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What Are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Game Schools? 123

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

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  • Advantage: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:54PM (#20556293) Homepage Journal
    You learn how to tighten up those graphics! [joystiq.com]
  • Do you want to be a game programmer? Are you fucking insane?

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

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

    You won't find Digipen grads running game companies. You'll find them slaving away for lousy managers and corrupt bosses. Get a business degree and hire a bunch of coders to write your game. Hell, pitch in whenever you have the chance. Whatever
    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:11PM (#20556733)

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

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

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

      • A random idea and a sack of money will get you a lot further than the people with great ideas lots of experience and no money. And I'm not saying this to be flippant, they are called executives and in large part they are running the industry.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

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

      • by pla ( 258480 )
        Yes, because being a business grad with a sack of money makes you a qualified game designer?

        No, it makes him "The Boss".

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

        Want a regular paycheck, instead? Get whatever paper Boss most values, and expect the occasional BS in your job. Careful selection of Boss should minimize that, some even have a clue.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Applekid ( 993327 )
        It's worth mentioning that great games can and do come out by hobbyists and amateurs all the time, many of which may not have graduated from any dedicated game school. Game development "school" is just a cherry-picking of relevant topics that might wind up as part of a general math-heavy CS degree... granted the skills you need for writing games are learned relatively early in that academic path while the skills you need for designing/balancing games are also learned relatively easy along higher mathematics
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

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

          Yes, great games

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

            I mean, imagine if all those unworthy Tetris and Pac Man clones found their way onto the retail shelf? *shudder* :)
          • by cgenman ( 325138 )
            >>My experience in the industry is such that I know the quality of the education is minimal at best, and it certainly doesn't give you the depth necessary for your skills to be relevant in even 6 months.

            Agreed. I've seen developers come from the "best" game schools, only to realize just how little of practical value they actually learned. I'd much rather take a classically trained artist / programmer who had two years of experience in the field than one with a BS and two years at an additional game
      • I feel sorry for the coders you hire who have to implement your idiotic ideas - designing a game is an art/science that takes dedication and real experience, not just a random idea and a sack of money. It's like a wealthy financier trying to become a world-renowned filmmaker just because he has the money to hire a camera crew.

        You mean like Howard Hughes [wikipedia.org]?

      • ...designing a game is an art/science that takes dedication and real experience, not just a random idea and a sack of money.
        So you disapprove of Carmack and his rockets?
      • Which would you rather be, the idiot manager, or the coder working for him?
        • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )
          Neither. You present that as a binary choice when it really is not. Or both, if you work for yourself :D
      • It's like a wealthy financier trying to become a world-renowned filmmaker just because he has the money to hire a camera crew.

        Um.... you mean like Howard Hughes? I guess he was pretty good at it after all. [imdb.com]
    • by JNighthawk ( 769575 ) <NihirNighthawk@NoSpaM.aol.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:36PM (#20557287)
      Wee! Bad Analogy Guy, indeed!

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

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

      Whatever you do, don't listen to the above idiot. Do what you love.
      • by Surt ( 22457 )
        Ok, please talk to us after you've crunched. How long have you been there? Have you shipped a title yet? You probably won't be able to get a better job if you don't ship a title.
        I think everyone understands that there are good times in the game business. It's just that they don't make up for the bad in the medium run.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          I work in the industry. The company I work for has released two titles while I've been here and I worked on one of them. I've done crunch mode. It wasn't the greatest thing, but it wasn't any worse than cramming for finals in college. With this job I was able to buy a new house, a new car, etc., etc., so the pay isn't bad either. Most the time it's 40 hrs/week except during crunch times, which doesn't last longer than a couple of weeks. We were also given healthy bonuses for any over time work we did.
          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
            The thing you should bear in mind in business it is supply and demand. Game coding schools will tend to flood the industry with a lot of hungry cheap, luckily for inexperienced coders. Your lucky for you they are inexperienced because that means you will draw a few more regular pay checks while you train them, after that of course comes the discounting.

            The gaming market seems to be fairly stable at the moment, in terms of the number and quality of games suit the size of the market, I really don't see the

        • I've been in the game industry 10 years, and have shipped nearly as many titles. I've crunched to some degree at previous jobs, yes, but in general, the industry is starting to grow up. More and more game development houses are starting to recognize that its best for the bottom line to avoid insane crunches, because experienced programmers, artists, and designers are pretty valuable assets. I'm currently working for a company that develops a popular MMO (not the MOST popular one, in case you're wondering
      • There are some joke schools and then there are real schools. Digipen CAN burn you out, but in that direction it is no different than MIT, Cornell, etcetera.

        I find that CS majors at other schools tend to have spent very little time programming relative to what was (is) done at Digipen.
        • by sholden ( 12227 )
          Since programming is such a minor part of CS that's not surprising.
          • Very well said.

            How come I never have mod points when I need 'em.?
          • Well, the point of the schools were not to become Computer Science grads in the traditional sense - if you mean that the mathematics of it all trumps everything - the degree is in Real Time Interactive Simulation (I know, long name) but there you were given much MORE math than a typical CS degree.

            But that is besides the point - if you want to learn how to programs games - sometimes the best way is to sit down and do it - that way you encounter problems to fix, etcetera that all the theory in the world would
            • by sholden ( 12227 )
              Yes, I didn't say it was a bad thing.

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

              If you want to do games programming then large chunks of CS are irrelevant. Large chunks of CS are also relevant and I'm sure you'll do a lot of work on them - probably more than a more generic CS course.
    • Yup, I wanted to be a game developer. Yup, plenty of people consider me to be at least partly insane, though that was the case long before I got the idea to be a game developer. In any event, insane beats stupid and reactionary.

      If you want to make games, you can generally count on long hours, especially if you end up in a smaller company. You do overrate the threat of unemployment however. As for lousy managers and corrupt owners, do you really think things are that much better in other fields? Anyway,
    • by vimh42 ( 981236 )
      "Whatever you do, don't waste your time trying to be a game developer." To be perfectly honest, if I could I would hit you over the head for being an for being a complete troll. If somebody wants be a game developer, I fully support them. Go for it! There are of course potential pitfalls, but that's true with any vocation.
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @06:40PM (#20563055) Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by TheDreadSlashdotterD ( 966361 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:56PM (#20556347) Homepage
    Advantage: You prove you're an idiot without having to say a word.

    Disadvantage: No one in their right mind will ever hire you.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:57PM (#20556361) Journal
    Game development programmes aren't really treated all that seriously by any of the developers I've worked for. It might help in addition to a degree in a related field but, real world experience will serve you a lot better.
    • Which is really odd considering if you are a top notch graphic coder or network coder you are ought to know more than just one thing or two. Game development is hardly the easiest field a programmer can go into.
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
      Here in Austin, the local community college has a program that is growing. They have buy-in (and at some level participation) from many of the local houses. The classes are taught by people who's day job is game development. The instructors have such a passion for what they do that they want to share that passion. I think they have taken the right approach to building a program.

      Some of the names on the advisory board are names that anyone in the industry would know. And many of them are available to th
  • Get a batchellors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:57PM (#20556367) Journal
    Get a 4-year degree with a piece of paper. It really does mean something, even if you go on to do nothing with it. For example, if you want in to a game school, get a degree in CS or math or something halfway relevant and then do it.

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

    In short, an accredited piece of paper means a lot, and not just in your field. Go for it!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by langelgjm ( 860756 )

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

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

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

        and Firefox doesn't point out spelling errors in text boxes, for some reason.
        • It doesn't by default. But you can change that.

          1. type this in the browser address bar "about:config"
          2. look for "layout.spellcheckDefault"
          3. change the value to "2
          4. restart firefox
          • rock. Thanks man. But now I get it watch to bitch at me when it sees my user names aren't in the dictionary, don't I? :)

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

      This is especially true of a bachelor's degree in English, which should enable you to spell bachelor correctly.
      • obviously I didn't take English as an elective :)

        I took theater, philosophy and psychology, and then engineering electives. (Damn. Firefox highlighted three words in the last sentence :P)
    • One thing worth pointing out is that a university degree does carry more weight under most work visa programs. This may not matter if you have no intention of working over seas. But if your not an American, getting into the US is much easier if you have a proper university degree. Last time I checked, it was something like University + 3 years work experience vs 12 years work experience without University.

  • Fresh air. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:58PM (#20556393)
    FTB: I've literally heard that out of the mouths of art school faculty: Go get your bachelor's degree at a traditional university, then come back and apply to art school after you've learned a little more about the world.

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

    I've got a near-16 year old nephew who seems to think that he can skirt around the parameters of traditional education and still come out on top working in the gaming field. I can't blame him though... I also have a brother who doesn't seem to know that there is a not-so fine line between being a genius and being a little smarter then most kids of the same age but being a lazy unmotivated slob. He's all too convinced that things will fall together when they need to. If only he knew that these things needed to start to fall together a few years ago.
    • I had your brother's mentality. Now I'm 24 and struggling through a traditional college because I eventually realized that despite seeing myself as really smart, doing it my own way wasn't working. Now, I've ingrained myself with a horrible work ethic which I struggle with daily. I wish someone had knocked more sense into me as a teenager, but now I reap the 'rewards' of my 'being a lazy unmotivated slob'.
      • Actually, it's my nephew. I bring my brother up as his father. But I know where you're coming from and so should my brother as he did the same thing too. But again, he's into this thing where he thinks his son is going to flourish in his own place and time. It just doesn't happen from what I've seen, at least not without having some great talent.

        Too many parents like to think of their kids as little Einsteins. It's too bad really, the sooner a parent sees that his kid is going to have to struggle just like
  • instead of 85% of your college buddies being addicted to WoW, it will be more like 99%!
  • Con: They're an obvious attempt to get money from that demographic distinguished by having considerably more disposable income than most.

    Pro: Open your own such school to cash in on the phenomenon.
    • This is EXACTLY the case. You get people who don't know anything about gaming teaching how to make games. You get no solid foundation in any aspect of creating a game, just generalizations. The only advantage to game schools is the cash they bring in for the phonies operating them. I've known people who have gone to these schools and nothing great has come out of it for them. They end up going back to the hard stuff and the basics. (math, CS, strict 3D modeling/art) And if they were so great, why all th
  • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:10PM (#20556695)
    I would figure out what happens if you don't want to program games anymore. Will it help you in anything else you want to do? If you have a CS degree (as an example) and don't want to do CS related things, the CS degree still shows that you have skills in logic/math/theories/etc. and can easily be used in other places.
  • Pay is roughly 1/2 to 2/3rds of what it would be in an easier 'corporate' job with shorter hours.
    Game degree won't help you get another type of job, while the converse isn't true for a regular degree - regular degree is just more flexible, you can do either if at some point in the future you change your mind about your life priorities (often happens, marriage, children, or just plain age...).

    Not saying it's a deal breaker, just saying it's a real consideration.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:20PM (#20556953) Journal
    Look, most people who want to code games are gamers. They're young, have little motivation to learn hard topics (by hard I mean solid, such as advanced math and sciences, not necessarily difficult). Heck, many have little motiviation to do anything but play games. They're good at them, and think they can do a better job. They are also enticed by shortcuts. I have bad news for those people:

    There are no reliable shortcuts in life.

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

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

    • You do realize displays of improper probability examples will invalidate your entire post right?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "There are no reliable shortcuts in life."

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

      For instance: Live with your parents longer then your peers gives, and having the goal of dating during your 20's save
      • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
        And that has what exactly to do with becoming a game designer?

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

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

        Other people might just want to write games.

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

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

      Gamers tend to have obse
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by Overzeetop ( 214511 )
        You've mixed up the correlation. I didn't say that most gamers want to code games, I said most people drawn to code games are gamers. When you're young and don't have to pay bills you want to do what yo udo for fun. I'm saying that many gamers don't realize that the reality is more than being good at games.
        • Look, most people who want to code games are gamers. They're young, have little motivation to learn hard topics (by hard I mean solid, such as advanced math and sciences, not necessarily difficult). Heck, many have little motivation to do anything but play games.

          The correlation you implied was that gamers are lazy. Not that lazy people game but that gamers want to code games and they are lazy. My rebuttal was that the entire graduating class and 2 entire generation are gamers so it's difficult to say we're
          • Thing is, you don't really fit the mold - you went to college. The OP wants to shortcut around college.

            That said, it looks like there's a mod out there who disagrees with me, too, having modded down all three comments. Sore loser, I suspect.
      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
        I'm not a gamer, but am still a rabid programmer (though programming is just a puzzle game too ;)). I'm guessing there could be some correlation here. Game programmers aren't paid very well compared to other programmers, especially considering the work hours and conditions. So you may need to be pretty obsessive about gaming to put up with that for a long time.
  • Hell, I went to public *regular* school, and I'm still trying to figure out what the advantages of *that* were.
  • I attend UCF, about 5 miles up the road. We're one of the biggest universities in the country, so we really dwarf Full Sail, but the proximity affords us a nice bunch of gamers to pick on for the local LAN centers. "Stick to making these things," is effective trash-talk.

  • If your development house of choice wouldn't hire you sans "degree" from one of these places, they're not likely to hire you with one either. Most of these places are to games what the "Guitar Institute of Technology" is to music.
  • by moore.dustin ( 942289 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:37PM (#20557305) Homepage
    Allow me to preface this by saying that some people who are motivated can go to these schools, absorb the knowledge around, and end up doing very well. These people work hard and get the most out of the school they are paying for.

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

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

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

    Color me a troll, but these students were lazy and had no ambition to actually do or learn anything. They were generally delusional about what working in the game industry entailed and the staff at the school did little to educate them.
    • Why in gods name would you have gaming capable PCs/consoles around campus? That is like a bloody Siren song. Sure its a good way to weed out the weak willed but still?
    • I don't disagree, but what's the difference between lazy/delusional kids at a tech school and all the lazy/delusional kids going to a regular university because they've had it drilled into them to "just get a degree, ANY degree, if you want a decent job"?
  • This is a slightly off-topic response, but relevant to the commentary I've read so far:

    When I was 14, I wanted to be a game developer. This was 15 years ago during the 8-bit/16-bit era where things were much more simple. I'd written a few sprite-based proof-of-concept "games" and it was fun. I didn't bank my future on it though. I'd say that there is/was some value in what I DID learn on my own to get where I am now. I don't think that these diplomma mills who are cashing in on unwitting youths is a he
  • by CMF Risk ( 833574 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:50PM (#20557587)
    Being someone who's actually gone to a "game school" http://www.artinstitutes.edu/sanfrancisco/ [artinstitutes.edu], graduated, and is currently employed in the industry, I will say just like a degree from anywhere else, it's not so much about the piece of paper, but what you learned and took away from it.

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

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

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

  • by iregisteredjustforth ( 1155123 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:52PM (#20557659)
    I have just finished a BA(Hons) in what is essentially game art development at a UK university. The games industry hires people based on portfolios, not qualifications, even programmers (I know very little about the programming side apart from a CS grad friend of mine who's going for gaming jobs) need demos quite often. Most game jobs apart from programming are art orientated, ie rigging, animating, modeling, texturing, environment /level design, audio. Artists are not hired because they have degrees, they are hired because they have great portfolios. My opinion is that game degrees really should be broken down into 3 categories: Game Design, Game Art, and Game Programming. Obviously some courses specialise more within these areas, ie graphics programming or animation but those are the 3 overall types you're likely to find listed.

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

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

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

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

    Don't bother with game design degrees at all, no one hires game designers without experience, and most certainly no one hires game designers because they have "game design" degrees. If they did, it's be
  • I went to DigiPen and came out a pretty damn good programmer if I must say so. :) Most of the people I went to school with and whom graduated are all at least "good" programmers, and most of them have jobs in the games industry. The ones that don't have jobs in the games industry have jobs at Microsoft or other non-game programming positions, mostly because they pay so much better. (Microsoft pays about $85k entry level for non-game positions, whereas typical game programmer pay in Seattle starts around
    • If Full Sail still has that image I think people should re-look at Full Sail then. Full Sail has no degree called game design (any more); it has a game development degree. Full Sail's game degree was called game design in the past; though, this was a misnomer as the curriculum has always been far more focused on programming and development then design. I'm honestly not quite sure why it was ever called just game design. If full sail still has the image as a game design school, then yeah that's a flaw in the
      • Full Sail's main focus is on programming, but they do also teach design. You fully design and develop two projects while at Full Sail, each requiring a full-fledged design doc that you're graded on. You're right, though, it's definitely not a design school.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rycross ( 836649 )
      My impression of DigiPen, after chatting with some graduates, is that they have a higher quality program than your average "game school." I can't speak for others like Fullsail, but it seemed like DigiPen actually did teach some fundamental computer science in addition to game specific stuff.

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

      It also has a lot to d
    • I went to DigiPen and came out a pretty damn good programmer if I must say so.

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

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        As a DP student, they teach an incredible amount of theory. For instance, they teach classes on straight linear algebra, quaternions, curves / splines. We have to implement a 3D software triangle rasterizer. It's quite an experience. They teach you both theory and application, it's not too much of either. Between classes taught by Ghali, Mead, and Jahn, we're taught just about everything.
    • You'll probably be better off getting a regular bachelors in something like literature or maybe an art degree, in my opinion.

      I spoke with the hiring manager at bioware and indeed their storyline plotters are mostly English majors with some secondary qualification as well (IE. A CS diploma).
  • *sigh* I hate when these threads show up. It always means I need to write long-winded rebuttals to people who don't understand that there are real gaming schools out there other than "Tighten Up The Graphics On Level 3" University.

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

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

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

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

    Really, the bottom line is that if you are 100% sure you want to go into games, and you have the motivation to put in 80 hour weeks for months in school between side projects, classes, and school projects, a game school *may* be a good choice for you. Don't discount a good school just because its emphasis is on games.
  • Basically for 2 big reasons:

    First and formost, what is computer graphics? Hell, what is any programming? Right. Math. Applied math, but what it boils down to is simply that. Trignometry, matrix calculation, theory. I've actually taken a look at DigiPen, someone I know went there and is now slaving aw... I mean, working at a game company. What did he learn? Basically the same I did. Plus tons of physics and game design, which I lack. Granted. Should I want my way into the game world (so far I managed to reta
    • "And second, imagine you find out that making games isn't even a percent as much fun as playing them"

      If that is the case I don't know how you could go though the years of schooling and not realize this then. I know, at Full Sail at least, I see a lot of students making this realization in the first few months. At that point you still have time to drop out and pick something else for your career without loosing all that much. Though, really you should probably be able to figure that out before even enrolling
    • Because you must, there ain't no such thing as a good game with technology from 5 years ago.


      Do I need to point out everything that is utterly wrong with this comment, or can I just leave it at that? You could possibly make the argument that "...there is tremendous pressure to use bleeding edge technology as a way to appear competitive...", or some such, but as it stands, I think your claim is pretty indefensible.
      • Ok, granted, certain things never change. Allow me to elaborate.

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

        Certain things in game development don't change either. Matrices are still matrices, whether today or 20 years ago. The changes just happen much faster. You also have to take certain hardwar
  • As with any college, one plus of going to one is that recruiters visit them first. Right out of college you can't expect to placed in a high position, but when you are hired by a direct recruiter, it is generally at a better starting position than applying to the company directly. This is also due in part to ties between teachers and the companies. It is also fact that recruiters go to colleges first before making jog openings public. The next step is that recruiters go to places that provide the skills
  • Want a job? (Score:3, Informative)

    by badboy_tw2002 ( 524611 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @02:37PM (#20558773)
    I tend to do interviews a lot at my company (a very large game company) for engineers, and here's some things I look at:

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

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

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

    Bottom line: What gets you hired is who you are and what you've done, not what school you went to.
  • ..so I know from experience that with networking they can be good. My friends' classes consisted mainly of learning how to use software for modeling, drawing, etc. and relatively few were related to actual design or industry practices. It wasn't until senior year that any of them actually worked on a project as they would at a job.

    The people who are successful are those who would do a lot outside of school no matter what they were studying in school. I made basic Quake mods in 6th grade with a friend, and

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

    There is a LOT to know about game development and the more you know, the more employable you will be. (To get hired also requires some talent and a portfolio, however.) There's no question that game development is a legitimate BA or BS or MA subject these d
  • If not, I doubt you will succeed in that industry.

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

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

  • Does anyone have any experience with the Guildhall? It's a game school / computer science-ish program at SMU, a reputable university in Dallas.

    http://guildhall.smu.edu/about/program.htm [smu.edu]

    Maybe that would be a good solution to your dilemma, although the tuition bill looks a little hefty.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jerrith ( 6472 )
      I went to The Guildhall @ SMU, on the programming (software development) track. In fact, I was in the first graduating class. Since then I've worked at NCsoft, Sigil, Treyarch/Activision, and I just started on Monday at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment working on the Stargate Worlds MMO.

      My opinion is that you absolutely should go to a traditional university before you go into one of these programs. 4 years for a BS in CS will give you a good well rounded education you could apply to many programming jobs.
  • I think having an accredited degree in CS or CompEng with a focus on game development (or graphics, or a double major in Literature, etc) cannot possibly be a bad thing. We're not really talking about that, though. We're talking about someone who is unable for some reason to succeed in a 4 year degree program in a small college or university setting. I think any trade school (ITT Tech, etc) is very limiting, and doesn't have much credibility in the marketplace.

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

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

    If you are really into video games and really want to become a designer, consider these two options. Option one, you attend a video game school and enjoy the above advantag
  • I'm currently attending a liberal arts college, but with a major in Computer Science. The general requirements are balanced, but I still take lots of CS courses. Would a master's at a game school (say DigiPen for example) be a good choice after college? or would it be a waste of time and money for a piece of paper? Can anyone in a similar type of situation comment on this?
  • This rather famous drop out [slashdot.org] warns against game schools.
  • Just get a pure computing or maths degree. Don't waste your time on shoddy art schools - there's little chance of meeting a successful developer that way. Instead, form an ad-hoc company with some fellow like-minded students while getting your degree and start developing. Join the local industry association to meet developers and entrepreneurs, while focusing on your core skills at university. Use your university time to read all the old SIGGRAPH journals, or whichever topic in the game sphere takes your fa
  • After having employed a programmer coming from a two year specialized game education I have the following experience:

    The person knew a lot of special game-development related tricks and how to write vertex shaders, but was seriously lacking in basic programming knowledge. Turned out they had been working a lot in small groups making small computer games and demos under deadline to try out the techniques they were taught in the classes, indirectly encouraging sloppy coding and dirty hacks since their code ne

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