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)?
for a lone wolf, indie, army of one, or small team, there is.
probably less so in a large studio (unless you're the head).
After getting a degree, are you forced into a ridiculously long, low-paying internship path?
while formally trained as a software engineer (BS degree in CIS @ OSU), all my game development skills are self taught, gained through independent study.
if you're an indie or member of a small team, you can jump right in.
for a big studio apparently they want training, a portfolio, and the ability to demonstrate capabilities on demand at an interview. similar to a big architecture firm looking for a new hire. someone else here will have to speak to that issue, as i'm only personally familiar with the indie side of the biz.
Most importantly, are you happy with your career choice?
mine was by accident. i wrote a game in my spare time that became a top 10 download on AOL. but yes, i probably couldn't choose any other career that i'd enjoy more, except perhaps building custom race cars and exotic super cars for a living. i'm a creative type (aquarius), and an engineer, so i like to make stuff. to me its all just playing with lego blocks like when i was a kid. game development lets both my left (coding) and right (artwork/ music) brains be creative.
What are the downsides of game design?
as a career, probably job security, and/or possible lack of a steady paycheck, depending on the route you go. the industry is still growing, hence its volatile. somebody from a big studio may be able to elaborate more on this point.
How can someone in my shoes get into the industry/courses/etc?
there seem to be two basic routes, depending on whether you're trying to land a job at a big studio, or just want to make money making games.
these days the big studio route seems to involve formal training, a portfolio, etc. similar to being an architect.
with the other route, you simply learn the skills from classes, books, online tutorials, asking questions online, reading documentation, experimentation, etc.
as you develop skills, you apply them to start building and selling games.
skills required are coding, artwork (including level design and other content creation skills), music/sfx, and design (defining the rules of the game, the setting, the time period, how the game world works, etc).
basic tasks consist of design, coding and content creation, marketing, and administrative / managerial tasks for the project.
so as you can see there are a lot of skills to learn, especially if you do it all yourself.
but different aspects can be farmed out: graphics, audio, marketing, sales fulfillment, order processing, etc. libraries can be used to keep code work to a minimum, but pretty much every game needs some custom source code, unless its made with an unmodified game engine.
working in a small team can give you the opportunity to work primarily at the type of task you enjoy most (coding, 3d modeling, level design, sound, etc). obviously working for a big studio can do likewise.