Thank you so much for the information!
As a Digipen grad myself (now several years ago), I will say that there are both pros and cons to going the Digipen route.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Had to chuckle at that a bit.
Male-female ratio of about 30:1 (better in the art programs, worse in the technical programs)
But really, thank you for some first-hand advice on the matter. It really helps in getting an idea on what to expect for the programming aspect of the school.
So it comes down to;
A) Getting a strong game development background at the expense of shallow coverage of the traditional CS work and experience. (The benefit being the exposure to the game industry, making it easier to get yourself known.)
B) Getting a strong software engineering background, then translating it to game development. (The benefit being that it has a bigger "safety net.")
From what I've read on here, it seems that many agree that it's more effective to take option B. Am I right in thinking this?