I used to teach video game programming to kids (as an excuse to teach programming to kids). Recently I've begun tutoring one of my former students, who is now 17 and a year from graduating high school. I'm doing it as something of a hobby/distraction from my own degree program, and because I empathize with him (he had a severe, traumatic life-event recently). Thankfully he has an enviable mix of talent and ambition, and above average discipline (though it is admittedly where he needs the most work; don't we all?). He has strong analytic and creative aptitude.
Unfortunately I think he is about to make a mistake. He wants to work on video games. Specifically he intends to apply this fall to DigiPen for a BA in Game Design. His back up plan is to use his degree for technical writing. His parents are problematically of the “follow your dreams” school of thought and are encouraging him. I am more pragmatic, and the parents might listen to me if I talk to them.
I think his school of choice is not regionally accredited (unable to be accepted for entrance into a master's program elsewhere; may not be recognized by employers outside of the industry [such as government contracts, which are prevalent here]). I think that his intended degree program is not an entry level position and has almost no application outside of the video game industry (which is notoriously volatile job market).
I think he is choosing the BA of Game Design because of fear of failure. I think he has this fear of failure because he is smart and has never really had to try very hard (until recently; which was traumatic). I think he sees the hard metrics of success and failure in computer science and digital art with fear. I think he is instead focusing on an abstract approach instead of the making-and-doing of video games in an attempt to do what he wants without the risk.
Ostensibly he knows that no one needs or wants an idea guy. He says he knows that even his own “big game idea” is worthless [as it is the thousand small details that make or break a game]. He says he knows that in order to learn to code video games, you should first learn to code [or, that to master digital art you must first master art]. However I think he is only halfway there. I don't think he has a firm appreciation of the ramifications of those statements.
I *do* think he has what it takes to be a successful game developer (if he spends a few years working really hard), but I think he is going about it in a tragically bad way. I want to guide him towards either a computer science or digital art degree program at an accredited university. Unfortunately he has already toured DigiPen and fallen in love.
I would like advice on how to help steer him in a better direction (or a correction if I am the one off-base here). I meet with him tomorrow. I am focusing teaching him math right now as prep for the ACT, but have a litany of ideas of ways to grow his portfolio for after he takes the test. I am hoping he will naturally develop an interest in one of the aspects of game development, but think it more likely that I will have to try other methods to convince him that there are better paths to realize his dreams.
"Too long; didn't read" summary: 17 year old student of mine wants a BA in Game Design from DigiPen, potentially for the wrong reasons at that. Parents are encouraging him (but do value my input).