But first, a detour.
Just like there are little-c colleges (e.g. University of Middle-of-Nowhere) and there are big-C Colleges (MIT, et all), so too are there game schools and Game Schools. little-g game schools are places like Devry, as-seen-on-TV schools, and other such degree-mills. Big-G Game Schools are a category occupied by, IMHO, Digipen and games/multimedia-focused programs at Universities such as the Guildhall at SMU. Then there's FullSail, which occupies a weird sort of middle-ground, not poor enough to be called a degree-mill, but not up to the level of a University or Digipen, either.
- Structured, hands-on environment (4+ game projects of increasing scale/complexity).
- Surround yourself with passionate, like-minded individuals.
- Focus on C++ (Don't limit your world-view to C++, but many programs offer no hands-on C++ at all)
- Deep dive into stuff relevant to game development.
- Some really great instructors.
- Engaging coursework.
- The degree is less portable, most hiring managers have no clue what to make of it if they're outside games or entertainment.
- Somewhat shallow coverage of some traditional CS coursework (Operating Systems, Compiler theory, etc)
- Little exposure to topics well outside of game development methodology (e.g. Functional programming)
- Limited interaction with people outside the gamer mentality (If you attend Digipen, I suggest making friends at nearby University of Washington)
- Less opportunity to study or pursue other interests (few non-technical courses, no theater, sports, or practical skills courses, for example)
- Male-female ratio of about 30:1 (better in the art programs, worse in the technical programs)
- Some pretty poor instructors.
It's been about 7 years now since I've graduated, so its hard for me to say with 100% authority how much things may or may not have changed, and for better or worse. More-recent grads I know have the grizzled-look of someone who's "survived" Digipen, but the majority are happily employed, and a few of those doing really amazing things. One measure I do have, is that nearly all of the great instructors I had in my time are still around, and most of the poor instructors I had are long-gone. Whether the bad eggs were replaced with better ones I don't know, but to their credit, Digipen has always been very serious about their teaching staff, and pays wages well above what a typical University instructor receives (in general, University work is appealing to most instructors because of reasonable pay, combined with tenure and funding opportunities for research they're interested in).
Overall, I'm satisfied with my degree (though, at the time I got mine it was about 35% less expensive than now) and, despite being only an Associate's Degree, which they used to offer mostly as a means to those who had already graduated from a CS degree (I hadn't, but I had programming experience) it's served me well enough. There's a slight misconception that Digipen is completely devoid of teaching any theoretical underpinnings of computer science, and while its true that some of the more-ancillary aspects are given a shallower treatment than they might be in a good, traditional CS program, they still do introduce a fair breadth of topics and teachings. You're not going to write an operating system (well, the computer engineers probably do, actually), and you're not going to write a compiler (but you will perform optimizations on abstract syntax trees), but you will design logic and breadboard simple designs, study data structures and big-O analysis, learn how computer networks operate at low-levels, and lots of other things that you probably don't get at any of those little-g game schools.
In the end, its really a question of location, expense, the teaching and peer environment you prefer, whether you're the kind of person who would prefer to cobble together games while at University, or to flesh out your CS theory while at Digipen, and whether the added portability and "safety" of a University degree is important to you.