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Breaking into a Degree


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#1 Ken Igaki   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 08:18 PM

First I'd like to introduce myself given this is my first post, and it'd be a little rude of me just to jump straight into asking for guidance without a few formalities. My name is Ken, I'm 24 and I've already gotten a degree in Music, Multimedia and Electronics... however this is not the correct degree for breaking into the gaming industry as I have only specialized in programming hardware electronics and composing music (and mainly full orchestral at that). Given how competitive the gaming indsutry is, it is not surprising that I have been turned down many times. I have always wanted to work in the world of gaming but have always been chastised by my relatives since I was young, leaving quite a deep psychological scar and making me rather indecisive in my choices, leading me to take poor choices both at school in terms of academia and University degree. Even now I am harassed by my relatives and treated as a failure due to what I want to do. However I wish to leave that in the past and go head first into studying what I've always wanted to do now... well that and juggling a job in retail, which is my comeuppance for being so indecisive, but given this has always been my lifelong dream, I won't be quitting halfway through any time soon. Currently I am not in the financial situation, given family issues and having to repay my previous student loan back, to take another degree and would like the assistance of a Computer Science graduate to guide me through which textbooks I should purchase, and systematically what they learnt, and what exercises and coursework they were given at University, so I can take up the same practices like a "Pseudo degree" of sorts, whislt I work up the money to pay for a proper degree (and not only that, it'd work up a portfolio of work to be able to access the degree I want to take in the first place). As for entry level pay at an age of 30 or so? That hardly phases me at all if I'm doing what I want. I do apologize however, for not having made this post sooner, as if I had made it sooner, I wouldn't have put myself into such a situation as I am in now! It is strange putting my lifelong ambition in the hands of complete strangers on the internet, but I have a strange feeling and confidence that I'll get more support here than I ever will from anyone I've ever known. === That being said and done, to make this a bit easier for anyone not wishing to read a large wall of text... I'm asking for help on: 1: Help from Computer Science graduates or anyone with a relevant degree 2: Relevant Textbooks and an outline of the course they took at University 3: Case examples of what they had to achieve in university to attain that degree. I do hope I'm not asking for too much. [EDIT] Oh and just to be sure, if there is any concern regarding my ability for academia, especially regarding calculus and general mathematics, there shouldn't be too much trouble there - however I may be a little rusty in some areas... but nothing a little revision won't fix. [Edited by - Ken Igaki on February 10, 2010 2:36:23 AM]

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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9882

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 07:58 AM

Quote:
Original post by Ken Igaki
I've already gotten a degree in Music, Multimedia and Electronics... however this is not the correct degree for breaking into the gaming industry

I disagree. What you need to do now is build a portfolio.

-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 Brain me   Members   -  Reputation: 170

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 08:08 AM

I'm only a Sophomore in Software Engineering, but I've already finished my minor in Computer Science. In all the CS courses I took, I learned the material rather quickly while the CS students struggled with some of the lower-level stuff.

I would recommend reading Introduction to Computing Systems From Bits & Gates To C & Beyond. I let one of my CS buddies borrow it and he said he learned more from it than any of his CS classes. You can get the international edition for like $30 bucks, or one of the older editions for cheaper at a used book store.

Good luck.

#4 Skros   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 10:02 AM

I'm a freshman doing a CS degree, and I wouldn't recommend any of the books I've been assigned so far. They're mostly just reference books that I opened once or twice total for a couple different intro courses.

I have been independently doing some research and working through some books, so I can give you a few suggestions on how to increase your CS knowledge. None of these links are game-specific, however, and most of them don't even teach a language or API that is frequently used in the industry. If you're not happy with your current situation and you want to get a job sooner rather than later, you should probably disregard this entirely and follow Tom's advice.

First, MIT Courseware. MIT has a ton of their classes posted online, and a lot of them have full video lectures along with all the class materials. Every college student should know about this.
http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Electrical-Engineering-and-Computer-Science/index.htm

"Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" seems to be the most recommended book for CS students. It uses Scheme (a dialect of Lisp) to teach fundamental skills in an interesting way. I just started this and it's certainly very different from your average dry CS book. MIT has a full video lecture course on this book.
Full textbook online: http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/full-text/book/book-Z-H-4.html
MIT Course: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Electrical-Engineering-and-Computer-Science/6-001Spring-2005/CourseHome/index.htm

The rest of the most recommended books are summed up in this article: http://www.billthelizard.com/2008/12/books-programmers-dont-really-read.html

http://www.khanacademy.org/ has a ton of math videos on specific topics, if the need arises and you don't want to go through an MIT course.

I think that's most of my bookmarks. Some things I've learned through experience: It's easy to buy a book that is often recommended and has great amazon reviews only to find that it's mostly meant as a reference book and it's far too dry to read. Buying a used textbook that is one edition behind the most updated print can save you tons of cash. Amazon is the best place I've found to buy books, used or new. Do some of the programming exercises listed in textbooks; they may seem easy, but don't judge them until you're actually at the keyboard staring at a blank screen.

#5 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 7405

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 11:15 AM

Skros has an excellent idea in the MIT Courseware offerings -- what better way to self-study than to follow along with courses designed by the likes of those at MIT? They are essentially allowing you to audit the class for free. I'm not certain whether there is, but there may even be support forums for the classes like we have here.

In any case, each courseware program will have a textbook or recommended readings, probably "assignments" for you to work out, etc.

There's at least one other top school with similar offerings, although I cannot recall which one.

Another good source of information, if you're lucky enough to have something similar in your area, is that your local University TV station or public access channel may run lectures on CS... Okay, that's probably a longshot unless your local is a big CS school, but here in Seattle, UWTV (University of Washington is a top-10 CS school in the states) runs their colloquial lecture series on TV quite often. In the series they invite top researchers in various fields, or leading engineers from business and industry, to lecture on the work they do and the interesting problems they solve in their work. Topics are pretty wide -- everything from parallel/scalable systems, to courting venture capitalists. One guy was even discussing the programmability of biology through genetic engineering techniques.


The only real blanket statement we can give is that you can't go wrong with math:
Algebra and pre-calculus
Linear Algebra
Geometry and trigonometry
Calculus
Physics
Statistics/probability/combinometrics
Discreet Math
Formal Logic

Nor can you go wring with the classic CS textbooks, such as:

Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice - Foley and Van Dam, et all.
Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach - Hennesey and Patterson
... Among many others that I either can't recall, or are too topic-specific.

#6 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 21331

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 11:33 AM

Quote:
Original post by Ken Igaki
I've already gotten a degree in Music, Multimedia and Electronics... I have only specialized in programming hardware electronics and composing music (and mainly full orchestral at that). ... well that and juggling a job in retail, which is my comeuppance for being so indecisive ... As for entry level pay at an age of 30 ... help from Computer Science graduates or anyone with a relevant degree ... I do hope I'm not asking for too much.
You have a very confusing post.

You have a degree in music and some specialized experience. You are working in retail, which is completely unrelated. You want a job as a game programmer, which is different than both of them.

You have a degree in music, and it sounds like you have experience with composing music. The game industry needs composers and audio programmers; every studio has some. Sounds like you could use that to get your job.

You mentioned entry-level pay at age 30. Have you HONESTLY not gained any useful life experience over the past decade of your life? If true that is a really pathetic statement. I hope it is just a comment from despair.

Perhaps you should thoughtfully ponder what you have done so far in your life. Then work introspectively and ask other people to help you get a realistic view of where you actually stand. After doing that you can figure out what you want to do and make a plan to get there.

I recommend that you go read the book "What Color Is Your Parachute?". Use the exercises to help you figure out realistically where you are in life, and where you think you will want to go next.



You say you want to work in the game industry, but you are currently working in retail. If you are unable to make the jump directly to your desired job, make half the jump to the proper field --- get out of retail and go do something related to your desired career.

If your desired career is music, accept a job at ANY company doing ANYTHING related to music. If your desired career is programming (in which case you need to resolve why you spent so many years getting the wrong degree) then you should accept ANY programming job. It is one step closer, and you will pick up both portfolio items and work experience.

#7 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9882

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 11:40 AM

Quote:
Original post by frob
Have you HONESTLY not gained any useful life experience over the past decade of your life?

Good point. Read Sloperama FAQ 41 ("View Forum FAQ," above).

-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#8 Ken Igaki   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 08:24 PM

I have tried getting into low level programming, however not many jobs are available in that area due to the recession and all. It doesn't and hasn't stopped me from trying, but does somewhat hinder my chances of success. I haven't GOT a job in retail yet, but seriously in my position I have no right to be picky and am looking towards it at the moment.

Also the whole entry level statement? That wasn't something I said out of despair, but in fact something I said out of saying "I'd prefer a lower paid job doing what I want to do, rather than doing something that I've never truly been interested in but receiving a higher pay for it. It is not as if I have a social life to support, and it also not as if I particularly care either.

-I have NEVER cared about pay as long as it's able to allow me to continue working in the direction I want to go... Maybe there are several people here interested more in higher positions and better pay in the industry. But as far as I've always seen the gaming industry, I've always seen it as more work, longer hours, less pay, and quite often unpaid overtime, which unphases me.

The longer I'm unemployed the more suspicious it's going to look on my record.

And yes, I have attempted entering at the sound / music composition level, but there aren't many slots open at the moment. Most of the positions going so far around this country are mostly graphics work (be it 3D or not) and concept art related. Although another part of why I signed up to this forum is to try and hit the hidden job market through contacts in this forum.

As I mentioned I don't exactly have the time to be sitting around job hunting anymore, and would rather take up any job offer just to earn that little bit, but also to actually make myself employable for any programming job or composing work ONCE the oppourtunity provides itself.

Sure maybe when I said 30, it was a slight exaggeration, and the UK is indeed crawling its way out of the recession, meaning my chances of employment are skyrocketing, but I have a family to support as they are going through a crisis at the moment.

I do hope you understand when I am applying for retail as it gives me a large chance of employment as that particular job market is plentiful at the moment, but I am in no way giving up looking for a relevant job.

In fact for the past 6 months I have been adamantly standing by the fact that retail will not help me get anywhere, but in doing so I was only letting my pride and arrogance get to me. You are right about how I spent many years getting the wrong degree, and I am entirely to blame for that, and I need to rectify that as soon as possible. It is not a music degree either, and seems to be more closely connected with Electronic Engineering.

Given the halfway jumps aren't realistically possible at the moment - I am instead creating stepping stones to reach my goal, and I assure you nothing you say, even if you look at me as the lowest form of indecisive trash who has had it coming for ages, will stop me from wanting to reach it.

That being said, given the manner in which you slated me for my current actions, you do seem rather confident yourself... by any chance do YOU have any contacts that could possibly help me - either in the relevant direction or even an individual looking to hire OR is that where your ability to assist comes to an end? Given any help would be appreciated.

[EDIT]

Thank for your earlier reply Tom. I am indeed working on a portfolio of work in my spare time outside of studying and looking for a job. However I am also a perfectionist and believe anything I have done so far simply does not wow nor impress. Once I am satisfied with my abilities I will gladly present it for employment purposes.

[Edited by - Ken Igaki on February 11, 2010 2:24:07 AM]

#9 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1665

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 09:31 PM

If you already have a degree most UK universities will accept this as prior learning and let you join a degree course part way through. Alternatively you could do some kind of post grad certificate or masters degree as a top up. This would take about a year to do and cost a great deal cheaper than doing a full undergrad degree just because you want to retrain.

If you do decide you really must teach yourself at home then what the game industry is really looking for is good solid C++ programmers with some skill in mathematics and a good knowlege of games systems.

There is a for beginners section on this site the link is at the top in the resources section and it has one or two recomendations for begginers C++ books.

You live a fairly good location for jobs as there are more studios in your part of the UK than anywhaere else in the UK.

As for being on an entry level wage at 30, You are only 24 why is it going to take you six years?
If you pull your thumb out there is no reason why you couldn't be in a job in a year.





#10 fanaticlatic   Members   -  Reputation: 470

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 09:52 PM

hi Ken,

I have recently been employed in the industry and i was out of work for 4 months between jobs.

During that time I must have sent out over 100 e-mails to varying companies and recruiters.

leading to 4 or 5 interviews.

dont despair if things arent happening as quickly as you would have liked.

Make sure your cv is up to scratch, you have an outstanding portfolio to show and when you get your interviews go in with a positive attitude and something will turn up.

I used www.gamedevmaps.com extensively.

Best of luck.

#11 Ken Igaki   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 10:07 PM

Quote:
Original post by Buster2000
u are only 24 why is it going to take you six years?
If you pull your thumb out there is no reason why you couldn't be in a job in a year.


Hahaha. I am incredibly sorry about the exaggeration, it was merely a statement saying I'd still be aiming for what I want to do even if I hadn't succeeded within that time, which I am almost certain I will have by then.

[EDIT]

You are a wonderful person for having shown me this site (www.gamedevmap.com) and I too will be using this site extensively from now on. It is absolutely great to have had so much help within 1 day of signing up to these forums.

But enough words, it's time to get down to doing all of that, I'll report back later to discuss what actions I have taken, and if those actions are not enough, feel free to chastize me on my ineptitude... of course, also feel free to tell me what I'm doing right - Can't spend all my time on negative criticism.




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