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Game-Related Education On the Rise At Colleges 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-kind-of-homework dept.
The LA Times has a story about the increased interest in learning how to make video games amongst college students, and the subsequent rise in game-related education as the schools respond to that demand. Some programs are gaining legitimacy, while others do perhaps more harm than good. Quoting: "The surge in interest has led schools to add games to their menu — but not always to the benefit of its students. Recruiters say they often see 'mills' that run around-the-clock sessions to quickly churn out as many students as possible. Other programs teach specific skills but not how games are pulled together. 'It's a very hot academic growth area,' said Colleen McCreary, who runs EA's university relations program. 'I'm very worried about the number of community colleges and for-profit institutions, as well as four-year programs, that are using game design as a lure for students who are not going to be prepared for the real entry-level positions that the game industry wants.'"
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Game-Related Education On the Rise At Colleges

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  • by Dr_Banzai (111657) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:39PM (#25522083) Homepage

    Speaking of game related education, a 2008 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a particular memory task, called Dual N-Back, may actually improve working memory (short term memory) and fluid intelligence (gF). This is an important finding because fluid intelligence was previously thought to be unchangeable. The game involves remembering a sequence of spoken letters and a sequence of positions of a square at the same time.

    Read the original experimental study here [iapsych.com].

    There's a free open source version of the Dual N-Back task called Brain Workshop [sourceforge.net]. Start practicing!

  • TV Scams (Score:5, Interesting)

    by martinw89 (1229324) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:57PM (#25522221)

    The first thing I thought of in regards to the EA quote was those ITT Tech and other TV commercials who advertise making games after 2 years. That's bullshit, in my humble opinion. I've been programming as a hobby for a while and am in the middle of a 4 year university CS program and, at the moment, would have absolutely nothing worthwhile to add to a game programming team. Or modeling team. Or anything. I could be a beta tester, that's about it. And I have a feeling those aren't in demand. Now granted, I probably have less experience than a person leaving a 2 year game design program because that's so targeted and CS is so general. But I at least have a feeling for how much you can learn in a year.

    Point is, games these days are incredibly complex. We're talking multi million dollar budgets, with blockbuster titles reaching the hundred millions. 100+ person programming teams. Kids coming out of a quickie game design degree are going to be poorly prepared, if at all, for this complexity. And it's not fair, because designing games is a process that strengthens programming and general logic abilities.

    At least, that's my very opinionated two cents.

  • by asg1 (1180423) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:19PM (#25522343)
    I'm enrolled in my university's first 3d Game Development course in our Computer Science department. Most of the topics you listed are being covered.

    I have learned more about software development in this course then most courses in my curriculum. These topics all lend themselves to team projects, problem solving, and maths... all of which are relevant to a CSE undergrad. I don't see how this course isn't useful for someone considering game development, especially when its an industry that is exploding.

    This is the only Computer science course that has made use of all of the calculus and physics we have to take.

    </endramblings>
  • Re:Stay away.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dutch Gun (899105) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:23PM (#25522377)

    It's not all like that. I've been a programmer in the video game industry for 11+ years now. The simple fact of the matter is this: if you've got a proven track record as a developer, you'll command a good salary and be in very high demand. It's true that you may not make as much as those with equivalent skills outside the game development industry, but hey, you're making games for a living, which is a pretty cool way to spend your day.

    Sure, some companies will think nothing of exploiting you as much as they can. This isn't exactly unique to the game development industry. If you find yourself in such a situation, try to at least finish up your current project (important for your resume), but get the hell out of that company. Once you actually get a few years under your belt and a few shipped titles, you become a highly sought-after commodity. Smart employers recognize this, and work to keep you happy and productive.

    You don't hear about it as much, but there *are* companies that treat their employees well. I'm very happy with my current employer, as they understand that a healthy work-life balance is important to keeping employees happy over the long haul. I work 40-hour weeks, get five weeks of paid vacation, good health benefits, a fun and exciting working environment, and a good salary.

    Honestly, I can't imagine doing anything else.

  • My College does this (Score:1, Interesting)

    by areusche (1297613) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:24PM (#25522385)

    Ithaca College's Park School of Communications is now offering a video game design major. Now personally I immediately thought, "Oh boy, a com school is offering a class for video games completely separate of the CS program. I'm worried that what they're doing is just scratching the surface of video game development by giving a broad look at video game design.

    I think what colleges need to do is point kids in a specialized path. Unlike Ithaca's program I think that it would be better to point oneself in a path specifically in programming, graphic design, or even writing. That way instead of doing a ton of things marginally well you can do the programming, graphics, story writing, etc.

    Then again I'm just a lowly undergrad student. They could care less about my input. Just as long as they get my 42,000$ a year. I mentioned this to one of the advisers for the major and she assured me it was doing just that. I'm still a bit skeptical however.

  • that's the goal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:34PM (#25522447)

    The ideal is that games are partly used as a lure to trick more 18-year-olds into finding a degree in computer science interesting---rather than a class on asm programming on the SPARC or something, you teach them similar concepts with a class that makes them program asm on the Gameboy Advance or Atari 2600, making the low-level architecture/asm class seem more interesting. Of course, programs vary in how exactly they integrate games into the curriculum.

  • In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SupremoMan (912191) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:42PM (#25522505)
    Education-Unrelated Gaming continues steadily at Colleges.
  • by dukeluke (712001) * <dukeluke16 AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:58PM (#25522615) Journal
    As a game developer myself, Drawn to Life (2007) Lock's Quest (2008), and a student from a 'video game college', I can offer perspective to interested parties.

    Any prospective student should know that it is very difficult to break into the gaming industry. Further, they need to ask themselves why they are attending generic college XYZ for video games. Specifically, what does this college offer and what are their job placement statistics? DigiPen regularly has job placement percentages in the high 90s within 6 months of graduation. Might I add that many of our professors have worked in the industry extensively? Who better to lecture on game networking, audio, physics, etc. than someone who has developed on triple A titles on all of the major consoles? I could spend ample time explaining how the first 2 years at DigiPen covers more than most Master's programs elsewhere in the country, but I digress.

    The sad fact of the matter is that most collegiate programs do not have the expertise on the bench to be able to ACTUALLY help students get ready for the real world of video game programming. DigiPen graduates are more-often-than-not able to hit the ground running on most any platform or console.

    To compound matters worse, real-time interactive simulations (aka video games or other simulators) are some of the most advanced computing that a developer can strive to code. Everything from memory management to networking has to be properly written for games. You are, in a sense, writing an entire OS on top of the underlying console dashboards. Quite a daunting task.

    And to add just a bit more, what is it with Computer Science students who believe they can leave a typical college and hit the ground running with that perfect development job? I've spent a decade of internships, part-time jobs, multiple college degrees, etc. to get to the point where I can competently compete for a development job 'fresh out of college'. And yes, that means I was interning back in high school in development-type jobs.

    Real video game colleges spend more time on advanced math (the stuff beyond calculus) and physics than discussing the best attack combo for the latest fighting game. Don't get me wrong, we play video games, but that is typically after an 80-120 hour work week writing code until we actually dream out our coding assignments to only wake up at 4 am to rewrite a memory manager, network engine, sound engine, shader, 3d model file format, etc.
  • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LoRdTAW (99712) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:08AM (#25523359)

    Schools like this aren't going to land you a good job. My brother went to Full Sail for their game development degree. Even though its only 22 months he received an accredited bachelors degree. His final project was a 5 month grind where he and 4 others made a game from scratch. They made a networked real time strategy game with a 3D engine, 3D sound using Fmod, 4 player networking and multiple game play modes. All totally from scratch, no tools or anything. In fact they had to write their own tools to handle a few tasks. They must document everything and manage the game as if they were a company by having an asset list to keep them focused. They are required to come up with a studio name and that class gets a publisher name as well. Another good thing is since Full Sail is a media school, graphic arts students make the textures and models while sound students do the sound effects for the teams. They are also now offering a masters degree as well.

    The result? When he attended his international game developers association meetings he was the most experienced person there. He was able to speak and present himself well thanks to his public speaking classes. His C++ knowledge along with C#, assembler and java got him allot of attention. He can also land a regular programming job if he wanted.

    I must say even I am impressed by his knowledge. My favorite project was for his machine architecture class where he had to write a game boy demo from scratch (that is where his assembler knowledge comes from). So if anyone is interested in a game development school look into Full Sail. But be warned over 50% drop out before the first year, and about 25% make it to graduation. It is a very intense degree. Each class is from 9-5pm sometimes with labs 5-1am! You are definitely prepared for a grueling job as a programmer after that school.

    Here was his classes publisher, Degenerate Triangles. He was part of the Code or Die team. http://degeneratetriangles.com/ [degeneratetriangles.com]

  • USC GamePipe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by boppacesagain08 (1317259) on Monday October 27, 2008 @02:55AM (#25523991)
    I'm a student at one of the universities discussed in the article. I can tell you the games program is a VERY serious program, and the people who come in thinking that it's a goof off major get flunked out quickly. Every Computer Science(Games) student takes all the same computer science classes as the standard CS major, but instead of having 30 units worth of electives to take Intro to Basket Weaving, they have to take group design courses and other collaborative classes focused on preparing them for the teamwork that will be necessary in the field. I've recently decided to switch my major to Computer Egineering / Computer Science, but it was by no means because CS-Games was too easy. You really do have to be the complete package of a game designer - artistic and technical - to cut it in that program. In the end, I decided I liked the hardware more than the creative process.
  • by Fred_A (10934) <fred.fredshome@org> on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:00PM (#25528397) Homepage

    Anybody who wants to work with scientific data should take a real data-crunching package like R or Matlab, and avoid Excel like the plague.

    Scientific or other. Unfortunately Excel is a nasty virus that propagates not only to every office computer in the universe, but also to pretty much every mind, obliterating every other useful skill that used to be present there...

    Need to store your addressbook ? Excel
    Need to run diffs on files ? Excel
    Need a quick script ? Excel
    Need to analyse a huge dataset ? Excel
    Need to build a database ? Excel
    Need to build a quick billing app ? Excel

    Just a few of the numerous examples I've come across. And people wonder why most places find it so hard to transition to FOSS (hint: Excel).

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LilGuy (150110) on Monday October 27, 2008 @01:15PM (#25529815)

    While I've never seen such a rave review for a 21 month college program, I have seen quite a few complaints about the $40,000 price tag attached to it.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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