I moved this topic from For Beginners (a technical forum) to the Game Industry Job Advice forum. Will be weighing in with some responses after I've had my breakfast.
Okay, had breakfast.
1. What's it like in the gaming design industry?
2. Is there freedom of expression in your job (or, like architecture, unless you own your own firm you're really just detailing someone elses work)?
3. After getting a degree, are you forced into a ridiculously long, low-paying internship path?
4. are you happy with your career choice?
5. What are the downsides of game design?
6. How can someone in my shoes get into the industry/courses/etc?
7. Do you think I could spend time learning the tools and software in my spare time and maybe a couple classes without actually earning a whole game dev degree,
8. or would it not be enough?
9. This might be an obvious question, but what I'm asking is if I were to try to start a career in game dev, would I need a specific degree/major,
10. or is it more experience and portfolio based?
1. I wouldn't know. I've been in the video game industry for over 30 years, and I've never worked in the gaming industry. I hate gambling and I don't like Las Vegas.
2. It's a creative industry, but as has been said above, unless you're a lone wolf or you own your own, it's a collaborative industry. Personally, I enjoy the "puzzle" aspect, the fact that each project is a creative endeavor, even if it's not my own creation, and that each project presents its own unique problems to solve.
3. Mostly. But rise can be rapid (that's not to say that it usually is).
5. Read FAQ 37: http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson37.htm
6. Level design or environment design. Read FAQ 69.
7. Sure, anything is possible. FAQ 50.
8. Nothing is enough. FAQ 49.
9. You already have a degree, so now what you need is a portfolio. See FAQ 41.
10. No, not exactly. Young people with limited experience need a degree to avoid being filtered out in the resume-reading process, and then after that the portfolio kicks in. People with game industry experience don't need a degree, and credits sort of replace what a portfolio does. http://www.igda.org/games-game-march-2010