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What Are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Game Schools?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the lots-of-deathmatch-opponents-a-plus dept.

Education 123

GameCareerGuide has up an article looking at the pros and cons of going to a 'game school'. There are a number of programs in schools across the country that now focus on game development, game design, and creating game art. Are they worth it? "First, and probably most importantly, game-specific schools do not typically offer a comprehensive undergraduate education. Some game programs, as well as art schools, will actually encourage young students to go elsewhere for their undergraduate education and return to game school for more advanced training. I've literally heard that out of the mouths of art school faculty: Go get your bachelor's degree at a traditional university, then come back and apply to art school after you've learned a little more about the world. And while it's true that not everyone is cut out for a traditional education in the humanities or sciences, many many people who initially fight it find it invaluable after the fact. "

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What do you intend to get out of it? (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556309)

Do you want to be a game programmer? Are you fucking insane?

Long hours. Low pay. Constant threat of unemployment. Lousy managers. Corrupt company owners. Hell on Earth.

A degree from a game school is like a degree from DeVry, except with less real-world applicability.

You won't find Digipen grads running game companies. You'll find them slaving away for lousy managers and corrupt bosses. Get a business degree and hire a bunch of coders to write your game. Hell, pitch in whenever you have the chance. Whatever you do, don't waste your time trying to be a game developer.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (3, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556733)

Yes, because being a business grad with a sack of money makes you a qualified game designer? I feel sorry for the coders you hire who have to implement your idiotic ideas - designing a game is an art/science that takes dedication and real experience, not just a random idea and a sack of money. It's like a wealthy financier trying to become a world-renowned filmmaker just because he has the money to hire a camera crew.

Some of us have a passion for game development, and for programming. While there are some companies out there that exploit their employees in horrible conditions, there are just as many who are willing to treat their developers with respect. This is true for every field of industry I have ever been in (from manufacturing all the way to game dev), so don't think long hours, low pay, poor job security, lousy managers, and corrupt execs are somehow unique or more prevalent in this industry than the next.

Game development is hectic, is it often tough, and if you don't love building games you're going to have a hellish time. Same goes for most "industrialized" arts like film or publishing.

"just a random idea and a sack of money." (2, Insightful)

acidrain (35064) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556919)

A random idea and a sack of money will get you a lot further than the people with great ideas lots of experience and no money. And I'm not saying this to be flippant, they are called executives and in large part they are running the industry.

Re:"just a random idea and a sack of money." (2, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557219)

There's funding experienced designers to produce a great product, and then there's sticking your hand in to somewhere you don't belong. I have seen both types of management. The effective exec recognizes design talent and recognizes that the best way to create great work is to leave them be and support them when necessary. The ineffective exec fulfills his own incomplete dreams of being an uber-designer, and injects his asinine ideas left, right, and center, exploiting his position to get his crappy ideas into the game, and thus compromising it.

A random idea and a sack of money will get you a laughably shoddy product that nobody in their right mind will ever play - the gaming equivalent to vanity presses... Sure your book gets printed, but nobody will ever read it, and the guys who published it for you will be laughing all the way to th bank.

Great experience and no money won't get you all too far, but with technology in its current and future state independent low-budget developers can still make an impact, and a fair bit of cash while doing so.

Naturally one wants to be a talented and experienced designer who has the entire balance of a swiss bank supporting him. If you're in that position, great, perhaps you will create something superb, spectacular, and will define the industry.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557099)

Yes, because being a business grad with a sack of money makes you a qualified game designer?

No, it makes him "The Boss".

Don't Like it? Save yourself years of wasted time and money, and don't even bother getting that degree. Start your own business and make a fortune (or die in the gutter of starvation).

Want a regular paycheck, instead? Get whatever paper Boss most values, and expect the occasional BS in your job. Careful selection of Boss should minimize that, some even have a clue.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20560113)

Save yourself years of wasted time and money, and don't even bother getting that degree. Start your own business and make a fortune

So how does one start their own business without "wasted time and money"? Do you just show up at some office space, declare yourself boss, and wait for some employees with a business plan to show up?

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560621)

So how does one start their own business without "wasted time and money"?

Well, technically it costs somewhere around $30 to make official in most places, but you can usually do most forms of contracting without actually bothering to pay the extortion for a "business license". So that comes pretty close to "without money". Varies by state (and possibly by town), though, so YMMV, IANAL, etc.

As for "without time"... In your accidental highlighting of my point, I can't help but think that you perhaps missed it completely. Read the GP and GGP, and then re-read my post with your sarcasm detector enbabled.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (2, Informative)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557357)

It's worth mentioning that great games can and do come out by hobbyists and amateurs all the time, many of which may not have graduated from any dedicated game school. Game development "school" is just a cherry-picking of relevant topics that might wind up as part of a general math-heavy CS degree... granted the skills you need for writing games are learned relatively early in that academic path while the skills you need for designing/balancing games are also learned relatively easy along higher mathematics study. Or, you know, just study what already works and try to figure out the keys yourself.

Games that take big bushels of money, what the bloggers now call AAA titles, are simply out of the scope of the little guy trying to break in. You got to bust your chops in smaller endeavors before any executive (with bushels of money to invest) will entrust their resources to your command. You gotta just do it and try and make a name for yourself. The cream of the crop has a way of bubbling up. And if you DON'T hit it big? Well, you're doing it because you love it, right? That IS the point, isn't it? Having passion for what you want to do?

Today's environment has never been better for amateur development. You don't have to know a whole lot of raster wizardry to make 3d graphics any longer. You don't have to be real elegant with data structures to get decent framerates for the models you'll be able to produce on your own. Low-cost and no-cost utilities like Milkshape and Blender are out there and learnable. FMOD plays audio you can author with freeware tracker applications and doesn't require much more than a few library calls. Hell, it used to be that unless you were a coding guru you couldn't get anything done. The hard things have been put to bed with either libraries, compilers, or just because tons of hardware has been thrown at the problem.

Besides, CS and programming people do get hired by game companies even without a special game certificate. If you're going to take studies seriously, you might as well go for a real degree that you can at least take with you (physically and intellecutally) to any modern development task at hand. While yes, specializing is generally better than being balanced, you're not really going to learn anything more out of a gaming school than you would out of a conventional degree plus some passion-driven research.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (2, Interesting)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557757)

To be clear I'm not advocating that an aspiring game developer should go to game school - quite the opposite in fact. My experience in the industry is such that I know the quality of the education is minimal at best, and it certainly doesn't give you the depth necessary for your skills to be relevant in even 6 months. An aspiring game artist needs to go to art school (a proper one, with proper basic education in visual or audio arts)... an aspiring game coder needs to get a CS/eng degree.

Yes, great games do come out of hobbyists all the time. This is because these hobbyists have poured time and energy into the craft and they DO have a fair bit of experience developing and designing games. For every great indie game like Gish that shows up are a million crappy, unworthy prototypes sitting on the developer's hard drive somewhere. Nobody drops in out of the blue and designs a great game with no prior experience.

I was more responding to the other poster's claim that one can make a great deal of money and then get a bunch of lowly-paid slack-jawed yokels to make his game for him. It doesn't work like that, or at least certainly the product won't be any good. You either spend a huge amount of developing your craft or you don't.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558339)

Indeed. No disagreement whatsoever. Ultimately, financial investment doesn't cover up for a lack of craft investment.

I mean, imagine if all those unworthy Tetris and Pac Man clones found their way onto the retail shelf? *shudder* :)

What do you intend to download from it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20560591)

"You either spend a huge amount of developing your craft or you don't."

Yup, and we hate it when people don't respect [thepiratebay.org] that fact.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558751)

I feel sorry for the coders you hire who have to implement your idiotic ideas - designing a game is an art/science that takes dedication and real experience, not just a random idea and a sack of money. It's like a wealthy financier trying to become a world-renowned filmmaker just because he has the money to hire a camera crew.

You mean like Howard Hughes [wikipedia.org]?

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

Hemogoblin (982564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559355)

...designing a game is an art/science that takes dedication and real experience, not just a random idea and a sack of money.
So you disapprove of Carmack and his rockets?

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

C0rinthian (770164) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560027)

Which would you rather be, the idiot manager, or the coder working for him?

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560503)

Neither. You present that as a binary choice when it really is not. Or both, if you work for yourself :D

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (4, Insightful)

JNighthawk (769575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557287)

Wee! Bad Analogy Guy, indeed!

I'm a programmer at Volition, Inc. I don't work insane hours (though, I haven't crunched yet). I'm paid well. My managers are great. I love coming into work every day. You're making terrible generalizations that don't apply to a lot of places. They could also apply to non-game companies. It's like you're just hateful of the working world in general.

We have Full Sail, Digipen, and Guild Hall grads working here, right now. I went to Full Sail, myself.

Whatever you do, don't listen to the above idiot. Do what you love.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557709)

Ok, please talk to us after you've crunched. How long have you been there? Have you shipped a title yet? You probably won't be able to get a better job if you don't ship a title.
I think everyone understands that there are good times in the game business. It's just that they don't make up for the bad in the medium run.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (2, Interesting)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558373)

I work in the industry. The company I work for has released two titles while I've been here and I worked on one of them. I've done crunch mode. It wasn't the greatest thing, but it wasn't any worse than cramming for finals in college. With this job I was able to buy a new house, a new car, etc., etc., so the pay isn't bad either. Most the time it's 40 hrs/week except during crunch times, which doesn't last longer than a couple of weeks. We were also given healthy bonuses for any over time work we did.

I also worked at a large software company that had nothing to do with games. Worked there for over two years as a tester. During that time I saw developers work longer hours than what I've done here. In other words, if you develop software for a living, it's what the industry expects out of you. You get over it. Some expect it more than others, but video game developers don't have to have it any worse than any where else. It all boils down to who you work for.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564525)

The thing you should bear in mind in business it is supply and demand. Game coding schools will tend to flood the industry with a lot of hungry cheap, luckily for inexperienced coders. Your lucky for you they are inexperienced because that means you will draw a few more regular pay checks while you train them, after that of course comes the discounting.

The gaming market seems to be fairly stable at the moment, in terms of the number and quality of games suit the size of the market, I really don't see the need of attempting to dramatically increase the size of the of the game coding workforce, especially with India and China coming on line. Now can you take a zero out of your pay check and compete with them, because with out fail most employers will be quite content to take a zero out of their payroll whilst maintaining the same retail price.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 6 years ago | (#20562083)

I've been in the game industry 10 years, and have shipped nearly as many titles. I've crunched to some degree at previous jobs, yes, but in general, the industry is starting to grow up. More and more game development houses are starting to recognize that its best for the bottom line to avoid insane crunches, because experienced programmers, artists, and designers are pretty valuable assets. I'm currently working for a company that develops a popular MMO (not the MOST popular one, in case you're wondering). In the two years I've been with this company, I haven't yet crunched, with the exception of two weekends worth of work getting a Gold Master disk ready (since I'm the coder responsible for that).

So, have the good times made up for the bad times? Undoubtedly. It's been a fantastic career for me so far, and I can't imagine doing anything else. I earn a great salary, have never had trouble finding employment, and enjoy the flexible hours and relaxed atmosphere. No, of course nothing is perfect, but what in life is? There are a number of game developers who have obviously had bad experiences (I've heard my fair share from colleagues), but honestly, you have to take some responsibility for your own career as well. In other words, if an employer is sucking the life force out of you, then: suck it up for the first year or two and get a shipped title, then leave and find greener pastures at a new company. Odd as it may seem, there ARE actually employers out there who don't believe driving their employees like slaves.

BTW, speaking to the primary topic, our company has the luxury of choosing from among the industry's best candidates, and we've hired (and continue to hire) quite a few students from Digipen (not sure about other schools). I think either the game dev school or the traditional four-year is just fine - it really boils down to the individual anyhow, how talented and motivated they are. Most game development companies are going to look at your qualifications as an individual. If they really are that snobby about what particular school you did or didn't attend... well, frankly, I don't think you'd want to work there anyhow.


Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557713)

There are some joke schools and then there are real schools. Digipen CAN burn you out, but in that direction it is no different than MIT, Cornell, etcetera.

I find that CS majors at other schools tend to have spent very little time programming relative to what was (is) done at Digipen.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560853)

Since programming is such a minor part of CS that's not surprising.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564785)

Well, the point of the schools were not to become Computer Science grads in the traditional sense - if you mean that the mathematics of it all trumps everything - the degree is in Real Time Interactive Simulation (I know, long name) but there you were given much MORE math than a typical CS degree.

But that is besides the point - if you want to learn how to programs games - sometimes the best way is to sit down and do it - that way you encounter problems to fix, etcetera that all the theory in the world would not teach you. That is what the school emphasized.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565069)

Yes, I didn't say it was a bad thing.

CS isn't programming and programming isn't CS.

If you want to do games programming then large chunks of CS are irrelevant. Large chunks of CS are also relevant and I'm sure you'll do a lot of work on them - probably more than a more generic CS course.

Turns out that I went to Digipen (2, Insightful)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559589)

Yup, I wanted to be a game developer. Yup, plenty of people consider me to be at least partly insane, though that was the case long before I got the idea to be a game developer. In any event, insane beats stupid and reactionary.

If you want to make games, you can generally count on long hours, especially if you end up in a smaller company. You do overrate the threat of unemployment however. As for lousy managers and corrupt owners, do you really think things are that much better in other fields? Anyway, while things are improving with respect to Death March hours, there is still quite a way to go. And even then, I doubt Crunch will ever completely go away. This is not a job you will want to stay in if you cannot handle crunch time at all.

As I see it, if your inclined to be a game programmer, your probably not inclined to get a business degree for any reason anyway. As for the thought that you will not find Digipen Grad's running companies, That is not entirely accurate. I know of at least one that someone is trying to get off the ground. But this is not the early to mid 1990's any more. Starting a successful game company up is a damn hard thing to do regardless of education.

A game specific school will manage to do two things for you.

First, it will make you reasonably employable in the game industry. It will not guarantee employment, but it can get you in the door. You will learn how to write code, and you will learn about things typically important to game development, such as 3d math. What it will not do is cover things that are not directly applicable, like compiler theory. I probably would have benefited from learning about things like shell programming. Your employability after outside of game development. As for the rest of it, well, I graduated in 1999 from the last 2 year program in Vancouver. Things will have changed in the curriculum since then.

The second thing it will do is it will leave you with a bunch of classmates who are also in the game industry. This does not help when finding your first job, but it does help when you want to find your second job.

A traditional university education is still very much worth having, and in many instances will serve you better than a narrowly defined one. If I were considering my education options for game development today, I would probably take a University degree specific to game programming over a game specific school. While both make you employable, I think that the university degree will make it much easier if you need to obtain a work visa for a job.


Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (1)

vimh42 (981236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560643)

"Whatever you do, don't waste your time trying to be a game developer." To be perfectly honest, if I could I would hit you over the head for being an for being a complete troll. If somebody wants be a game developer, I fully support them. Go for it! There are of course potential pitfalls, but that's true with any vocation.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20561367)

A degree from a game school is like a degree from DeVry,

DeVry now offers 'game programming' as a training option.

Re:What do you intend to get out of it? (3, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#20563055)

A degree from a game school is like a degree from DeVry, except with less real-world applicability.
Actually, now they can be the same thing!!! http://www.devry.edu/programs/game_and_simulation_programming/about.jsp [devry.edu]

I'll say that I agree with the stance of the article. Get a real degree and supplement it with game school knowledge. Which order really depends on your situation. If you can afford it, get the real degree first. Then, work your way through game school (usually shorter duration than a 4 year degree). If you can't get the game diploma and work your way through real school (probably in QA or level scripting or some other entry level position).

For game design, look for degree areas that compliment the types of games you want to make. History for those war based games. Sociology for those MMOs and Sim type events. Economics if you want to design a nice stock trading game. Whatever makes sense. Then, when you go to design the games you want, you'll have a firm grasp of how it should work.

For programming, look to computer science or MIS. CS would be the better choice of the two, but if you want to work in the MMO arena, having database skills that you get from an MIS degree would be helpful.....but if you want to do the 3D engine work, you gotta go CS.

For art, well, obviously, an art based degree.

If you want to be a producer, MIS again and some business focused project management.


Adv. & Disadv. (4, Funny)

TheDreadSlashdotterD (966361) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556347)

Advantage: You prove you're an idiot without having to say a word.

Disadvantage: No one in their right mind will ever hire you.

The main disadvantage (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556361)

Game development programmes aren't really treated all that seriously by any of the developers I've worked for. It might help in addition to a degree in a related field but, real world experience will serve you a lot better.

Re:The main disadvantage (1)

lordmetroid (708723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558951)

Which is really odd considering if you are a top notch graphic coder or network coder you are ought to know more than just one thing or two. Game development is hardly the easiest field a programmer can go into.

Re:The main disadvantage (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#20563271)

Here in Austin, the local community college has a program that is growing. They have buy-in (and at some level participation) from many of the local houses. The classes are taught by people who's day job is game development. The instructors have such a passion for what they do that they want to share that passion. I think they have taken the right approach to building a program.

Some of the names on the advisory board are names that anyone in the industry would know. And many of them are available to the students. The instructors include some pretty heavy names, too. Right now, it is just a ceritificate program, but they are working on getting it accredited. Even still, I feel like I get more out of that program than I would from a Full Sail or a Digipen (granted, I already have a 4-year CS degree and 13 years experience in the business apps arena).

But the point, is that, not all programs are "pooh-poohed" by those in the industry.....

Link to the program web site: http://www.austincc.edu/techcert/Video_Games.html [austincc.edu]


Get a batchellors (4, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556367)

Get a 4-year degree with a piece of paper. It really does mean something, even if you go on to do nothing with it. For example, if you want in to a game school, get a degree in CS or math or something halfway relevant and then do it.

If your sector of work ever fails, that degree shows a potential employer in another field a few things: first that you stuck something out for four years (which, in a volatile game industry, you may not have the chance to do, or may not choose to do in order to 'get ahead'). Secondly it gives you a well-rounded foundation. You learn as much in class as you do out of class in the social interactions between your classmates and the dynamics of the university, even if you live off campus.

In short, an accredited piece of paper means a lot, and not just in your field. Go for it!

Re:Get a batchellors (2, Funny)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556867)

Get a batchellors. You learn as much in class as you do out of class in the social interactions between your classmates and the dynamics of the university, even if you live off campus.

You might even learn how to spell "bachelor". Sorry, couldn't resist!

Re:Get a batchellors (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557471)

I'm an engineer, not an english major :P ... which is good, cause it keeps the English majors employed :)

and Firefox doesn't point out spelling errors in text boxes, for some reason.

Re:Get a batchellors (1)

SScorpio (595836) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558493)

It doesn't by default. But you can change that.

1. type this in the browser address bar "about:config"
2. look for "layout.spellcheckDefault"
3. change the value to "2
4. restart firefox

Re:Get a batchellors (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560319)

rock. Thanks man. But now I get it watch to bitch at me when it sees my user names aren't in the dictionary, don't I? :)

Re:Get a batchellors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20559009)

"Social Interaction?" Getting drunk on cheap beer and having sex are great but even the most slack-jawed high school drop out seems able to find plenty of both. The biggest benefit of a degree (outside whatever you majored in) is that you will have taken classes that are not directly related to your degree which -should- make you are more well rounded person. It often doesn't but at least it increases the odds and future potential employers will tend to give the benefit of the doubt.

Re:Get a batchellors (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559547)

In short, an accredited piece of paper means a lot, and not just in your field. Go for it!

This is especially true of a bachelor's degree in English, which should enable you to spell bachelor correctly.

Re:Get a batchellors (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561007)

obviously I didn't take English as an elective :)

I took theater, philosophy and psychology, and then engineering electives. (Damn. Firefox highlighted three words in the last sentence :P)

Work Visas are a bigger factor (1)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 6 years ago | (#20562505)

One thing worth pointing out is that a university degree does carry more weight under most work visa programs. This may not matter if you have no intention of working over seas. But if your not an American, getting into the US is much easier if you have a proper university degree. Last time I checked, it was something like University + 3 years work experience vs 12 years work experience without University.


Fresh air. (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556393)

FTB: I've literally heard that out of the mouths of art school faculty: Go get your bachelor's degree at a traditional university, then come back and apply to art school after you've learned a little more about the world.

It's actually surprising for me to see this and I think it puts the gaming schools in a much better light than I had put them in earlier.

I've got a near-16 year old nephew who seems to think that he can skirt around the parameters of traditional education and still come out on top working in the gaming field. I can't blame him though... I also have a brother who doesn't seem to know that there is a not-so fine line between being a genius and being a little smarter then most kids of the same age but being a lazy unmotivated slob. He's all too convinced that things will fall together when they need to. If only he knew that these things needed to start to fall together a few years ago.

Re:Fresh air. (1)

TriezGamer (861238) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557393)

I had your brother's mentality. Now I'm 24 and struggling through a traditional college because I eventually realized that despite seeing myself as really smart, doing it my own way wasn't working. Now, I've ingrained myself with a horrible work ethic which I struggle with daily. I wish someone had knocked more sense into me as a teenager, but now I reap the 'rewards' of my 'being a lazy unmotivated slob'.

Re:Fresh air. (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557851)

Actually, it's my nephew. I bring my brother up as his father. But I know where you're coming from and so should my brother as he did the same thing too. But again, he's into this thing where he thinks his son is going to flourish in his own place and time. It just doesn't happen from what I've seen, at least not without having some great talent.

Too many parents like to think of their kids as little Einsteins. It's too bad really, the sooner a parent sees that his kid is going to have to struggle just like everyone else the better off their kid is going to be for it.

I wish you the best of luck with your new outlook. 24 isn't too bad, I know of people with nearly 20 years on you going through the same thing.

I would be suspicious of a game school degree. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20561947)

I am in charge of hiring at a video game developer and am a little suspicious of the game schools for anybody other than artists. For programmers I'd rather see a CS degree; the most valuable programmers I have seen have strong math backgrounds and I never suspect that a top math education is going to come out of a gaming school. Possibly I am wrong, but looking at a math degree from a state school means something specific, whereas for a game degree I always wonder what they really studied that whole time. For artists, all I really care about is their portfolio and reel and I don't care if they went to school at all. (Of course, the school might be necessary to master Max or Maya so that the reel can look great in the first place.) Sound guys and musicians, same comment applies as to artists. Designer resumes I distrust completely no matter where you went to school. Be a programmer who shifts over to being a designer if you insist on suffering for your art. Producers ... hmm ... unfortunately most associate producer (AP) candidates are lead testers so they have a lot of knowledge about games and how to test them, but nothing about project management. An undergrad degree doesn't teach anything about project management, either. So, good luck on that one.

ObCynicsm (atl: ObDogbert) (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556679)

Con: They're an obvious attempt to get money from that demographic distinguished by having considerably more disposable income than most.

Pro: Open your own such school to cash in on the phenomenon.

Re:ObCynicsm (atl: ObDogbert) (1)

HandsOnFire (1059486) | more than 6 years ago | (#20562903)

This is EXACTLY the case. You get people who don't know anything about gaming teaching how to make games. You get no solid foundation in any aspect of creating a game, just generalizations. The only advantage to game schools is the cash they bring in for the phonies operating them. I've known people who have gone to these schools and nothing great has come out of it for them. They end up going back to the hard stuff and the basics. (math, CS, strict 3D modeling/art) And if they were so great, why all the ads? Those are just there to convince you to spend your money there in the first place. Everyone who knows anything about videogames or wants to make them seriously would do a little bit of research on their own I imagine.

Where else can it bring you? (3, Insightful)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556695)

I would figure out what happens if you don't want to program games anymore. Will it help you in anything else you want to do? If you have a CS degree (as an example) and don't want to do CS related things, the CS degree still shows that you have skills in logic/math/theories/etc. and can easily be used in other places.

Disadvantage (1)

eison (56778) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556893)

Pay is roughly 1/2 to 2/3rds of what it would be in an easier 'corporate' job with shorter hours.
Game degree won't help you get another type of job, while the converse isn't true for a regular degree - regular degree is just more flexible, you can do either if at some point in the future you change your mind about your life priorities (often happens, marriage, children, or just plain age...).

Not saying it's a deal breaker, just saying it's a real consideration.

Don't read this post if a game school sounds good (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556953)

Look, most people who want to code games are gamers. They're young, have little motivation to learn hard topics (by hard I mean solid, such as advanced math and sciences, not necessarily difficult). Heck, many have little motiviation to do anything but play games. They're good at them, and think they can do a better job. They are also enticed by shortcuts. I have bad news for those people:

There are no reliable shortcuts in life.

Okay, just to clairfy - dropping out of college and starting a multi-billion dollar company is possible, but not probably. You'd be better off playing the lotto - that doesn't require as much work, and gets you similar odds*. Being successful means knowing _all_ the things than nobody else takes the time to learn. Anybody can learn the fun stuff, the really successful people know the un-fun stuff and that's what gives them an edge against the fun-stuff-only people. Just in case is isn't clear yet, in this industry there are no points awarded for being able to play your video game well.

*playing the 146M:1 powerball lotto twice a week for 5 years gets you to 280k:1 chance to win a comfy retirement (typically $10M-100M lump sum payout). There are 300M people in the US, so there would need to be over 1000 college-drop-out 8-figure CEOs that invested less than $1000 and 15 minutes a week in their business to make the lotto a worse option.

Re:Don't read this post if a game school sounds go (1)

xarien (1073084) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557251)

You do realize displays of improper probability examples will invalidate your entire post right?

Re:Don't read this post if a game school sounds go (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20558093)

"There are no reliable shortcuts in life."

Sorry, but this statement taken as universal "wisdom" for how to live LIFE in general is wrong. There are plenty of shortcuts for those with the means or cleverness to find them. Though this may not apply to educating oneself in something as complex as gamedesign, there are many shortcuts in life people frequently don't choose are are not aware of.

For instance: Live with your parents longer then your peers gives, and having the goal of dating during your 20's saves you enormous amounts of money.

I can't tell you how much money I've saved by rejecting "independence" culture, while others went out to get their own apartments and homes I was saving and investing that money. I'd like to see how well those that "love their independence" will do financially when they are 60+ years old. I'll be retiring well before 60 with what I've got going now.

Re:Don't read this post if a game school sounds go (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559123)

And that has what exactly to do with becoming a game designer?

It all depends on what your goals are, you can't just compare everything across the board. Success means very different things to different people.

Obviously, your goal is to retire as early as possible, and you've found short cuts that work for you to meet that end. Other people might have a similar goal, but put a higher weight on getting there independently.

Other people might just want to write games.

There are millions of goals out there. Don't treat everyone like they should only live for your goals.

Re:Don't read this post if a game school sounds go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20560209)

He said in ** LIFE ** there were no shortcuts. Which is total bullshit. There are plenty, the poster made it clear what statement he was focusing on.

Re:Don't read this post if a game school sounds go (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#20563945)

Look, most people who want to code games are gamers. They're young, have little motivation to learn hard topics (by hard I mean solid, such as advanced math and sciences, not necessarily difficult). Heck, many have little motivation to do anything but play games.

I don't know about that correlation. 100% of the CS who graduated with me were medium to hardcore gamers. Myself included. Almost the entirety of the last 2 generations are gamers of some form so you correlation is very poor.

Gamers tend to have obsessive focus on things that interests them. They make ideal workers if they can find a field they are interested in. When I code something interesting the time passes just as if I was playing warcraft 3. It helps to have that ability to focus.

Re:Don't read this post if a game school sounds go (0, Redundant)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565541)

You've mixed up the correlation. I didn't say that most gamers want to code games, I said most people drawn to code games are gamers. When you're young and don't have to pay bills you want to do what yo udo for fun. I'm saying that many gamers don't realize that the reality is more than being good at games.

I go to school down the street from Full Sail... (2, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557199)

I attend UCF, about 5 miles up the road. We're one of the biggest universities in the country, so we really dwarf Full Sail, but the proximity affords us a nice bunch of gamers to pick on for the local LAN centers. "Stick to making these things," is effective trash-talk.

Would they hire you now? (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557227)

If your development house of choice wouldn't hire you sans "degree" from one of these places, they're not likely to hire you with one either. Most of these places are to games what the "Guitar Institute of Technology" is to music.

They do more harm than good (4, Insightful)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557305)

Allow me to preface this by saying that some people who are motivated can go to these schools, absorb the knowledge around, and end up doing very well. These people work hard and get the most out of the school they are paying for.

Now that that is out of the way, for everyone else, they will end up having their 'gaming college' amount to little more than time served at a school. I have attended these schools which turned into a game school while I was there (CIS/CSC for me). TFA points out some truths, but I only want to focus on something that afflicts many technology focused schools, but game design programs even more.

These kids are lazy. Your average game degree student has a basic knowledge of computing principles, may have tried coding/art, and is immersed in geek/nerd culture/lifestyle. They go to school only with an interest in games, thinking they want to do what they love. I will always support that, but you have to back up your passion for games with a passion to make games for a living and most completely lack the latter. Countless students attended class for a couple semesters and once the coding or advanced modeling classes came around, the classes were empty. These students elected to miss class to play games all the time. They have gaming machines on campus where you can play games on break. I would constantly find kids who should be in the class I was attending on these machines.

Anything of worth for these students meant little to them. They think they can go to school, learn how to draft a Game Design Doc and send that off to publishers and then wait for the call where someone offers them millions to create their game.

Color me a troll, but these students were lazy and had no ambition to actually do or learn anything. They were generally delusional about what working in the game industry entailed and the staff at the school did little to educate them.

Re:They do more harm than good (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557487)

Why in gods name would you have gaming capable PCs/consoles around campus? That is like a bloody Siren song. Sure its a good way to weed out the weak willed but still?

Re:They do more harm than good (1)

Disseminated (1022915) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557613)

I don't disagree, but what's the difference between lazy/delusional kids at a tech school and all the lazy/delusional kids going to a regular university because they've had it drilled into them to "just get a degree, ANY degree, if you want a decent job"?

Can you believe we get paid to play video games? (1)

entmike (469980) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557533)

This is a slightly off-topic response, but relevant to the commentary I've read so far:

When I was 14, I wanted to be a game developer. This was 15 years ago during the 8-bit/16-bit era where things were much more simple. I'd written a few sprite-based proof-of-concept "games" and it was fun. I didn't bank my future on it though. I'd say that there is/was some value in what I DID learn on my own to get where I am now. I don't think that these diplomma mills who are cashing in on unwitting youths is a help, but I do not see the need of discouraging kids who want to pick up a hobby on their summer vacations and learning the basics of how coding works. All this "useless" knowledge ended up being applied in the real world. Simple boolean logic, loops, variables, etc are all good skills to possess and are pretty much a requirement in the corporate world to some degree. Take your run-of-the-mill Excel junky, any kid out there could probably write the macros and VBA behind it.

At the age of 29, any sort of desire to become a game developer has left my, but I've retained relevant skills that I learned from countless days of programming over the summer and having fun learning. Maybe that's a deviation from the norm, but when you can learn something and have fun because it's a hobby and apply it to a "real job" later in life, I don't see that as a bad thing.

Break's over, I've got to get back to tightening up the macros on Workbook 3.

The school means nothing, it's about your skill (5, Informative)

CMF Risk (833574) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557587)

Being someone who's actually gone to a "game school" http://www.artinstitutes.edu/sanfrancisco/ [artinstitutes.edu], graduated, and is currently employed in the industry, I will say just like a degree from anywhere else, it's not so much about the piece of paper, but what you learned and took away from it.

Sure, there are PLENTY of kids who came to the school because they thought if they played game, they could make them and end up dropping out or unemployed. But I saw the same things when I was going for a C.S. degree at a "traditional" college, and anyone who's been to any type of college will tell you there are people who join that major who have the wrong expectations and should not be there.

Im not going to defend all "game schools", but I think it's unfair to put a blanket dismissal to all of them. If you find a good one (make sure they aren't just taking your money) and take it seriously, you can learn skills that will apply directly to getting a job. I have many friends with C.S. and other degrees from nice universities and state schools that have no real-world applicable knowledge.

In short, I have my degree from a "game school" and currently my major, "Visual & Game Programming", has a 100% hire rate among graduates - all employed at film (Pixar, ILM) or game companies (ArenaNet, Perpetual)

Some game degrees are worthy, most are not (3, Informative)

iregisteredjustforth (1155123) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557659)

I have just finished a BA(Hons) in what is essentially game art development at a UK university. The games industry hires people based on portfolios, not qualifications, even programmers (I know very little about the programming side apart from a CS grad friend of mine who's going for gaming jobs) need demos quite often. Most game jobs apart from programming are art orientated, ie rigging, animating, modeling, texturing, environment /level design, audio. Artists are not hired because they have degrees, they are hired because they have great portfolios. My opinion is that game degrees really should be broken down into 3 categories: Game Design, Game Art, and Game Programming. Obviously some courses specialise more within these areas, ie graphics programming or animation but those are the 3 overall types you're likely to find listed.

The degree I was on was run by ex-games industry staff, all with years of experience and shipped titles, and plenty of firsthand knowledge of the way the game industry works and what game development is like. The problem is with game degrees is they simply are not going to be respected among non gaming employers (and among many gaming ones too) as a traditional academic degree in something like maths, business, CS etc. It'd be nice to think my games degree (I got a first)looked on paper as good as someone with a normal one, but im not kidding myself here.

As we know, not all degrees are created equal, and this is especially so with the current state of game degrees. Firstly, "game design" degrees are almost completely worthless(some many be more game art or game programming but use the "game design" tag mind you), most of them are run by academics with no industry experience or those with only a vauge sense of the realities of game development. The job "game designer" basically does not exist in a lot of companies, where the whole team either makes contributions to design or the leads of various departments take this job. Many companies have a lead designer, this is a postition you can apply for after maybe 4-5 years experience in some other part of development, probably more than 5 years though, or maybe an amazing career in QA. Either way, companies do not spend $5 million developing a game only to hand over the major design aspects of it to a graduate with a "game design" degree from a university whos lecturers haven't been near a game company.

Although I did a game degree myself, I expect it to count for nothing more than any other degree and probably a bit less in fact than if i'd have done a "proper" degree when looking for jobs at game companies. The adundance of shitty game degrees run by academics is still making a lot of developers suspicious of game degree grads despite the fact they're starting to hire quite a bit from the good courses out there.

Only do a game degree if you are 100% certain it's the only thing you're going to want to do and you have the willpower to make yourself employable in what is a very competetive industry. If you want to be a programmer, get a CS degree and try and specialise as much as possible in your modules/work in gaming orientated subjects ie pyhsics, gui, graphics etc. My uni has another game degree, a programming one, as I described earlier its run by academics with no games experience and is total shite - apparently they only learn C++ in the final year and its all java up till then (stop crying, now). Also, just because it's a good uni may not mean the course itself is any good. The quality of degrees varies massively within universities themselves, find out as much about the degree, what you'll learn, and who will be teaching you as you possibly can. Try and find graduates from the degree on forums / using some decent googling to see if any of them ended up actually working in the game industry.

Don't bother with game design degrees at all, no one hires game designers without experience, and most certainly no one hires game designers because they have "game design" degrees. If they did, it's because that person has great demos/demonstrated they'd be great for the position somehow, not because they had a degree. Also look carefully and see who is running the degree, what experience they have, and the assortment of modules/areas you'll be studying. If the degree features "design", programming, animation, modeling, audio etc Its probably a load of shite as theres no way you'd come out the end knowledgeable enough to get a job in those areas.

Game art orientated degrees are the best, because you may actually end up with a decent portfolio at the end of it all. They also allow you specialise enough to be useful to an employer, rather than ending up knowing how to do 15 different things at an amatuer level. Make sure the people running the degree are aware of the requirements of game art however, I have seen work on forums produced by other game art degree students with ludicrous polycounts or textures the size of a house on a vase. Make sure they use industry standard software, and your going to get your hands on some proper game engines.

My advice is, do as much research as bloody possible, and only if you are certain it's a good degree with good staff, and you're seriously committed to getting a game job, should you choose it over another "normal" degree. I didn't do all of this, but got lucky and ended up on a really good course with excellent staff. The number of game degrees has tripled since the time I was looking at them a few years ago, and doubtless theres just as many awful ones. Some game degrees are good, and will spit you out at the end a very employable person if you work hard, and they can also be a lot of fun. The rest of your time at uni however not the studying is the bit you're supposed to have fun. Pick the degree which you think is most likely to make you attractive to an employer. If you're not certain games is for you, abort and think of something else that more useful for non gaming jobs.

DigiPen! (1)

CyberBill (526285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557759)

I went to DigiPen and came out a pretty damn good programmer if I must say so. :) Most of the people I went to school with and whom graduated are all at least "good" programmers, and most of them have jobs in the games industry. The ones that don't have jobs in the games industry have jobs at Microsoft or other non-game programming positions, mostly because they pay so much better. (Microsoft pays about $85k entry level for non-game positions, whereas typical game programmer pay in Seattle starts around $40k) Personally I'd rather be doing what I like, and once you ship your first game title you generally get a nice pay raise. Schools other than DigiPen are probably good to, I work with a guy who helps out at Fullsail and he seems to like those guys. At DigiPen we always had a rivalry for Fullsail because of their crappy advertising and for how much they push game DESIGN, rather than DEVELOPMENT. DigiPen has very little in the ways of design, and I would actually recommend against any 'gamer' school if you want to be a designer. You'll probably be better off getting a regular bachelors in something like literature or maybe an art degree, in my opinion.

Re:DigiPen! (1)

joystickgenie (913297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558187)

If Full Sail still has that image I think people should re-look at Full Sail then. Full Sail has no degree called game design (any more); it has a game development degree. Full Sail's game degree was called game design in the past; though, this was a misnomer as the curriculum has always been far more focused on programming and development then design. I'm honestly not quite sure why it was ever called just game design. If full sail still has the image as a game design school, then yeah that's a flaw in the marketing.

Re:DigiPen! (1)

JNighthawk (769575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559927)

Full Sail's main focus is on programming, but they do also teach design. You fully design and develop two projects while at Full Sail, each requiring a full-fledged design doc that you're graded on. You're right, though, it's definitely not a design school.

Re:DigiPen! (2, Insightful)

Rycross (836649) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560137)

My impression of DigiPen, after chatting with some graduates, is that they have a higher quality program than your average "game school." I can't speak for others like Fullsail, but it seemed like DigiPen actually did teach some fundamental computer science in addition to game specific stuff.

Most people think of a handfull of game schools, but there are now tons of crappy "game design" programs that can barely qualify as vocational training, much less a real study in computer science.

It also has a lot to do with how much you put into it. Most of the really brilliant people I know put a lot of extra effort into their educations. I wish I had done the same quite regularly.

Re:DigiPen! (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561919)

I went to DigiPen and came out a pretty damn good programmer if I must say so.

I ask this out of ignorance of a "game school"'s curriculum, but what exactly do you learn programming-wise? Do you get exposed to different classes of languages? Discrete math? Linear algebra? Computational theory? It's cool that you learned to program in an environment that you enjoyed, but I'm not clear on how thoroughly they actually teach the theory.

Re:DigiPen! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20563979)

As a DP student, they teach an incredible amount of theory. For instance, they teach classes on straight linear algebra, quaternions, curves / splines. We have to implement a 3D software triangle rasterizer. It's quite an experience. They teach you both theory and application, it's not too much of either. Between classes taught by Ghali, Mead, and Jahn, we're taught just about everything.

Re:DigiPen! (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564041)

You'll probably be better off getting a regular bachelors in something like literature or maybe an art degree, in my opinion.

I spoke with the hiring manager at bioware and indeed their storyline plotters are mostly English majors with some secondary qualification as well (IE. A CS diploma).

Am I the token game school grad that's doing well? (3, Interesting)

JNighthawk (769575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557997)

*sigh* I hate when these threads show up. It always means I need to write long-winded rebuttals to people who don't understand that there are real gaming schools out there other than "Tighten Up The Graphics On Level 3" University.

I went to Full Sail for Game Development (programming), graduated with my bachelor's in 21 months. I'm currently working as a programmer for Volition, Inc. We also have grads from Digipen and Guild Hall working here.

The biggest thing to remember about a game school is this: a school doesn't teach you anything, it allows you to learn. If you don't put in the effort, you'll get nothing out of it. The people that got the most out of a game school, like myself, were working on side projects throughout their time at school. If you aren't motivated while in school to work on games, and don't take time to learn outside of school, then a game school isn't for you. Period.

Is it harder to get a job outside of games with a game degree? That depends. I went for programming, and I know that I am significantly more qualified for a non-game programming job now than I was before I went. That being said, there are still a lot of people out there who think all game schools are a joke, because they've only met the game school failures, or think all game schools are like the fly-by-night universities they see advertised on TV.

Full Sail's Game Development program not only has gaming-centric classes like Game Design Fundamentals, where you learn to write a design doc, and DirectX, but also calculus, linear algebra, and a mythology class. You learn what you would at a normal school, but what makes them great classes is that they're tailored towards games. In linear algebra, the focus is on matrices and matrix math. In our psychology class, some time is devoted to color theory and how different cultures perceive the meaning of colors.

Really, the bottom line is that if you are 100% sure you want to go into games, and you have the motivation to put in 80 hour weeks for months in school between side projects, classes, and school projects, a game school *may* be a good choice for you. Don't discount a good school just because its emphasis is on games.

I'd go for the "normal" IT degree (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558009)

Basically for 2 big reasons:

First and formost, what is computer graphics? Hell, what is any programming? Right. Math. Applied math, but what it boils down to is simply that. Trignometry, matrix calculation, theory. I've actually taken a look at DigiPen, someone I know went there and is now slaving aw... I mean, working at a game company. What did he learn? Basically the same I did. Plus tons of physics and game design, which I lack. Granted. Should I want my way into the game world (so far I managed to retain some sanity), I think it should be trivial to get what's missing from a course or two at our university. Yes, without credits, but most likely they'll want to see some kind of work from me anyway. I.e. sitting down and writing something.

And second, imagine you find out that making games isn't even a percent as much fun as playing them (I did. I write games in my spare time). What then? No "serious" computer company will take your degree serious. Yes, game programming is amongst the most difficult tasks in the IT biz, you're working on the cutting edge of technology. Constantly. Learning new additions to HLSL, DX and OGL daily. Because you must, there ain't no such thing as a good game with technology from 5 years ago. You can get by with that in application development, but not in game dev. But still, it's seen as some kind of hobbyist programming amongst managers. HR managers, no less. But game development is a very special department in IT, and the skills you get there won't be easily applicable to other areas.

A normal bac or master in CS will give you approximately the same preparation for a job in game dev, plus it gives you an exit window if you should find out that working 12+ hours a day ain't what you're looking for.

Re:I'd go for the "normal" IT degree (1)

joystickgenie (913297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558413)

"And second, imagine you find out that making games isn't even a percent as much fun as playing them"

If that is the case I don't know how you could go though the years of schooling and not realize this then. I know, at Full Sail at least, I see a lot of students making this realization in the first few months. At that point you still have time to drop out and pick something else for your career without loosing all that much. Though, really you should probably be able to figure that out before even enrolling in a school.

Re:I'd go for the "normal" IT degree (1)

Mathonwy (160184) | more than 6 years ago | (#20563443)

Because you must, there ain't no such thing as a good game with technology from 5 years ago.


Do I need to point out everything that is utterly wrong with this comment, or can I just leave it at that? You could possibly make the argument that "...there is tremendous pressure to use bleeding edge technology as a way to appear competitive...", or some such, but as it stands, I think your claim is pretty indefensible.

Re:I'd go for the "normal" IT degree (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564035)

Ok, granted, certain things never change. Allow me to elaborate.

When I, as a programmer in, say, database programming, drop out of the loop for 5 years, I will find back in rather seamlessly, unless SQL is suddenly abandoned and replaced by the Next Big Thing. Unless that happens, I will still be where I was 5 years ago.

Certain things in game development don't change either. Matrices are still matrices, whether today or 20 years ago. The changes just happen much faster. You also have to take certain hardware development into account, something that you only need to a very minimal degree in most other areas, and if, only in areas with a similar degree of hardware closeness like OS development and (to a degree) server development.

Application programmers, too, have to stay in touch with their languages. But they and their APIs change very slowly compared to APIs that deal with graphics. You don't have to relearn DX completely with every release, but it usually changes a lot more than your average API.

And yes, you can create a good game with graphics and sound of 5 years ago. A good idea beats the crap out of any eye candy game without anything behind it to hold your attention for longer than the new game smell. But with a degree like that, you'll most likely want to get into the "serious" game development area, i.e. some large studio that makes grade A games. And they do, unfortunately, rely on and require top line eye candy.

Job opportunities (1)

Taulin (569009) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558331)

As with any college, one plus of going to one is that recruiters visit them first. Right out of college you can't expect to placed in a high position, but when you are hired by a direct recruiter, it is generally at a better starting position than applying to the company directly. This is also due in part to ties between teachers and the companies. It is also fact that recruiters go to colleges first before making jog openings public. The next step is that recruiters go to places that provide the skills they need. I had recruiters from IBM and such come to my college. Game companies go to these game colleges. Lastly, I agree that a game college should be an extension of a regular education.

From inside (but not too far inside) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20558611)

I've worked for two gaming companies now: one you never heard of and one you definitely have. Unfortunately I'm not in HR or a manager, so take what I say with a side of salt. Knowing people inside the game companies is your best bet, and sometimes gamer qualifications will enable this. In choosing your school, enquire about any affiliations with gaming companies, open days, etc. If long-term career safety is your thing, a traditional CS/IT degree is a better course, and ppl with those do get hired too. But if you do this, chose subjects that have potential application in gaming.

Want a job? (2, Informative)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558773)

I tend to do interviews a lot at my company (a very large game company) for engineers, and here's some things I look at:

*Experience - The more the better. Someone who made a game at home I can look at before the interview and see how they code. Game experience is of course a plus and will get you more cred than the guy without it, but if you don't have any then you going out and working on a hobby game is a step above the other guy who has "likes games and dressing up like Final Fantasy" on his resume.

*Ability - You're going to do problems on the board. I like those better than just quizzing people on skills. Often its a design problem, because if you can code really well but someone else can't understand what the hell you did and has to debug it, that isn't so great. I'm interviewing more general programmer types though, so I'd imagine you'd get a more indepth interview on something like graphics.

*Education - Generally which piece of paper you have hanging on your wall at home isn't going to write code for me. Experience and ability are going to show me more than what diploma you have. Of course, we all have biases, so if your degree says MIT vs. some other guy who went to Joe Shmoe's School o' Gamin', I'm going for the MIT grad. That is, if you're both equal in the rest of the interview. I've hired from both backgrounds and found that its all down to the person. We've had guys from game schools blow away guys from top name schools, so its up to what you do once your foot is in the door.

Bottom line: What gets you hired is who you are and what you've done, not what school you went to.

I know a few people at game schools (1)

lmnfrs (829146) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558967)

..so I know from experience that with networking they can be good. My friends' classes consisted mainly of learning how to use software for modeling, drawing, etc. and relatively few were related to actual design or industry practices. It wasn't until senior year that any of them actually worked on a project as they would at a job.

The people who are successful are those who would do a lot outside of school no matter what they were studying in school. I made basic Quake mods in 6th grade with a friend, and can hold conversations with these students about tools and techniques just because I've been interested in games over the years.

Do I think my friends will do well in the game industry? Not all of them. The ones I believe in have a deep interest in, and knowledge of, games. But they still don't know the first damn thing about technology (e.g. shorting your motherboard is bad, how a URL works).

The real story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20559111)

Over the course of several years, I've been in and out of the game development industry several times. I've had a chance to work for some of the best teams in the industry, the sort of teams that everyone wants to join and nobody wants to leave. And more importantly, I've spent a while talking to the people who actually make the hiring decisions for these teams. Sorry to post anonymously, but there's a bit of NDA stuff here.

It doesn't come down to "DigiPen is an instant hire" or "we roundfile all FullSail resumes". There's no easy in, but a "game school" isn't an automatic out either.

For artists (and I should preface this by saying that I don't have personal experience in this area) it's a plus. This is particularly true of modelers. Artists from game schools are likely to have actual, useful experience on industry-standard tools, and that's a major plus. Four-year universities often have the blind leading the blind in this area.

For programmers it's a definite minus. Digipen and FullSail grads that one development lead had interviewed consistently lacked the breadth of expertise that he was looking for. They were strong on some areas of graphics and some areas of AI, and weak nearly everywhere else. Given that the majority of programmers on a given team are not graphics programmers, the graphics-heavy education one gets from one of these places turns out to be limited preparation for the real world. If you have a degree from one of these places and are applying for a programming job, you'd better stress your breadth of personal experience in CS or you probably won't get an interview, at least at these places.

For designers.... heh. One thing I will say, is that a surprising number of the designers I know who started out doing design stuff, came from FullSail. For the upper echelon of design, though, pretty much everyone I know started out in different areas and transitioned to design. It's a tricky career to work your way up in, more who you know than what you know.

Game programs yes, game schools maybe. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559187)

I teach game design at different schools all over the world, and at different kinds of programs from MIT to DeVry to Full Sail. I've also written a book about getting a job in the game industry, although as it came out in 2003, it's a bit out of date now.

There is a LOT to know about game development and the more you know, the more employable you will be. (To get hired also requires some talent and a portfolio, however.) There's no question that game development is a legitimate BA or BS or MA subject these days. Game programs are a good thing and the industry needs them, or it'll have to teach people on the job, which is costly and wasteful. Bedroom coding isn't enough experience when you're working on a team of 50 with $10 million on the line.

The real question is, what else can you bring to the table? There are zillions of young coders who have been hardcore gamers all their lives, but have nothing else to make an employer sit up and take notice. As an employer I want somebody with interests that go beyond games, because the industry desperately needs new ideas and well-educated people. The reason so many games are derivative trash is that we're all ripping each other off instead of thinking up new ideas.

I strongly recommend that prospective game developers get a full, four-year degree (three-year in Europe), and study history, literature, art, music, film, geography, anthropology, architecture, industrial design, ergonomics, physics, theater, dance, costume design, and probably half a dozen other subjects that I can't think of at the moment, in addition to the core game development curriculum. Will Wright got some of the ideas for The Sims from the book A Pattern Language, about domestic architecture. It's all grist for the mill.

Dedicated game schools that can't offer their students this kind of diversity of education are doing them a disservice.

Re:Game programs yes, game schools maybe. (1)

twitchings (975250) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559857)

I totally agree with this, A real college/university degree which is more liberal arts based and not a specific game design degree is vital. Someone serious about doing professional game design and directing and producing should then go to a trade school, community college and pursue additional specification of their knowledge and skill set, on a Masters level.

I have a Studio Art Degree focusing of classic and traditional sculpture. Although, after studying game design for a few years at (http://www.austincc.edu/techcert/Video_Games.html [austincc.edu] ) I would prefer to be a designer, than just an artist/modeler. An idiot-user with a shiny new laptop, is still an idiot-user!!!! -Twitchings

Must have a passion for gaming (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559301)

If not, I doubt you will succeed in that industry.

The pay usually sucks, the deadlines are fierce, and there is no real job security.

Great game programmers seem to be drawn to the industry - there is no option (to them) of ever working in anything else, regardless of how well they would do outside the industry.

Game Design School are becoming more important. (1)

twitchings (975250) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559679)

I'm am working through a Video Game Design Professional Certification, through the High Technology Continuing Education Department at Austin Community College. The same dept that provides MCSE, Cisco and other professional and serious certifications. I also work as an IT guy at ACC, in a different dept, and I have a full bachelors in Studio Art from a serious 4 year university. I think video game design schools, programs and degrees are becoming more and more important. The industry is growing up and there needs to be some academicalization of the theories, practices and methods.

Like in Film and TV production, there is a big difference in going to a film school and/or getting and RTF degree and learning on the job. I did some film production, a few years back, just because I met the right producer at the right time, compared to the other PAs who were fresh out of RTF school, I had to do a lot of catching up and fast learning of commonly used terms and practices. Often other crew members, producers and directors were annoyed that they had to explain a simple concept to me(like what and Apple Box was .....)(I am a damn fast learner and times, other PAs with full RTF degrees got fired befor I did, but i'm sure they were hired more often than I) So there are good and bad to each metods.

I think this is true in video game design too. There are a lot of studio directors/producers and execs that are demanding for a standardization of common and basic skills and knowledge. The Game Design Program at ACC, has nearly all the major players in the Austin Game Industry on the Board of Directors. All the teachers are local professionals, so the information they provide is straight from the industry, not from some poorly written book. I looked around at many different schools, including digipen, A&M vislab, Guildhall and Art Institute and besides already living in Austin, the ACC program looked the most promising,(cheaper, especially with employee class vouchers....)

Game Design Schools and Programs are important. But, you get what you put into it and a degree/piece of paper is not guarantee for employment, it just helps your chances. Helps you get into a specific design "mindset" for gaming and really, its just all about contacts. The people/teachers/professionals/students I have met is much more valuable that what I have learned, although it is nice to actually understand the mechanics and requirements that are needed, in order to seriously make a game. It's no longer 3 potheads in a garage, that can make a game, it takes a f-in army of people who understand their part and the whole process as well.

http://www.austincc.edu/techcert/Video_Games.html [austincc.edu]


University Degree vs. Trade School (1)

lgordon (103004) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561221)

I think having an accredited degree in CS or CompEng with a focus on game development (or graphics, or a double major in Literature, etc) cannot possibly be a bad thing. We're not really talking about that, though. We're talking about someone who is unable for some reason to succeed in a 4 year degree program in a small college or university setting. I think any trade school (ITT Tech, etc) is very limiting, and doesn't have much credibility in the marketplace.

It all really comes down to the following:
1. Your training gives you a foundation of knowledge to categorize and utilize new skills and tools.
2. The program that you complete has credibility in identifying and graduating successful candidates capable of learning and utilizing that foundation.

It's like what the USGA recently said when professional golfers complained about the difficulty of the US. Open tournament golf course. "We are not trying to frustrate the best golfers in the world. We are trying to identify them."

My list (1)

J-1000 (869558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561327)

It's a game school! You are submersing yourself entirely into a video game development culture. You are nearly assured to be surrounding yourself with like-minded peers, and you'll probably have a lot of fun and creative output regardless of the quality of the teaching.

You gotta pay for it, in both time and money.

If you are really into video games and really want to become a designer, consider these two options. Option one, you attend a video game school and enjoy the above advantages. If you don't learn everything you want to know, there will be other ways to do so. Option two, you get a traditional education with what you think is going to make yourself the most money. You may very well end up hanging out with a bunch of people who don't even like video games, let alone want to create them, and before you know it you too begin to lose interest, and ultimately, you lose your motivation.

You don't have to attend a silly game school to make games, but I'm a big believer in pursuing your interests thoroughly lest they fade away. If your way of doing this is going to a game school, go for it. As a game publisher, who would you hire? A non-gaming corporate code monkey who just happens to have the necessary skills, or someone who has immersed themselves in game design culture and taken the initiative to educate themselves about it?

Masters after a BS (1)

zdude255 (1013257) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561987)

I'm currently attending a liberal arts college, but with a major in Computer Science. The general requirements are balanced, but I still take lots of CS courses. Would a master's at a game school (say DigiPen for example) be a good choice after college? or would it be a waste of time and money for a piece of paper? Can anyone in a similar type of situation comment on this?
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