid overtime for an incompetent boss who spends his time with call girls, and you will get fired when you get sick from overwork. Learn to lead your life and understand that a Master's degree is for masters, not for slaves (employees). Become a capitalist, found your own startup and focus on becoming a free man.

A games degree wouldn't make me hire you. Work experience wouldn't, either. What matters to me is your ability and willingness to learn, your educational and academic/research background (but it's also ok for me if you managed to learn real science on your own without going to university), your general intelligence, and your leisure activities. If you watch TV in your free time, you aren't gonna being hired by me, but if you read books (I assume you already have a Safari subscription, right?), hack open-source code or write good stuff at Wikipedia, or if you participate in free community wifi networks, then this matters much more to me than work experience (and actually also more than academic background). I want to hire hackers, not employees. I do not want people who like being led, I want to get other self-starters and leaders collaborating with me (with profit sharing of course). I would prefer a hacker with 1 year's verifiable volunteering experience in Apache or FreeBSD kernel to an employee (read: slave) with 10 years of experience in a Dilbertian company (some exceptions allowed for serious innovative companies that pay for their staff's training and perform real R&D). I do not want slaves working for me, and people who destroy their education by getting vocational degrees have a slave mentality (and they are unproductive: Trained slaves aren't motivated and don't get things done). Get over this "work experience" thing: At companies you only learn some random stuff here and there to do your work as your boss wants, at universities you learn the real stuff (often without much focus on practice but it is assumed that you are smart and therefore capable of practising on your own after you learn the theory), and in the free communities (open source, open content, community wifi) you learn how to be a good citizen in addition to polishing your practical skills.

cGo3k (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16892406)

Join GNNA (GAY 486/66 with 8 FreeBSD went out slings are limited,

Get them both if you can afford it.. (2, Interesting)

rubberbando (784342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892422)

If both degrees are that close in requirements, I'd say get the CS degree and if you can afford it, take the few other courses afterwards to complete the other degree. That way you have 2 Masters degrees on your resume. :-D

Why are you getting a Master's Degree? (1)

tooyoung (853621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892452)

A Master's level education will prepare you to think critically and introduce you to research in a specific area. I'm not so certain that a Master's Degree is a more broad experience than a gaming degree. For instance, I have my Master's in Computer Vision. While at school I studied mostly computer graphics, biological vision, and pattern analysis. Outside of Computer Science, I studied statistics and linear algebra, areas that are useful in Computer Vision. Although I did have time to dabble in Software Engineering subjects that interested me, I would say that my education was mostly focused on a particular area. I saw much of the same in my peers, who studied Computer Security, Software Engineering, Networking, etc.

Although my area of study was focused, I imagine that I learned many of the same skills that Master's in other unrelated fields learn. The ability to critically analyze research, conduct research, and write research.

It has always puzzled me to an extent when I meet people who are pursuing a "general" Master's degree, with no specific area of study, and in many cases, no thesis. Is this any different then just prolonging the undergraduate experience? Also, before choosing a school, ask yourself if you will be working with researchers that are studying exactly what you are interested in. You're going to be spending a lot of time with them.

Re:Why are you getting a Master's Degree? (1)

doktor-hladnjak (650513) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892626)

General Master's degrees are effectively an extension of undergraduate education. The main idea is to provide some additional depth in key areas and fill any remaining gaps from the student's undergraduate education.

Nah. The games program at Colorado is in beta (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892524)

The original article has a link to the "games program" at Colorado State. This is just a proposal within the school, not an established program. In other words, it's a pre-release beta. In fact, it's not really a "games program", it's really just a list of existing courses being repackaged as a "games program"

There are some well-respected games programming degrees [digipen.edu] but this isn't one of them. Maybe in a few years.

One thing I can say, as the person who first made ragdoll physics work - if you want to work at that level, you need math. Far more math than most CS majors. Not just the ordinary math for graphics, but the math for dynamics, control, and modern AI as well. Nonlinear differential equations. Computational geometry. Linear and nonlinear control theory. Classifier systems. Bayesian statistics.

On the programming side, you need to understand things down to the bit level. You're liable to have to do something awful like make a computational algorithm work on a GPU that's all wrong for the job.

If you're not good at heavy math, you'll be shunted off into maintaining the level editor or similar low-level programming work. For which the hours and pay are both lousy. Too many low-level programmers want to get into the game industry.

It also helps to have some artistic talent. You won't be doing the real artwork, but you need to be able to sketch, just to talk intelligently to the artists.

What graduate degree? (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892544)

I've got my Info Sci bachelors degree. It's CS with a bunch of info theory thrown in.

Looking at graduate programs they all leave me a little cold. I could do an MBA, but I'm not that much of an asshole. I did look at an MLS, and my IS degree kind of dovetails with that. But to be honest, if the Democrats reduce the interest rates I may well go back and get my undergrad EE.

This is really a no-brainer (2, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892546)

I'm not in the game industry, but if a resume ever came across my desk with a "game degree" on it, I'd almost reflexively trash it. True or not, the impression is that such "degrees" are offered by profit-motivated, crank 'em out, trade school companies. If I were in the game industry, the profile I'd be looking for is somebody with a CS degree (not necessarily a master's) who has the additional background is applicable to games. (vector algebra? assembly optimization? I don't know--you'll have to do some research to find out what skills are really required for game development, and then select coursework in your MSCS that will prepare you for it). If the candidate didn't have game development experience, I'd be looking for a freeware or OSS game that he'd written. It wouldn't have to be popular, it would just have to demonstrate skill. IMHO, when looking for people to do any type of programming, there is no better indicator of future success than the fact that they are already practicing the art. That seems rather obvious, and yet so many people don't even consider it. They just look at your degree; so get a MSCS. Don't even think about a game degree. Run really fast in the other direction. Did I mention not to get a game degree? OK, good.

Masters in CS (1)

Dersaidin (954402) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892624)

No need to go to uni to get a Masters in Counter Strike.
I'd be looking for one in another game anyway...

I'm sure everyone's said but... (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892628)

Games degrees are seen as jokes by a lot of people, it could be given by harvard but they arn't seen as credible sources.

There's three main benefits of CS degrees.

A. You have better classes, Development life cycles is VERY underrated by undergrads. Design documentation is underrated at all, you'll hate these classes, people in any business love it because it teaches you a lot. They love the fact that you went through the harder courses, and learned more than just game design. Think game design is just programming games? hell no. It's programming hardware, hardware that changes every 3 monthes. APIs, Networking, graphics, physics, all of these are games. The actual gameplay itself is the beginners stuff.

B. You have more flexability. Get into game design and hate it? You can get into another field very easy with your degree. Can't find a job? layoffs happening? you can get into another field. Simple.

C. Pound for pound you'll learn more, get more money to start with, and be safer for a CS degree. You'll learn more technologies which is a huge benefit (you'll be suprised how often a game company will use a variety of languages) and most of the stuff a game course will teach you, you can learn yourself when you are not in class, you can take some of those classes as electives if you want, or teach yourself.

If you want to break into the industry however your degree won't matter. It's extremely good to have but you'll want to have three things, experience, intellegence (knowledge), and desire. If you have a project in classes, don't be afraid to make a game out of it, senior classes especially (design classes too). Have a side project, make a mod, make your own game. Go after companies you want to work for. Know gaming (doesn't mean you have to pay a lot, but know the differences between a ps3 and a 360, Why is a wii different? Is a PS3 the same as a 360, why? and Why not? Don't worry if you don't know it all, don't worry about making opinions, people in the industry have differing opinions and disagree, but knowing information is great.

The most important thing is desire though, if you go after a company know what games they make, their genre (don't worry if you're wrong, if they were in that genre in the past, if you've played the games and can see where they are and who they are they will enjoy that. Don't tell them the game sucked (even though they might think so) but if you know of places for improvements meantioning it won't get your head ripped off if you're kind. Actively apply to places, not just on monster but everywhere, be enthusastic, make sure they realize you want to work for them (not as a stepping stone, not as "I need a job" But "I want to be a game programmer") I can't tell you how many times a manager at my company has said "It sounded like he really didn't want to work here". A desire or a drive to join a company will be an easy deciding factor in your favor and it doesn't take much, just don't go over board (dressing in costume is frowned on, but liking the company is always good).

The degree will be one step on a path to get in the industry to a good company, which degree you take is up to you, but for safety reason the CS is better. The Game developer isn't a "we won't take you", I work with one guy from digipen and one guy from fullsail. However you NEED drive if you're going to be picked with it. If there's one thing they want to see is that you can push yourself to the next level.

Re:I'm sure everyone's said but... (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892638)

Sorry, hardware that changes every 3 YEARS. However you'll also be programming on 3 different platforms at times if you really get into it, and sometimes SDKs will change monthly as well as the code base.

WTF? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892716)

CS or Game programming? are you F'n serious?

CS is usable in far more places, it is far more respected in the industry(important for career), and it is a deeper understanding of what happens in the box.

OTOH, maybe you want to be working 100 hours a week, for little pay, and crappy workking conditions, go for the Game programming 'Degree'.

So if MIT or Carnegie Mellon offered the same... (1)

MBC1977 (978793) | more than 7 years ago | (#16892748)

So if MIT or Carnegie Mellon offered a BS / MS in Computer Game Design and Programming, would you all still think the same way? I'm just curious because it seems like a lot of the answers offered seem to be harsh to the point of negative. Isn't the field still evolving? Perhaps some people don't want to do CS, plus who is to say an individual who studied Computer Game Design and Programming, couldn't do CS work? Working towards and finishing a degree demonstrates a certain level of determination and / or skill.

Shunning a person because its not 'traditional' doesn't mean they can't do the job.
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