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Students Flock To GMU For a Degree In Video Game Design 225

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

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  • Re:Tell me about it (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:55PM (#32034924)

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

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

  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:56PM (#32034946)

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

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

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

  • Re:Tell me about it (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:08PM (#32035102)
    Halo 3 I'm not exactly sure, but Half Life 2 is

    I've worked on half a dozen different types of game. All of them were written in C++. I'd be amazed if Halo 3 wasn't.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:10PM (#32035138)
    I had a friend who used to work at EA who said he would rather walk the Bataan Death March than to go back. I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking.
  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:14PM (#32035178) Journal

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

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

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

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

  • Re:Tell me about it (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:19PM (#32035270)

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

  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:21PM (#32035308)
  • Re:Tell me about it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:30PM (#32035460) Journal

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:50PM (#32035778)

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

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

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

  • Re:No limits? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:52PM (#32035818)

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

  • Re:Tell me about it (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @04:00PM (#32035936)

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

  • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @04:14PM (#32036116)

    I dunno, I've been a game programmer for going on ten years now for a few different companies, some big, some small. I wouldn't say the programming is the "most difficult" kind - it really varies depending on the task. Writing UI for a game isn't much more difficult than your average VB program or flash game depending on the UI package. Graphics/Physics are lots of math and you do need to be really smart to figure out the optimal ways of doing things to get acceptable performance, but lots of fields have optimization in them (think guidance programs, embedded programs, etc).

    I will say that having had a limited professional career prior to doing games I much prefer what I do now. A lot of times the programming is "fun" in that you're generally working on unique problems that not too many people have tackled before. I've done online interaction, AI, sound programming, tools development, physics, graphics, etc. most of which doesn't come up in the seemlingly endless amounts of "read some values in from the web and put them in a DB" type work there is.

    There are definitely tradeoffs with other software jobs in terms of inflexible deadlines, publisher demands and all the rest of the headaches we deal with. I can tell you though that when I was 22 and working for a tiny company building my first published title you couldn't pull me away from my desk. The industry thrives and maybe takes advantage of that behavior, of course, but if you stick it out long enough the hours improve, I assure you. (Or you can choose to work somewhere where the hours are better). That said, its not for everyone, so getting a degree focused on games might not be the best idea unless you're sure of what you want to do. Also college won't be as fun as a normal school. (Totally subjective observation knowing lots of Full Sail/Art school type grads and regular four year CS grads).

  • Re:Tell me about it (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @04:45PM (#32036620)

    I went to one of those schools in Phoenix Arizona to study Illustration. We have about ten times as many people studying game design. Very few made it past the second semester. It's a figurative 'cash crop' for universities looking to get free money.

    Sadly, there were people who made it 3 to 4 years and finished with a BA in Game Design. These people ended up between 30,000 to 60,000 in debt for this degree. Lots of money for the college. Degree is worth less than a fine arts degree. Sad for everyone involved.

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