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Game-Related Education On the Rise At Colleges 178

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

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  • Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:30PM (#25522049)
    Just look at the rise of "computer" classes in high schools that don't teach you more than Word and Excel. And even the highest level computer classes only might barely touch on HTML. This is no different.
  • by ServerIrv ( 840609 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:37PM (#25522077)
    Most of the computer science dropouts I know started the degree because they like playing computer games. Later they realize that it's much more than playing games and they cannot program themselves out of a logical wet paper bag. At least this gives them an opportunity to get a degree
  • by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) * on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:45PM (#25522127)

    A good game-related course may cover things like:

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

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

  • Re:Seems useful... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:50PM (#25522157)

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

    I am hopeful for a new generation of leaders that are more aware of humanity's impact on the planet. Of course, it would be hard to be any less aware than the current administration.

  • by sleeponthemic ( 1253494 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @08:53PM (#25522181) Homepage
    They're the equivalent rock n roll geek dream (though slightly less glamorous in reality). Most of us own a guitar, most of us have programmed "a game".
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:01PM (#25522239)

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

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

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

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:07PM (#25522269)

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

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

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

  • by FishWithAHammer ( 957772 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:13PM (#25522315)

    Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but a four-year degree today is, in a lot of ways, the high school diploma of forty years ago. A bachelor's in CS had better come out with the ability to immediately practice his trade or he won't get a job. And my university, among others, is absolutely woeful at actually preparing students for such. I came in knowing more than all but a few students in my class will leave knowing.

  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:16PM (#25522325)

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

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

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

    If you're looking for something that wears a suit and says "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" on cue, then you're looking in the wrong place. I think the problem is more likely your hiring practices. Again, if you're looking for someone with impeccable office manners and who looks sharp in a suit - well, that isn't us. All of the time you spend in your early years acquiring social graces, we spent learning assembly.

    Change your hiring practices, change your expectations, and lighten up, and I'll bet you start having successes.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:27PM (#25522405) Homepage Journal

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

  • by Keill ( 920526 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @09:48PM (#25522555) Homepage

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

    Unfortunately such a course has one major downside:

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

    After talking to him for a while, it became obvious that the course he took would actually have been better if split into two - one for the game system(s) and one for the content - and then have both courses work together on the same project(s).

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @10:43PM (#25522881) Homepage

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

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

    if you go through college without ever writing a single game on your own or collaborating with a friend, then you're probably not cut out for a career in game develop. the real future professional game developers are already amateur game developers by the time they reach college. i knew i wanted to be a programmer not because of some dream or fantasy in my mind, but because i spent day and night coding my own personal projects for fun--and i enjoyed doing it.

    if you're not motivated enough to write a game on your own, then what makes you think you're going to be a good game developer just because someone is paying you? game development is just like any other field. if you enjoy doing it you will succeed. if you go through college without ever trying to write a game on your own then it's your own fault, not the school's, that you can't get a job in game development.

    higher education is what you make of it. for those privileged enough to have access to it, their future is in their own hands. either you immerse yourself in academic pursuit and achieve personal growth both in and out of the classroom, or you throw your tuition away treating college as a trade school, waiting to be given step-by-step instructions on how to get into a high-paying job while doing the bare minimum to graduate.

  • Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kitsunewarlock ( 971818 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @10:46PM (#25522903) Journal
    As a tabletop designer, I wish someone could change the title of this to "Video Game-Related..." simply so people like myself won't get encouraged by the misleading name. This will probably teach modelling, programming and even marketting...but I doubt game theory will be explored nearly enough...
  • Re:TV Scams (Score:3, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @11:02PM (#25522995)

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

    It's a myth that you can learn this stuff in 4 years. The only people who I have seen succeed without coming in with an extensive self-taught background have put in enough time for 6+ years through online courses and other extracurricular training.

    If you're an artist you have to be a real artist. You have to have an eye. You should probably have a background in your field. Lots of people graduate. Very few people are actually sufficiently qualified. Teachers need to be more honest with their students about their real abilities and employability. It would save a lot of people a lot of money.

  • by ROBOKATZ ( 211768 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @11:14PM (#25523081)
    There's a difference between being eccentric and needing to grow the fuck up.
  • Re:Seems useful... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dwarg ( 1352059 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @11:18PM (#25523107)

    ciaohound, take note of megamerican's response. You see, if you want to convince conservatives to do what's in their own best interest you need to phrase it in terms of how it will hurt other people.

    For example when you say, "Excuse me Mr. Conservative, maybe we should try to develop alternative energy sources so we aren't dependent on a single source that is damaging to our environment."

    Instead you should say, "Hey fellow conservative, we needs us some plant fuels, or some such shit, so that we ain't sendin' so much God damned money over to those towel-headed sand-niggers that keep blowin' everyone up."

    Obviously it's repulsive to say it that way but otherwise your just wasting your breath talking to a really ignorant, angry and misinformed brick wall.

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @02:48AM (#25523971)

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

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IICV ( 652597 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @10:19AM (#25526851)

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

    I'm not sure what your friend could have been doing at UCSB to be taking courses that were "more akin software training courses taught at junior colleges or technical colleges like Devry, ITT Tech". Perhaps he is simply very confused?

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?