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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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  • Tell me about it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:40PM (#32034636)

    My university's new "Cannabis Horticulture" degree has quadrupled university enrollment. Who would have thought that offering a degree in something that every teenager enjoys would drastically increase enrollment?

    Not to worry though, George Mason. Within about a year they'll come to the harsh realization that *designing* videogames is a helluva lot different than *playing* videogames. Shortly after your first C++ midterm, your numbers should stabilize a bit.

    On a related note, am I the only one who went into a programming degree realizing that C++ and Java programming are nothing like playing Halo 3? I mean come on, not even on Legendary.

    • Dude, it's all about tightening up those graphics.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 crea

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hatta (162192)

        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 elnyka (803306) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @04:49PM (#32036690) Homepage

          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.

          So what is the plan here then? To churn the video game equivalent of javascript/web designers? Equating video web design with simple game scripting is like equating enterprise computing with dynamic web page programming. A 4-year degree just for that, for designing on top of existing engines? No discussions on how to design one, on understanding what it takes to make a game (both vertically and horizontally programming, architecture and integration)?

          Unless a person is a natural when it comes to understanding programing (efficient programming that is), I highly doubt (based on what I've seen) the average programming student can get that type of understanding without getting closer to the metal. In particular, if this school is banking on being in the DC area and attract the heavy duty simulation market (in the military and medical fields), they need to provide a bit more than just teaching how to program on top of a engine with a scripting language.

      • by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:26PM (#32039986) Homepage

        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.

        Why does it matter how "challenging" a language is? Surely the important features of a language are execution speed, development speed, flexibility, expressiveness, and readability? Deliberately choosing a language because it's challenging is fine if you're doing it as an intellectual exercise, but is a terrible way to start a commercial development project.

        I do think there are underlying problems with this degree, though. Being the game designer is 'the fun bit' of game development. You wave your hand and the entire game world changes. You say 'it shall be so' and teams of peons toil to make it so. However, only a small percentage of game developers get to be designers - in the company I worked in, we had one lead designer and two or three assistant designers working on smaller details, out of a total staff of around 100. I'm sure students would flock to a course in professional surfing, too, if it were offered - and there are probably as many paid positions for surfers as there are for video game designers.

    • Tell you about it? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He's not even kidding. I am a graduate of Full Sail's Game Dev program; alumni of one of the first classes through their BS program (which was one of the first Game Dev BS programs).

      My class started with 80 students and ended with 20. They do find out eventually! (Perhaps $20,000-$40,000 later.)

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Oddly enough normal CS degrees have it worse.

        At my university the average enrollment per semester in CSC 101 was over 200 students.

        The average enrollment in the graduating capstone class? 10.

    • Re:Tell me about it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:01PM (#32035014) Journal

      I was the only one who went in realizing that programming in C++ was nothing like playing Halo 3, and also the only one who came out understanding how games like that are written in C++. (Halo 3 I'm not exactly sure, but Half Life 2 is) Funny how that works.

      It's true, I went into computer programming FOR game design because my city there was nothing close to Game design. However, I know that I'm no artist, so I don't want to get into the whole character creation and animation. I know I want to be working with either DirectX or OpenGL and the Engine code. So really it worked out nicely.

      First semester about half the class also was in it to help do games. Second semester a few people dropped out, the Java lessons killed them. We used Eclipse so I found it easy, but I guess a few people don't like logic puzzles. By the Second year - all of those game programmers except for me and one other had dropped out. They hated Multi-threading and Socket networking. I loved that stuff. The thing that REALLY drove them off, was relational databases. SQL is so easy to learn, I could probably educate half my friends how to use MySQL or Oracle in like 3 one hour sessons, but you won't find it interesting unless you have a use for it. Being big on the MMO scene, I instantly saw how a relational database could be extremely useful in a game like WoW.

      Now I'm out and working in the real world. I won't get hired by EA right out of college though I don't know if I'd want to be. A lot of teenagers dream of getting on board with EA or Microsoft Games, but in reality those bigger companies give the new guys the shit jobs while the senior guys do the fun stuff. I know a guy who graduated from the art College in town with a degree in Animation, and he got hired by EA pretty much instantly. What did he get to do? Trees! He gets to animate trees all day. I don't know if he's still doing that now, haven't talked to him since. They've probably turned him into a zombie.

      Before I had any college experience though, there was an opening at Bioware, before they released Mass Effect - so pretty much just before they got as famous as they are now. I really wanted to apply but they stated they wanted some experience before taking someone on for the position (I believe it was lead level designer). Shucks.

      So now in my spare time I work on a portfolio. I've got a few maps I've created in Hammer for HL2 Deathmatch, some Maps I've done in Unreal for Unreal Tournament. A few flash games to show some of that skill. Working on a game in the Source Engine to show some skills and Idea's I've got floating around. When I'm done, I'll see who wants me for what price. Ideally, I'd like to get in at Lucasarts so they can start making GOOD games again, like I STILL play Xwing vs Tie Fighter... So we'll see how that goes.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by besalope (1186101)

        Before I had any college experience though, there was an opening at Bioware, before they released Mass Effect - so pretty much just before they got as famous as they are now. I really wanted to apply but they stated they wanted some experience before taking someone on for the position (I believe it was lead level designer). Shucks.

        No offense dude, but Bioware was pretty well known long before Mass Effect. Yes Mass Effect got their name out to the console crowd and maybe some of the fringe gamers, but anyone that really enjoyed RPGs with quality story lines knew of Bioware long before Mass Effect.

        Bioware had worked with Black Isle on the Baldur's Gate saga, started the Neverwinter Nights saga, and did Knights of the Old Republic. All long before Mass Effect was likely even thought up.

        • I know. I wouldn't have bothered applying if I didn't know who they were. It's just now they've reached that status where the next thing they produce is going to be golden. People were so hyped about Dragon Age, even though some of them didn't actually like how it was closer to Baldur's Gate than it was to Mass Effect. You know if Bioware announced a new title tomorrow, news sites would be all over it.

          That is the kind of company that'd be fun to work for: Where you can take risks in producing a new game eve

          • by billcopc (196330)

            That is the kind of company that'd be fun to work for: Where you can take risks in producing a new game even if people don't like it, because you know it'll sell decently regardless.

            That has to be the most short-sighted comment I've read all day. It's the other way around: when you know so many eyes are watching your every move, many concessions need to be made to avoid mass backlash. The game industry is fickle, and if Bioware were to release a real stinker, they'd go out of business shortly thereafter.

            What makes Bioware so different from the rest is their reliance on well-written stories and dialogue. How much one adores them is entirely dependent on their definition of "fun". Me

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by silverbax (452214)

        I wish you the best but you are going to almost 100% certainly going to take some crap jobs before you get a good job. Take what you can get, start learning and building your experience.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by uniquegeek (981813)

        "but in reality those bigger companies give the new guys the shit jobs while the senior guys do the fun stuff"

        This happens in any field. The first job might not be what you want. That's why it's your *first* job.

        I think a lot people come out of school expecting they're immediately get some rock star high-paying job in the field they just trained in (because they're so awesome and talented). That rarely happens. Newbies need to put in their time, then with a year or two of experience under their belts, t

        • It just usually happens that because Game development is a field where the leaders are usually in it for the fun of creating games, they aren't going to give up their positions for a better job at another company.

          If you started as a level designer in EA or Microsoft, I don't think you will ever get to lead designer, unless the current lead designer decides to create his own startup. He probably gets paid well enough, has a reasonable amount of job stability (because if it doesn't sell, blame the pirates), a

        • by billcopc (196330)

          The fallacy is that the longer you do one job, theoretically the better you get at doing that one thing. Just because you've been testing games for four years doesn't mean you have any value as a coder or designer. Besides, the great bulk of your learning happens on the job. You don't start out in one field, then cross over as a senior in a different field... no, you start out as a shitty coder, then after a while you ideally become a great coder.

          Crossover is for people who either have ADHD, or have no i

        • by Xelios (822510)
          I wish I could have just gotten 4 years of that newbie experience under my belt instead of spending it on a degree who's only real worth today is to get you that newbie job to begin with. Sure I learned some things doing my CS degree, but most of it could have been learned just as well through on the job experience in less than half the time. A lot of it was completely useless to my chosen career. But hey, that's the way the world works I guess. Shame I didn't know anyone who could score me a job in the fie
          • by elnyka (803306) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @07:17PM (#32038486) Homepage

            I wish I could have just gotten 4 years of that newbie experience under my belt instead of spending it on a degree who's only real worth today is to get you that newbie job to begin with.

            Sorry to hear that, but we get what we put in. The only way to get some expertise under the belt before graduation is by doing internships if possible, or work in computer labs as a second option. And by working in computer labs I don't mean showing students how to eject the CD drive but doing actual administration and setup (and luckily sysadmin programming/scripting.) The other option is to get an AA/AS degree, then get a job (even if only a data entry/report generating one) while doing the remaining junior and senior year at a 4-year college. With that path, it is almost certain to accumulate 1-2 years of programming experience...

            ... but most importantly, it allows to create professional networks.

            Some anecdotal stories for shits and giggles... When I was in community college, I did everything I could to get a "computer" job. I was working at Home Depot at the time (selling floor/tile stuff and driving forklifts). I pestered management to gave me a job at the store data center (where they ran these old mini-computers and stuff.) Management tried, but there was never an opening. Later I got a part-time job at the comm.college computer lab, setting up software while tutoring and assisting teaching intro-to-micro courses, Pascal, Assembly, C and DBase. First connection was my Pascal professor with whom I got another part-time job doing Visual Basic programming... now I'm programming while getting paid!!!!

            Next connection came from another professor with whom I was taking Delphi and Expert Systems programming. Through his class I get to meet a senior developer at one large insurance firm in my city (one of the largest in the country at the time). When I got my AA, he took me under his wing and got a job developing applications with FoxPro (we were doing the transition from procedural to object-oriented programming back then.) I did that while doing my junior and senior year in CS. On my last year, through another connection, I got a part-time job at the computer science department, doing Unix administration. I left my full-time FoxPro job to concentrate on the last 6 months of my senior year while working on that Unix admin job.

            I graduated with my BS degree (and 3 years of programming experience already). Through another connection I made with school and work, I got a research job at a research center (distributed systems, formal methods and security were the focus of research). So as I'm plowing my way through the MS program and doing a lot of really good shit in C and C++, network protocol programming, distributed systems and the like, we started working with Java and CORBA...

            and alas, through yet, another connection with the research center, I met a group of developers funding a start-up company that was heavy on Java and CORBA. Off I went to my full-time Java development job. 3 years of programming experience and 2 years of research with immediate industrial application sponsored by people doing that for a living. Just a year and a half after graduating with a BS degree and right in the middle of my masters.

            After that job, I've had many others, many of them thank exactly for the type of research I did (performance evaluation of distributed authentication systems to be precise.) From SQL and relational database theory to software engineering to network programing to algorithm/complexity theory, each had helped me in a real way in the real world.

            My advice to people studying CS - work on your connections and pursue internships/college lab jobs. Many of my friends from college got really sweet jobs right off the bat because they did internships. We get from college what we put in.

            Sure I learned some things doing my CS degree, but most of it could have been learned just as well

      • by Joe Snipe (224958)

        Sounds cool, do you have a website showing off your skills?

        • Hopefully by the end of July. Gotta move into a place that allows a business line so that my ISP doesn't block port 80.

      • a bunch of maps put together in your free time, no matter how awesome, are not likely going to do well against another applicant who has paid experience. "Look at this cool map I made for X game" is not nearly as eye catching on a resume as "Worked on X game, Y game, Z game...." even minor jobs look better when you have been paid for it.

        go out, take the shit jobs, and earn your way in with a few titles under your belt... not hobby crafts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      ...am I the only one who went into a programming degree realizing that C++ and Java programming are nothing like playing Halo 3? I mean come on, not even on Legendary.

      Clearly you're not using vi to do your C++ and Java coding.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Sadistic bastards. Vi was the required development environment in some of my classes at university.

        Did I hit i or not?
        Even if I did, did the ssh program register it and transmit it to the server or not?
        The answer to this question determines if I am about to delete my file or type in a function name.
        Do I feel lucky?
        Well?
        Do I?
        Punk?

    • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:44PM (#32035696)

      My brother attended Full Sail in Florida and he enrolled in the Game Design and Development degree. Allot of people enrolled thinking they were going to make the next great game only to face a harsh reality. Game Design and Development does not mean you are going to sit there and dictate to a bunch of programmers what kind of game you want. Rather, you are going to learn how to program a game and how its design will influence your programming. MAny failed out or dropped out one they realized thery were in a grueling programming degree.

      After their second or third round of failings and drop outs the degree was renamed to to Game Development. That helped curb the starry eyed teens from thinking they are going to attend the course and become the next Sid Meier or Peter Molyneux. And those two were programmers first, they gained popularity as game developers after they worked hard programming a great game.

      • Game Design and Development does not mean you are going to sit there and dictate to a bunch of programmers what kind of game you want. Rather, you are going to learn how to program a game and how its design will influence your programming.

        Oh God yes. Mod up for +1 Truthfulness.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by OldSoldier (168889)

      In a way this supports a belief I've had for a while. Specifically, people can only aspire to become something that they know about. And they only know about things they see in the media (or immediate family). What's discussed in the media? Sports stars, singers/musicians, actors, doctors and lawyers (tv dramas), politicians, wall street traders, and of course video games hence video game programmers.

      Kids in the 70s had the space program to inspire them and the uptick in engineering/science degrees seemed t

  • by tool462 (677306) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:42PM (#32034684)

    The job market will be flooded with applicants in a few years. If you're going to college soon and want a job afterward, for love of god, pick a different path. It'll be just like CS was in the early 00's.

    Or follow your dreams, or whatever. You can always work at Starbucks after you graduate.

    • by castironpigeon (1056188) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:48PM (#32034804)
      Between applications from recent grads that can't find jobs, ex-grads currently working at Starbucks, and those folks laid off to increase CEO paychecks, EVERY job market is already flooded. Might as well do something you enjoy for 4 years. You're going to be fucked after that no matter what field you go into.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClosedSource (238333)

        Or perhaps start working at Starbucks now and skip wasting your money on college.

        It's funny that we've promoted college for so long that we forget that its economic value isn't infinite. If a degree doesn't open doors for a career it becomes a luxury some people can't afford.

      • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:12PM (#32035158)

        Between applications from recent grads that can't find jobs, ex-grads currently working at Starbucks, and those folks laid off to increase CEO paychecks, EVERY job market is already flooded. Might as well do something you enjoy for 4 years. You're going to be fucked after that no matter what field you go into.

        Yes, and this way you get to carry around a large non-dischargeable debt to remind you of all the good times!

      • You're going to be fucked after

        What if that's precisely what you enjoy?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tool462 (677306)

        The job market is flooded right NOW. What new college students forget is to think about the job market when they graduate. Fresh out of school, you have no experience to make you stand out from the rest of the applicants. Your GPA and any relevant projects/research will be all a potential employer has to base their decision on. To get a job in that kind of market you can't just be good, you have to be the best (or the best interviewee at least). So before you get a degree in game design because you:
        - L

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by badboy_tw2002 (524611)

          > After my first year in the program, I never saw that in my Physics classes.

          Wait, so you're saying someone actually became a physics major because "there's money in physics"? :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by billcopc (196330)

          Many seemed to be there because "they liked computers" and/or "there's money in computers"

          The first type is salvageable, but the 2nd type should be shot on sight. Going into a career path because "there's money there" is a great way to become terrible at whatever it is you chose to do. The greatest workers are those who truly enjoy what they do, and thrive on the challenge of always pushing farther. If your only goal in life is to amass imaginary currency, that belief system can only carry you so far...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DrFalkyn (102068)

        Between applications from recent grads that can't find jobs, ex-grads currently working at Starbucks, and those folks laid off to increase CEO paychecks, EVERY job market is already flooded. Might as well do something you enjoy for 4 years. You're going to be fucked after that no matter what field you go into.

        Actually no, they need tons of doctors and nurses.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      You're assuming all these students will stick through it. Lots of people daydream about designing games while going through some quick Halo matches. The reality is much different.

      You may see a slight increase, but for the most part these people will drop out when they realize there's *gasp* work involved.
    • Or specialise. Get into serious games. It may be a bit less glamorous than doing big ticket games for entertainment, but serious gaming is about to hit mainstream business in a big way, and there are precious few people who understand them. It is not just the game environment itself that is different; serious games have different technical, architectural, organisational and "soft skills" challenges and requirements as well.

      As with anyone getting an IT-related degree, I'd advise people who take this co
  • This is clearly a result of the scouts merit badge for computer gaming.
  • If the people are interested, and have the ability to create video games, they may find doing a normal computer science degree much much more rewarding. If you major in computer science, you then have the ability to produce video games, but you also have the rest of the software world to look for potenial jobs. I would most likely discourage a friend looking into this for those reasons. You may not have super video game specifics, but you have more than the foundation to get there.

    • I think your advice is on track for those that sorta-wanna go into video game development, but not for those that have to.

      As with any art or entertainment, if you have a back-up plan you'll probably back-up.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Which is immediately what surprised me. Why have a degree in such a narrow field? I could see a community college offering diplomas in a narrow field such as this, but I wouldn't expect a university to have a degree on something so focused. Seems to me like it could work from a marketing perspective to get students in initially, but that a lot would drop out. You would probably be better off going for a computer science degree and focusing your electives on courses that would help with video game design
    • I find its all dependant on what exactly you want to be doing. When you look at the broad scheme of things, it basically boils down to this:

      1) Do you want to be defining the gameplay?
      This is where a CS degree is great. You learn about events, networking, and all about programming so its easy to pick up a tutorial on the subject and get rolling. There's tons of books in stores, and lessons online that deal with creating gameplay, learning DirectX, and modifying current architecture. All will be useful if you

    • by billcopc (196330)

      What I don't understand is: how can a school teach game design and development, if they're not themselves a game shop ? The old adage "Those who can't do, teach" seems sharply applicable here. I know my own college experience consisted mostly of telling teachers they were wrong, publishing errata for their courseware, and watching utterly dry minds try to not laugh as they strung us along for our tuition money. We had a DOS prof who was a former used car salesman, a Windows prof who read his slides off a

  • won't take long... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb (452530) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <blameme>> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:45PM (#32034758) Homepage Journal

    for these kids to realize that the "glamorous" lifestyle of the video game designer is a lie. More like death marches galore, low pay, and shady companies.

    Research this stuff first kids!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zero_out (1705074)
      I studied CS with concentrations in AI and HCI, specifically to do game development. After a couple of years of beta testing games, I came to realize that I wanted to have a family, and working on a game for 4 years, with a 6-12 month crunch period entailing 80 hour work weeks, I decided that the two were not compatible. At least, the career path wasn't compatible with the kind of husband/father I wanted to be. Thankfully, I loved programming. Unfortunately, I hate documentation (Requirements, design, t
    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:09PM (#32035122) Journal

      Yeah, everyone told me to stay away from Computer science lest I become a zombie at a cubicle staring at code all day.

      But I did some research, and I know one day I want to be just like Steve Ballmer.

      One day, I'LL be the one sweating on stage shouting developers over and over until people give in and start clapping. Who doesn't dream of a life like that?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jedi Alec (258881)

      for these kids to realize that the "glamorous" lifestyle of the video game designer is a lie. More like death marches galore, low pay, and shady companies.

      Does it have to be? With the internet as the infinitely powerful distribution mechanism, the big distributors pissing everyone off with their DRM, the market for small indie games is bound to get bigger. Sure, the failures will fail, but there's plenty of room for those willing to go the distance to create games, put them out there and make enough of a pr

    • by billcopc (196330)

      And that is different from non-game offices how ?

  • I don't know how it works in the US, as we have free education here in Finland. But the downside is that any given program has a certain number of people admitted per year, so enrollment is based on test results.

    Are there no limits in the US? I mean, if they have 500% of the people they thought they would that's gonna be a bit of a pickle?

    Just being curious here. :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by timothy (36799) * Works for Slashdot

      There are trade-offs; colleges don't want to pay for more faculty / facilities than they believe they'll have the enrollment to support (and therefore justify), but when there's huge demand, they'll try to adapt to it.

      Like anything else in which there's even a partial free market :) Milk, yoga lessons, vacations to Brazil ...

      GMU, btw, is a state school (biggest university by enrollment in the state of Virginia), which means it's fairly cheap for people from Virginia, and cheaper than typical private college

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by painandgreed (692585)

      Are there no limits in the US? I mean, if they have 500% of the people they thought they would that's gonna be a bit of a pickle?

      Colleges and universities can usually only take in so many people and will judge who gets in on various criteria. Test scores are a major one. Another is that if the school gets state funds, then they must give priorities to state residents. Letter of recommendation and other factors may play into things. Legacies where the students parent is alumni also matter. Still they can onl

  • "What? You mean making videogames involves numbers? WHAT THE FUuuuuuuuuu..."

    Hilarious, and it happens every time.

    I feel sorry for the poor souls who'll have gone through four years of expensive 'education' to find that they really ought to have spent their time creating a decent series of demo games and applications instead. Oh well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Em Emalb (452530)

      to be fair, it's really only two numbers. ;-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        And this is why I love coming here. Do you realize how tiny a percentage of the world's population would get that joke? If /. were a country, I would be packing my bags and filling out my immigration papers to get there right now.
      • I thought there were only 10 numbers.

  • by Pro777 (90089) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:50PM (#32034828)

    I'm disappointed to see an institution with as good a reputation as GMU creating what is ostensibly a vocational training program. Programs such as this prepare students for one and only one role in a specialized industry, instead of preparing them with a more well rounded education. Mores the pity too. I guess GMU wants to compete head to head with schools that advertise on G4.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ClosedSource (238333)

      I couldn't have said it better if I read it off the university brochure.

      Perhaps this "well rounded education" idea started back in the days when the wealthy young gentlemen who exclusively attended college had little knowledge of the real world since all of their basic needs were met by servants.

      Or perhaps I'm just full of shit.

    • 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.
    • GMU has always (since at least 1981, when I entered GMU) existed primarily to turn out defense contractor employees, not people who would benefit society. Even the Slashdot summary alludes to this. That's why I'm striving to give my children the true education I never received.
  • by fluffy99 (870997) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:51PM (#32034858)

    There can't possibly be that many job openings in this field. This is about as silly as Unv Florida cranking out tons of degrees in marine biology when the reality is that there are less than 1000 of these specialty jobs in the US.

    • by Conchobair (1648793) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:56PM (#32034952)
      This post made me think of Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. He has a PhD in Marine Science from the University of Texas at Austin.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        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 opportunitie

        • by cowscows (103644)

          That's one of the coolest things about the various software industries, if you're willing to work at it, it's very straightforward to start a project or contribute to a project and start building a portfolio. The barrier to entry is really low now that computers are everywhere and the internet makes distribution so easy. You can actually make something from start to finish, and a potential employer can download it and really put it through its paces if they want to see what you've done. That's not nearly as

    • That's not true. The gaming industry is in high demand for these future grads that will help them tighten up the graphics on level 3.

  • by sonnejw0 (1114901) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:52PM (#32034868)
    I know a ton of people that would love to think they're getting an education by being taught "video game design". Just because they've taken a few tests doesn't mean they can create a good video game, and no employer is going to take a degree in the place of experience and results to show for it.

    If you owned a video game studio, who would you publish? Some guy who sat on his ass and got a degree in "video game design" from some no-name school? Or some guy that programmed and released for free an innovative game over the internet? I'd take the guy that has results. The degree is not going to help you, showing an employer you know what you're doing through a tangible product will get you hired. Bring a disc or web address to an interview, not a piece of paper.
    • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:06PM (#32035072)

      Because you can't both be taking classes for this degree program and do video game design and programming on the side?

      • by sonnejw0 (1114901)
        The real question you should have used as a rebuttal: does the GMU "video game designer" program give its students the opportunity to CREATE a RESULT that they can use to get hired? If so, golly. If not, it's a waste of time.

        Education is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Just because you get a degree does not entitle you to the wonderful career of designing a video game for 60 hours a week while being paid peanuts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Fallon (33975)
      And actually writing a small game, or really nicely implemented mod/addon/map/level/etc. for an existing game is probably included as a senior project, if not earlier. I'd highly doubt your coming out of that degree with nothing that could be used as some kind of portfolio.

      Most software/electrical/mechanical 4 year degrees from a good school will have a senior project you can use for a portfolio piece to prove your basic competence when you graduate.

      What degree you have (in the IT world at least) matters ve
    • by zero_out (1705074)

      Who's to say that they can't do both? Really, this goes for any degree you get. The school is just the framework around which you build an education. You can go to a really good school, and learn very little, or go to a very poor school, and learn a lot. You get out of it what you put in. The education is just the framework around which you build experience. You can get a really good education, and not turn it into anything useful, or get a very poor education, and become very successful via raw exper

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ClosedSource (238333)

      With the possible exception of casual games; the game designer, programmer, and artist are likely to be different people. So I wouldn't be looking to hire someone with all of those skills, but instead, the best people I could find in each category.

    • by dbet (1607261)

      If you owned a video game studio, who would you publish? Some guy who sat on his ass and got a degree in "video game design" from some no-name school? Or some guy that programmed and released for free an innovative game over the internet? I'd take the guy that has results.

      Uh, perhaps the time spent in the course gives you some skills to make your own video game which you can use to impress people. It's not like you're just paying for a note from your teacher after 4 years of doing nothing.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      The degree is not going to help you, showing an employer you know what you're doing through a tangible product will get you hired.

      I wonder if the degree (or at least the courses that lead to the degree) could help you gain those skills?

      Nah, people are either born knowing how to program or they're not. No one has ever matriculated from a university with more ability to program than they had when they first enrolled.

  • I have a feeling that producing 200 new game designers per year will vastly outstrip any conceivable demand. I hope these kids get enough of a grounding in general software engineering to be able to find decent jobs elsewhere when the bulk of them get turned down for the relatively small number of openings.

    • That's the problem though. Why would a prospective employer not in the gaming field take a video game design major over a CS major, all things being equal?
    • by migla (1099771)

      ...alternatively, that they are happy learning stuff for its own sake and not expecting to get high paying jobs related to their studies.

  • 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.

  • Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ErichTheRed (39327) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:57PM (#32034964)

    Is anyone getting flashbacks of that Westwood College advertisement where the two losers are "working" at a video game production house, and explain to their boss that they need to "tighten up the graphics on Level 3?" (They've taken down the copy on YouTube, otherwise I'd post a link.)

    I wonder if this is going to be similar to what happened in the late 90s in the field of systems administration. During the dotcom run-up, salaries went pretty high for anyone who had even the slightest clue about computers. TONS of places were pumping out certified but unqualified network and systems admins, and we're still dealing with a lot of them now. Now given that this is an actual college, and they get a real degree out of the deal, it might not be as bad. And I'm sure the video game houses appreciate at least a minimal amount of training. From what I've heard, there are legions and legions of folks who don't mind the low pay and 100 hour work weeks just so they can say they design video games for a living. Providing a games publisher with a steady stream of newbies who are qualified beyond, "I like video games and want to be involved in "the business." (Replace video games with computers, and you get what happened during the dotcom boom.

  • Have there not already been two articles on slashdot about how game developers are forced to work 14 hour days, six days a week? Also, isn't that stuff all being offshored, or given to guest workers?

    • Have there not already been two articles on slashdot about how game developers are forced to work 14 hour days, six days a week? Also, isn't that stuff all being offshored, or given to guest workers?

      There have been several. Game programmers get treated like crap because almost everyone with computer skills would rather be working on Epic Warfare 5 than Generic_Financial_Database. As a result, there's a real over-supply of talent, more so than other fields. Hollywood has the same problem with writers and actors/actresses. In the absence of SAG/WGA rules, the sheer weight of the fanfic writers and "was in a play in high school" actors willing to work for peanuts for a shot at becoming the next JJ Abr

      • by 2megs (8751)

        There's an oversupply of people who want to work in the game industry, but certainly not an oversupply of talent. Building a big-budget game has all the complexities of a large-scale development (my last project had over a million lines of code and 300+ GB of assets), with all the limitations of small-scale low-level embedded systems development (got to fit that all into your console). People who can handle that are rare. I've been involved in hiring at my last few jobs, and we'd routinely turn away piles o

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 wit

  • That's a lightweight curriculum. It looks like a rehash of a theater arts course. And not a good one, like UCLA Film School. It's not technical at all. Nor does it include intensive art training. The people who come out of it won't be able to either program or do game artwork.

    They don't even cover issues like playability, the psychology of reward systems, the social dynamics of multiplayer games, in-game economics, the management of game projects, or the economics of the industry.

    There's no math at

    • That's a lightweight curriculum. It looks like a rehash of a theater arts course. And not a good one, like UCLA Film School. It's not technical at all. Nor does it include intensive art training. The people who come out of it won't be able to either program or do game artwork.

      They don't even cover issues like playability, the psychology of reward systems, the social dynamics of multiplayer games, in-game economics, the management of game projects, or the economics of the industry.

      There's no math at all. (We

  • There was a post on /. a while ago called "A Master's In CS or a Master's In Game Programming?"

    John Carmack had an interesting comment on the subject here: http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=207072&cid=16891904 [slashdot.org]

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