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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 tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:30PM (#25522043) Homepage Journal

    The economy is in total meltdown, and the best our academic institutions have to offer is more video games. When are they going to follow the leads of Harvard and Yale and give us the fine leaders like George W Bush, John Kerry, Ben Bernanke, Barrack Obama, and the head of Lehman Brothers. Running the country into the ground, now that's a REAL degree!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ciaohound (118419)

      I think it's the carbon economy and the institutions that support it, academic included, that are in serious crisis. The Sierra Club ranks colleges by their greenness, and, curiously, the Ivies aren't in the top ranks. Places like Middlebury and Oberlin are. These are small colleges that focus on the teaching of undergraduates. Maybe that's part of why they seem to be leading green thinking.

      I am hopeful for a new generation of leaders that are more aware of humanity's impact on the planet. Of course, i

      • by tjstork (137384)

        I think it's the carbon economy and the institutions that support it, academic included, that are in serious crisis.

        Well, the carbon economy really translates to wealth and not have carbon based fuels or not be able to use them means to not have wealth. Whenever you go from being wealthy to not being wealthy, the institutions in front of the lost wealth lose their credibility.

      • Please. Teaching successful manipulation of the system for your own and others' gain is not limited to a single economy.

        A harvard business grad would be just as adept in a green economy as a carbon one. Money, Power and Influence are aquired the same no matter the game.

        • Unless the rules of the game say shoot the guy with the most. Just saying.
          • shoot the guy with the most

            Historical evidence implies that the rule "whoever has the most can hire the most guards and they'll shoot[1] you first" overrides that one. Sorry to rain on your parade.

            [1] or stab, or hit with a rock. Just depends how far back you go.

    • by zebslash (1107957)

      At the same moment, Sarah Palin wants to stop all research on Drosophila : http://thinkprogress.org/2008/10/24/palin-fruit-flies/ [thinkprogress.org]

      With people like this, no need for science degrees anymore. After all, everything we need to know is written in their bible.

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        At the same moment, Sarah Palin wants to stop all research on Drosophila : http://thinkprogress.org/2008/10/24/palin-fruit-flies/ [thinkprogress.org]

        As one of the commenters there points out, with their tiny brains and their impressive reproductive abilities, they presumably make an uncomfortably close study model for some republican candidates...

        Palin is comedic gold (to us that don't have her as a politician of course)

      • At the same moment, Sarah Palin wants to stop all research on Drosophila

        Really? Do you think Sarah Palin would stop private businesses from researching Drosophila? Or is it possible that she's simply against government funding of that research? Being against government funding of x != being against x.

        • You know nothing about how research works in this country.

          If you block any federal funds from reaching a category of research, you more or less make sure it will not take place on research universities. Especially for basic research that won't immediately lead to product, that pretty much kills it.

  • Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:30PM (#25522049)
    Just look at the rise of "computer" classes in high schools that don't teach you more than Word and Excel. And even the highest level computer classes only might barely touch on HTML. This is no different.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree, I am a university student studying science, chem and biology 2 majors. I took the time to Do 100 level comp science, and got through a horrid year of C# initiative..

      Where I am going is that, at the same time I was doing pograming, there were students in my Biology and Environmental classes pulling off modules for Word/Excel and PPT that were giving the same total number of credits as I was getting for busting my arse off learning how to write object-orientated programs.

      I have no problem with learni

      • I have no problem with learning how to use Excel/Word/PowerPoint to its fullest, but to achieve university points for demonstrating how to point and click is absurd.

        I hate to break it to you, but Excel/Word/PowerPoint are exceedingly useful skills in a lot of workplaces and for a lot of careers. Much more so than programming for a lot of those careers.

        (And I say this as a programmer with a computer science degree.)

        I mean, if you want take the angle that universities should be teaching 'higher learning' and

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          I hate to break it to you, but Excel/Word/PowerPoint are exceedingly useful skills in a lot of workplaces and for a lot of careers. Much more so than programming for a lot of those careers.

          Excel, Word, and Powerpoint, or their open-source equivalents, are not "college" material. They're something that any semi-literate knuckle-dragging, mouth-breather should be able to learn themselves, either on their own, or with the help of a Dummies book.

          If they can't even do that, they have already demonstrated a se

        • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Greg_D (138979) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @11:47PM (#25523255)

          I hate to break it to you, but universities are not supposed to be places for vocational learning. Anyone with the intellectual capacity to be enrolled at a 4 year institution should be able to pick up the skills necessary to operate the aforementioned software on their own.

          I don't have a problem with a class period or two being devoted to the basic operation of the software, but it should never be the basis for actual school credit in an accredited curriculum.

          • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by lysergic.acid (845423) on Monday October 27, 2008 @02:44AM (#25523959) Homepage

            sadly, that's what many American universities have degraded into--trade schools.

            i have a friend attending UCSB who's trying to get into web design/development. but most all of the classes he's taken are more akin software training courses taught at junior colleges or technical colleges like Devry, ITT Tech, etc. skills like basic flash animation, HTML coding, and JavaScript are things that a web developer needs to teach himself. a University education should be focused on more academic knowledge that broaden a student's horizons, not giving vocational training that can be gleaned from a book or the web in just a few weeks.

            personally, i majored in CS in college and i never even took a single class on web design/development, but i've already established a career for myself having built up a portfolio doing freelance work while in college and also as an in-house developer/designer. the vocational skills that i've developed cannot, and should not, be taught in a university classroom. they're skills you pick up and teach yourself either working on personal projects or doing an internship.

            university courses need to teach students more abstract concepts that are more difficult to teach oneself or that students are more likely to miss in their self-study because they don't appear to have any obvious practical applications--things like programming theory & conceptual knowledge. my friend doesn't have any of that, and worse yet, he has picked up bad programming/design habits from his classes like using frames, mixing content and presentation, and sloppy/unorganized code.

            but i guess we live in a capitalist society and education has become just another commercialized commodity. people treat colleges merely as a hoop to jump through in order to land a high paying job. they don't actually care about learning or intellectual pursuit. a well-rounded college education just isn't in as much demand, therefore the free market has driven our universities to become more like technical colleges and focus more on vocational training.

            but i guess that's why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough for selective employers. now you need a graduate degree to truly be competitive. i don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by IICV (652597)

              As far as I know, UCSB doesn't offer an official web design course of any sort. I tried looking through the schedule of classes, but all the CS department offers [ucsb.edu] is things like "Data Structures and Algorithms" and "Introduction to C, C++ and Unix". From what I can remember, the only place where you can actually learn about Flash and HTML are the free classes held intermittently in the computer labs, for which you (of course) get no class credit.

              I'm not sure what your friend could have been doing at UCSB to

              • i don't remember the exact name of the course, but i think it was a two part (Digital?) Media Production class. it definitely wouldn't be in the CS department, since he's more of an art/design major. i would give you a link to his homepage so you could see the types of projects he's done for his classes, but i don't feel too comfortable doing that without his permission.

                i will tell you this, he spent an entire semester learning bits and pieces of html/javascript (no CSS) that i could have taught him in a we

            • That's why a lot of people from other fields do well with computer and networking stuff. It's just another problem to solve. They already know how to think.

      • by mollymoo (202721)

        Where I am going is that, at the same time I was doing pograming, there were students in my Biology and Environmental classes pulling off modules for Word/Excel and PPT that were giving the same total number of credits as I was getting for busting my arse off learning how to write object-orientated programs.

        I have no problem with learning how to use Excel/Word/PowerPoint to its fullest, but to achieve university points for demonstrating how to point and click is absurd.

        Word and PowerPoint are of course simp

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Word and PowerPoint are of course simple enough for the basics, but you can use VBA to do some clever and difficult stuff with them. Excel spreadsheets can be monstrously complex and getting the best out of Excel for analysing scientific data or doing complex accounting involves a damn sight more than "point and click".

          So Excel spreadsheets start out small and simple and grow to monstrously large and difficult ? Seems a perfect match for game developers :).

    • 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]

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        How much previous knowledge of computer programing did he have before hand?
      • Your brother's story basically matches my own. I've now been out working at a triple A game studio for almost 2 years.

        To answer a question down below, I had programmed in C++ for 4 years before going to Full Sail, but I wasn't a great programmer before going to school.

      • Agreed. I attended Full Sail myself, and I can say that the program was very grueling and taught me quite well. The first programming class is a 2-month 8 hour/day C++ class. The class began with 50 students, and by the end, 10 moved on. I had minimal C++ experience before hand, but it was not all that necessary. The main problem was the script-kiddie / 20 hour-a-day WOW player who though, 'Hey I wanna make games for a living' without realizing that it actually required hard work and talent.

        I went wh
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LilGuy (150110)

        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.

  • by ServerIrv (840609) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:37PM (#25522077)
    Most of the computer science dropouts I know started the degree because they like playing computer games. Later they realize that it's much more than playing games and they cannot program themselves out of a logical wet paper bag. At least this gives them an opportunity to get a degree
    • Sometimes the curriculum's titles are misleading. For example, there may be a big difference between software engineering(the process: methodologies, lifecycle, iterations, etc.) as opposed to using programming to solve engineering problems.

      Somebody who'd want to program for a real game company would be better off getting a math degree with emphasis on programming rather than a CompSci degree with emphasis in software engineering.
      • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @10:03PM (#25522659)

        Somebody who'd want to program for a real game company would be better off getting a math degree with emphasis on programming rather than a CompSci degree with emphasis in software engineering.

        On what basis do you offer this advice? Game development is a very practical endeavor, with a large number of very specialized requirements:

        * C/C++ fluency is almost universally required. Other languages such as C#/Lua/Python
        * Understanding of efficient coding practices and optimization

        And, of course, you can then split off into one of many specialized areas:
        * 3D graphics programming
        * Audio programming
        * AI and pathfinding
        * Animation systems
        * Cinematics/Machinima systems
        * Physics programming
        * Internal tools development
        * Gameplay programming
        * Platform-specific specialists
        * Server/network programming

        A math degree is useful for some of these jobs, but not all. Most programming job listings ask for a CS degree or equivalent in industry experience. You could probably get in with a math degree, and it might help you find a specialized programming job such as a physics developer (extremely math-intensive), but I just don't see it being too practical in a general sense.

        Honestly, I can think of very few times I've had to call on any of my higher math skills as a game programmer (I specialize in audio, cinematic, and AI programming). Most of the time, basic linear algebra suffices quite nicely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lysergic.acid (845423)

        it's probably more helpful to just actually do some game development.

        if you really want to program games for a living, then you should be doing it in your free time. someone who enjoys coding doesn't need to be working at a software development firm to sit down and write some code. if it's really what you want to do then you should enjoy doing it whether you're being paid to do it or not.

        if you go through college without ever writing a single game on your own or collaborating with a friend, then you're prob

    • That would be worth pointing out if it was just schools saying "You like playing games? Major in this!" TFA does not make it sound like that is going on many places. Furthermore, it doesn't sound like the emphasis is entirely on programming, citing games as a combination of many fields. Mentions something about pairing a CS major up with a drama major. (I would be worried about creating a black hole of pure ego and pretentiousness if I were setting up that team...)

      Not that that is a good approach eithe

      • by ServerIrv (840609)
        From TFA it sounds like USC is doing it correctly, but since it is still a new major and there isn't a "standard" curriculum, there are bound to be problems. I've seen Game Design advertised as a major at community colleges right along side criminal justice to be people's next career step and key to financial freedom. Wherever there is money, people are willing to separate it from the owners.
  • 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!

  • Stay away.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by NFN_NLN (633283) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:40PM (#25522085)

    Stay far away from the Video Game industry if you value your 'personal' time. Of the few people I know working for BioWare and Ubisoft... that job will become your life.

    I think it all boils down to what one boss said to one of the guys I know: "I've got 35 resumes sitting on my desk of people just as qualified as you who are willing to do your job. So no you can't have time off."

    • 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.

      • 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.

        If the people I know in the industry are any indication, you're both right.

        A developer with several solid shipped titles on his resume and good references absolutely can make a high salary and be in very high demand.

        However, that's not the experience of an entry level dev

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      I would say stay away from games if you retain some type of romantic notion and WAFFY feelings from your childhood/teenage years playing them. Because it's not like that.

      OTOH, it can be rewarding but it's work. Although personally, if you're really smart, there could be more valuable work you could be doing and could feel unfulfilled not doing it...

      (Although games may lead into simulations which are important).

  • ... if there is one thing I have noticed is that because of the internet, and the industry as aw hole. Most schools and universities simply cannot keep up, and many schools are outright bad, even the "major leagues". I think it's time to consolidate the best talent for subjects that can be taught online and have community edited courses + wiki's, etc. It would go along way to being able to improve courses in real time.

    There's been tonnes of times I've wanted to leave comments on some professors problems,

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      I think MIT's opencourseware is a major step in the right direction.

      • It is but the software isn't up to scratch yet, I checked out MIT open courseware and the new one at Stanford.

        Things like

        1) editable textbooks, being able to comment on each pargraph in a book would be an enormous boon to textbook authors by taking student feedback/suggestions, as well as the suggestions of other teachers from other institutions.

        2) Comments on problems, etc... one thing I notice is that a lot of problems are structured in obtuse ways that could be expressed a lot better if one was able to s

  • by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:45PM (#25522127)

    A good game-related course may cover things like:

    * C & C++
    * DirectX & OpenGL, Pixel shader programming
    * Physics, Matrix transformations, quaternions
    * Collision detection for various types of primitives and response
    * Audio programming
    * Game level design, storyboarding
    * 3D object design and animation
    * Performance optimization techniques including spatial partitioning, level of detail objects, fast motion blur, fast shadow mapping, and more
    * World auto-generation, map editors and scripting
    * Using game engine SDKs
    * Writing for portability
    * Developing for constrained systems (consoles) incl. fixed point maths .. and more.

    "Game-related" courses can be very involved and just as valid as any other CS degree teaching many of the same concepts and APIs. It's a shame that some people hear the word "game" and become dismissive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asg1 (1180423)
      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 explodi
    • that's the goal (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597)

      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.

    • by Umuri (897961)

      I'd fight that.
      Not because i have something against game degrees, it's just i have something seriously against the utter shitty programming i see turned out by a lot of people who claim they are "CS" majors.

      Sorry, but when i think of CS, i think of someone who has a CLUE about why something would be inefficient, why efficiency matters, or even the basic structure of what they're working with.

      Unfortunately it seems i'm in the minority, and a lot of professors(not most, but not a minority, also i use the term

      • A misconception about CS is that it's got much to do with programming. While most half decent CS degrees will require students to be able to code, it won't require that they be terribly good programmers because that's not what CS is about. CS *uses* programming as a tool. Yes, a competent CS graduate should damn well be able to know about efficiency, why it's important and how to achieve it, but they might not be very good at putting it in code. That sort of thing comes with experience so any good CS grad w

    • What about Geometry?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Keill (920526)

      A friend of mine did a degree course like that at Lincoln Uni over here in the UK...

      Unfortunately such a course has one major downside:

      It's TOO generalist. My friend new exactly what it is he wants to do - (game/level design) - and he only spent two months or so on each subject out of two years, which simply wasn't enough.

      After talking to him for a while, it became obvious that the course he took would actually have been better if split into two - one for the game system(s) and one for the content - and th

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Game level design, storyboarding

      The rest is really technical stuff, this one could easily be separated out as its own field of study though game developers certainly should know some of it. What makes a game compelling is not a technical feature, it's much more about psychology, flow, risk/reward, effort/gain, achievements, teamplay, immersion, challenge, (lack of) repetitiveness, balance and so on. Exactly the same engine can be used to make two games that are visuallly and techincally equal but one is horrible and the other brilliant. T

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      I'm actually taking a course generally described as "Games" at my university (University of Washington in Seattle, one of the top CS schools in the US). Technically, it's a "Capstone Software Engineering" course - that just happens to combine the need for 3D graphics, networking, real-time interactivity, etc. in a student-designed software project. Guess what kinds of programs a group of 6 - 8 students will turn out given those requirements and 10 weeks?

      In other words, games are actually good projects for s

    • I think the reason people are dismissive is because by and large these game courses are a scam. The school I studied animation at also offered a 'games' program, which was heralded as the most expensive in the country, at a whopping $60 000 for the one year course. In that one year they tried to cram everything on your list into the curriculum. That's sensory overload for anybody. Needless to say the graduates of the program were pretty much awful at every aspect of their studies, and a lot poorer for their

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've had to fire three programmers already. None were looking for real work they wanted to be paid to play. They talked well and seemed to have the skills but all had poor attitudes and didn't display even rudimentary professional behavior. I wasted a lot of time and money trying to give each a chance to perform but in the end I fired all of them. Our company has had to rethink doing any game related work due to the generally poor quality of applicants. It's very hard to find decent programmers no matter w

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Weaselmancer (533834)

      They talked well and seemed to have the skills but all had poor attitudes and didn't display even rudimentary professional behavior.

      Yeah, I'm sure a game written by you guys would be a blast. It's impossible to write a fun game in an environment devoid of it. You have to know what fun is first before you can manufacture it.

      And I've got more bad news for you, AC. Programmers are all oddballs. And the more talented the programmer tends to be, the more of an oddball they'll tend to be.

      If you're look

      • by ROBOKATZ (211768) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @11:14PM (#25523081)
        There's a difference between being eccentric and needing to grow the fuck up.
        • Why was that comment modded insightful? There is truth in it, but there is also truth in the statement "There's a difference between being presentable and needing to loosen the fuck up.".
        • Well, having been both in the games industry for a couple of years, and making a better living with no-brainer Java/DB stuff ever since... here's my insight into it:

          People who want to program a game are there _because_ they haven't "grown the fuck up." I'm not necessarily saying that in a demeaning way. I've been there myself, remember? They're the people who haven't lost that young age idealism and all that. They're the people willing to take a massively sub-par pay (just look at the average pay in the gam

          • by ROBOKATZ (211768)
            I had written a quite lengthy response and finally just replaced it with that quick soundbite.

            What I was really getting at, was that the post I replied to missed the point.

            To me, it sounds like the OP couldn't hire anyone who wanted to do anything but goof off. The post I replied to was defending this by basically saying programmer-types are eccentric. They were talking about two different types of people: children who can't do the work, and 'geeks' that may keep odd hours, odd habits, and odd mannerism

            • See, that's not how I read it. It sounded more to me like the OP would hire in a coder, and then was surprised to find that coders are vastly different than the guys over in sales. Then getting upset about it.

              I can see how it might be the other way though. Maybe this guy hired in a couple of kids with Comp Sci degrees that still had damp ink on them and was disappointed that they couldn't do anything.

              But still, OP said this: "It's very hard to find decent programmers no matter what we are willing to

              • by ROBOKATZ (211768)
                Point taken about the pay. Certainly for virtually unlimited pay he could find someone willing and capable of doing the work.

                Re-reading I see how the OP can be interpreted either way. I guess it's colored by experience. I have worked somewhere that relied on a lot of student talent of vastly varying quality, and have seen quite a range of the orthogonal qualities of eccentricity and immaturity.

  • by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:53PM (#25522181) Homepage
    They're the equivalent rock n roll geek dream (though slightly less glamorous in reality). Most of us own a guitar, most of us have programmed "a game".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      Except that kids who have a life time dream of being a games programmer typically have more productive alternatives to fall back on than kids who wanna be rock stars.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Except that kids who have a life time dream of being a games programmer typically have more productive alternatives to fall back on than kids who wanna be rock stars.

        Yet the wannabe rock star still gets more pussy.

        There is no justice :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mevets (322601)

      but I dream of programming a guitar game....

  • It is the game of life and this has been done since the beginning of computers and I took a course once in BAL, RPG, COBOL, and JCL. They were teaching punch cards too. I think it is just a way for an institution to make money and even the university I attend is offering courses that will never be an advantage to the student and the price of education is a disadvantage for those who are mislead to believe that what they are learning will pay off well enough to get them out from under $100,000 of student loa
  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nubsac (1329063)

      ...those ITT Tech and other TV commercials who advertise making games after 2 years. That's bullshit...

      So true, I know a buddy who attended one of these institutions and couldn't even write a simple "Sprite" Class.

      Upon inquiring further, when asked what a Sprite was with respect to game programming, he replied "Uh..it's something that moves!"

      Needless to say, you wont be seeing his name in any game credits anytime soon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by AmberBlackCat (829689)
        Here's what you tell your friend: First you write your Lemon class and your Lime class. Then after you add the carbonated water, you have your Sprite class. Or if you want to cheat, you can just use inheritance and rip off your 7-Up class. I made the Dean's List easily.
    • by rolfwind (528248)

      The way you become a programmer is by programming.

      Do it for fun, have a problem to solve, etcetera.

      You don't learn it in the classroom. Classroom theory is nice, but that experience is akin to pouring water into a leaky glass.

    • by dr_dank (472072)

      This hits the nail right on the head. Schools like these prey on people who think that a well-paying job is just a few cheesy cram courses away. Back in the dot-bomb era, these same places were trumpeting MSCE/A+ courses as if those alone were going to guarantee a good job.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432)

      I went to a 4 year game/film college. The people who came into the program without any prior self education almost universally failed. I would say of my class of 80 about 6-7 at most actually were employable. Of those 7 or so I can only think of 2 who came in without any previous 3D experience and one of them had extensive traditional art training before hand so really only one I can think of who had no experience.

      It's a myth that you can learn this stuff in 4 years. The only people who I have seen suc

    • by EnsilZah (575600)

      Nothing to contribute to a game programming team?
      Sure, if by that you mean you won't be the lead programmer on Blizzard's next project.

      I did a year of CS (switched to graphic design), in the first semester I did a basic console-based RPG type game with a map editor (think LORD 2 or Nethack only much smaller in scope).
      In the second semester I picked up a little DirectX and upgraded the graphics, then a little later I made it into an isometric engine and added animation, lighting and stuff like that (Screensh [googlepages.com]

    • 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.

      You're looking at games from a completely ground-up approach. A 2 year curriculum could teach enough ski

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sparton (1358159)

      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.

      Well, unfortunately, your humble opinion is incorrect. I graduated out of the Art Institute as a Game Designer (a year-and-a-half program, but I took an extra quarter) and got a job just over 3 months after I graduated.

      In addition, out of the 30ish people that graduated with me, I know of at least 5 people who also already have jobs, some even landed at the portfolio show our school hosted at the end of their schooling.

      The important thing to keep in mind is that I've had the opportunity of going to a incred

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:01PM (#25522239)

    My first real programming was done for gaming purposes. I wrote a zork-like thing in Apple Pascal on an Apple IIe in high school (yes I know, get off my lawn). And tried to write Cosmic Encounter for the C64. Running out of room is what moved me to buy an Amiga and my first real C compiler, Aztec C. And my first hard drive once I got sick of programming off of floppies. Which I hardware hacked onto the 86 pin expansion port to make it a full 100 pin ZorroII port.

    Anything that gets your butt in the chair and writing code is good. I had no idea what I was getting into when I stared down this path, but it was gaming that was the beginning. And now it's put a roof over my head.

    YMMV of course, but for me it's hardly been a waste of time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by compro01 (777531)

      I think the tag is echoing the sentiment in the summery that a lot of these courses are a waste of time (and money), in that you don't really learn the needed skills in them.

    • I cut my teeth on the vic-20 and c-64. Moved on in high school to pascal on apple ][e's and we did a lot of sophisticated stuff: simple language interpreter, with variables and arithmetic expressions(shunting algo); a process scheduler that ultimately handled queue's of jobs written in our simple language and tried to optimize that scheduling for various criteria. This was all in 1986 as sophomores (likewise, get off *my* lawn). We were all playing and designing games on the side and had a background in it

      • This was all in 1986 as sophomores (likewise, get off *my* lawn).

        Hah! I was a senior in 86. So you get of *my* lawn, kid! =)

        Sorry for the rant.

        Hey, no problem. You've actually just verified a career decision I made some years ago. I have a BSEE but wound up doing programming for a living. I write a lot of low level code in C for embedded systems.

        So I thought, well...since I'm a coder by trade now, why not go back to college and get a degree in Comp Sci? Might make my resume look better. An

  • This is a great trend, but I've been predicting it for years. This growth in specialized software and hardware is making entertainment better and better. Eventually, computer gaming will extend into the physical world, and the user will be able to actively participate. In these "holosuites," you'll be able to virtually live out any fantasy, whether it be a battle, sex, mountain climbing, exploring strange new worlds, historical adventure, you name it.

    Someday, the more advanced ones will be room-sized an
  • Maybe a dream (Score:3, Informative)

    by Statecraftsman (718862) * on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:12PM (#25522307) Homepage
    but this dream at least has fall-back potential. Upon first reading the headline, I thought, "Yeah, game programming is like trying to become a professional sports player. Glamorous and lucrative, yes, but highly unlikely given the # of spots and interested individuals."

    But this is different. In programming, if you can't work on games, you can work on websites or accounting systems, or make pie charts. Not necessarily sexy but they'll pay the bills. A lot more than being a high school coach. The common thread whatever your endeavour is hard work. So sit down and code. If you're lucky, Blizzard'll come calling.
    • by perlchild (582235)

      The fine article also mentions specifically "game related courses" not generic programming classes. The comments from the industry about "entry level positions" makes me think that these are NOT game programming classes at all, since game developer is not an entry level position except if you own the company yourself...

  • 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@NosPaM.hotmail.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.
  • Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kitsunewarlock (971818) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @10:46PM (#25522903) Journal
    As a tabletop designer, I wish someone could change the title of this to "Video Game-Related..." simply so people like myself won't get encouraged by the misleading name. This will probably teach modelling, programming and even marketting...but I doubt game theory will be explored nearly enough...
    • I'm teaching into a course that covers some basics of ludology and narratology, so there are some people out here who're teaching something other than how to make and populate a graphics engine.

      The odd thing is that I'm doing that under the auspices of my university's Education department, not CompSci directly. We're teaching first-year students about cognitive education theory and using Neverwinter Nights as a basis to allow them to start building educational games.

      Rather than making it all about fight

  • I have to ask why anyone good would really want to go into game programming at this point. The era when you could get rich that way is more or less over. The fundamental problems of graphics, game physics, organizing a big world, making the NPCs act reasonably smart, and cramming all this into a painful machine like a PS3 have mostly been solved. Now it's mostly a grunt job. The hours are awful and the pay is low for the skill level required.

    It was kind of cool back when we were first figuring out how

  • Teach them Game-Theory
    hehehe...
  • USC GamePipe (Score:2, Interesting)

    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
  • I'm currently working as a Game Developer using my Flash developement skills to build free + subsciption model RIA games. I was suprised to find that it is a rapidly growing market (my current employer went from 2 to 170 people since 2003), but thinking of it, it makes sense. People often use the computer or computer-like devices for proaktive escapisim more than 90% of the time. Or they're doing mostly pointless stuff that could easyly be automated without the need of someine sitting in front of the screen

  • But there's no such word as "amongst." You can reply with any link you want to try and prove me wrong but sorry. It's not a real world. I can't seem to get the keywords to load on my browser, but I'd love it if there's a "crappygrammar" tag because of the summary.
    • Unless you're speaking something other than American English. It's quite common amongst the many other varieties of the language.
  • List of useless degrees (IMO):

    -Liberal Arts BA
    -Information Technology BS
    -Digital Media BA
    -Game Design BA

    All of these degrees were created for one reason.... to take in people who do not have the ability to do hard math and reading, but are able to pay for a high level education. This is a gold mine for Universities and Colleges all around mainly for two reasons. Reason number one is, because many students who want to avoid hard math will flock to those degrees like flies on doodoo. Mention the word Calculus

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