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icouch

schools the right thing?

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i need some opinions. im a sophmore at a private school. my cumulative GPA is 2.9, which i can raise if i work my butt off for these last few weeks. the thing is, im having trouble doing it. i, like so many others, just want to make games. in particular, program games. i hear that if i do well in school, and get deep into math, theres a small chance a gaming school could accept me. now, if this happens, and i go through that school successfully, a company might hire me. but i could learn almost all of the stuff a college could teach me now. not everything, of course, but a fair amount. i wouldnt get the social interaction/meet new people that a college could offer. plus, game developers would go for the kids with degrees from digipen or fullsail, right? or, i could start my own company. get maybe 10 people together, and start making small games, and gradually work our way up. the hard part about this is, for the longest time, we would be getting pay from some other job, etc... but at least we would get to design our games. if i worked as a programmer for a company, what would the chances be that i got to throw some of my own ideas into the game design? i wouldnt want to code a game that i didnt even think was fun. pickers can't be choosers, i know, especially since theres thousands of other kids who want to make games. so why dont more people just start their own companies. of course you wouldnt expect anyone to produce your games, but if they eventually show some promise, maybe someone would give them a quick glance. ok ok, i hope that made some sense. what im saying is, would it be better to go through school, and that whole process, hoping to get hired? (or start your own company after that). i could finish learning C++, etc... before i get out of college. i know things arent this black and white, but i just want a few opinions: school, or independent learning? join some bigger development team, or start ur own (which would be harder than i can imagine). please knock some sense into my head [edited by - icouch on May 25, 2004 12:08:29 AM]

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Your story touches my heart... no but seriously, im a sophmore, i have a 3.something (though this year im barely a 3, and this semester im more like 2.5) you could learn EVERYTHING that you could in college outside of it (just saying its possible, its highly unlikely) i keep on hearing that no matter waht developers are looking for a PORTFOLIO showing EXPERIENCE over schooling. My advice to you is, take a cummer school class at your local community college, in california, it costs 4 bucks, (though iot adds up to about 200 when oyu count the books, which when you get them used are considerably cheaper, but they didnt have any for me :-/) anyways, taht will give you a good base, so its not like youve had no schooling, and also... if you do well (which i did) it raises ur gpa a lot...
-Dan

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yes i was gonna take a programming class, but it got canceled because not enough were signed up. yeah our local community college offers, hmm lets see here... computers for seniors and home computer workshop. maybe i move down to califnornia. i was thinking about taking more math classes, since my private school fired their only programming teacher 2 years ago. but a portfolio, hmm. thx dan.

btw, didnt mean to sound melodramatic. i have a tendancy to post like that.

[edited by - icouch on May 25, 2004 12:34:06 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
icouch, assuming you''re based in the United States, I would seriously recommend pursuing a com. college/univeristy degrees if finacially possible. You may get tired of making games, and with a Math/Econ/CompSci/etc degree you can do something different when the time comes.

Plus, while school is time consuming, students have an extraordinary amount of free time on their hands. If you were to go to a major university, you would be more likely to meet people who share your interests, and maybe work on your games with you (for free, out of friendship) -- and more than just programmers, but artists, muscians, etc. Also, there is more to programming than structures and blts...and while it''s not required, a higher education can help mature your mind so can deal with the abstract problem solving a little better.

The downside is NP-Complete theories and money...ultimately there is no right or wrong way, but some ways can lead to easier options.

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im pursuing a 5 year BS in Software Engineering @ RIT and i studied on my own for years in high school. you''ll learn about 10 times faster and better in school getting ur ass kicked by tests, projects, and labs then u will trying to dick ur way through a game idea from books.

ive done both.

go to school... go to a good school.

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I recommend you abandon the idea of a games college. Anything they can teach you, as far as I know, can be learnt with a CS degree and experience with a company.

Just my opinion from my experience in talking to people, but maybe people who have actually done this will prove me wrong. Experience > education, because you can be trained or learn stuff, but experience only comes with time.

It seems to me that it limits your flexibility as well: you may change your mind, especially if the supply exceeds demand in the field. Who knows.

Red Sodium

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Here's the thing about gaming schools.

The tangible part is that they're not very directly useful, as they don't teach you much that can't be learned from books or API references. It's a pretty poor investment if you're looking at money spent vs knowledge gained.

But the other side of the coin is that you will meet lots of people who share your passion, and generally people learn a lot from their peers (I know I did) and being around people who share your interests. You can't put a dollar value on that. I "grew" a lot more as an aspiring programmer than I did back at home reading books and going on IRC, simply because I was around people who pushed me. I met a lot of people and made some good friends, whom I'm sure I'll run into in the industry. This aspect of gaming school made the experience as a whole a positive one.

So it's up to you if the intangible part of gaming schools is worth it to you, because that's unfortunately what you'll get the most out of. You're basically paying money to meet some friends that care about game programming, and learn a few API factoids and do a few assignments along the way. There's always a few teachers that stand out though, and they make the experience worthwhile too.

I still don't know what I would do if I had to do it again...

The only thing I know for sure is that you should avoid The Arts Institute schools for gaming-related programs. In fact, avoid those schools altogether. I got caught in the middle of one of their buyouts, where they took something that showed a lot of promise (a gaming program) and proceeded to rip it to shreds, partly due to incompetence but mostly to restructure it into a profit machine (lower standards, broaden appeal, dilute content, etc).

[edited by - foofightr on May 29, 2004 12:50:02 AM]

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quote:

Plus, while school is time consuming, students have an extraordinary amount of free time on their hands.



BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Thanks.

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I concur with the alternative career path option. you may not want to make games forever and an education will help you do that, including expose you to other possibilities that you might not have realized.

It''s true especially in today''s society that people are saying that an education is among the most important things that you can get. As for whether or not it really is important, well, that depends on who is doing the hiring and what they are looking for. An education vastly increases your chances, although persistence also has many merits.

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Also, all kidding aside - "pure" CS / programming degrees are going to be pretty worthless in the coming years. Companies don''t want to hire programmers in the states, europe, or really anywhere where the average yearly wage is more than $30,000. You might get a job that requires some programming, or a job that requires overlooking programmers - but if you just want to purely program software, there isn''t much of a job market (outside of games and really complex algorithms like search technology--which will most likely require a PhD).

As I''ve stated before with regard to this topic: don''t persue a pure CS-based degree. Learn business (Computer Information Systems is good), learn physics, learn mathematics, or learn something that relates to the actual industry you''re making stuff for.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
So a portfolio is much better than an education? If so... thats great

I''ve taken VB and java at my highschool, one more semester of java next year (grd 12) then off to college or something, but if a portfolio is better i''d much rather make a program/game myself/teach myself than go to college.

I can teach myself much faster/better than anyone else could teach me... give me a basic help file, and some very basic knowledge and ill figure the rest out myself - in a resonable amount of time aswell.

My programming teacher thinks i copy all my code because "i havn''t taught you how to do that!" ... its really annoying

So, my question really is, if i make a few games, show the person what i can do/how fast i can learn... it''s better than/equal to having an education?

Thanks, blake

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When people say "portfolio", they usually mean "professional portfolio".

An education is still necessary. If you have a degree in *SOMETHING* (not necessarily computer science), you''ll automatically have a better chance of getting a job than if you didn''t.

Sure, if you make some amazing demo and show it to a development house, they may very well hire you - but there''s no guarantee on that.

You want to bring as much to the table as possible to get the job.

There''s no reason why you can''t get an education AND create some demos.

One without the other is fairly meaningless.

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I understand that this view is controversial, but please bare with me on this post. I would be interested to hear what people have to say about these thoughts, both positive and negative.

Assume for a moment that getting an education at a university is not the only form of education, and that someone could gain a comparable education through reading books and independant study.

Oftentimes, employers will filter out the applications of those applicants who do not have a degree. The candidates with the highest degrees from the most pretigious schools are those who are given highest priority. There is rarely any form of true knowledge testing wherein an employer might discover that an applicant was able to accumulate knowledge from some source outside of a university. Nor do employers push an effort for such a knowledge test to be created and standardized for the industry as a whole.

It seems to me that this forms a sort of class system. The wealthy are able to afford to send their children to the most prestigious schools for the longest amounts of times. Therefore, their children are able to get the highest paying jobs. Therefore, the wealth is kept with the wealthy, and some others, regardless of actual knowledge, may be kept out of this loop.

I understand that there are exceptions to this example, but on average the net effect is that employers use the quick and easy way to filter their job candidates rather than evaluating true knowledge, the wealth is kept with the wealthy, and a "tuition tax" is applied to the whole industry.

[edited by - EvilSteve on May 30, 2004 5:00:04 PM]

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
I can teach myself much faster/better than anyone else could teach me... give me a basic help file, and some very basic knowledge and ill figure the rest out myself - in a resonable amount of time aswell.

So, my question really is, if i make a few games, show the person what i can do/how fast i can learn... it''s better than/equal to having an education?

Thanks, blake




Theres no shortcuts, and theres NO reason why you should feel you have to choose just one of the other. You sound like you are looking for an excuse to skip college.

Pay your dues: finish HS with a decent GPA (its not hard man, just put in the EFFORT). Go to college and have fun, its a great experience. Meet people that share your interests and work with them. Things will start to come together. Work on game stuff in your free time, and pay attention in school.


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Guest Anonymous Poster
I work for a game company whose titles you have probably seen. FWIW, our resume screeners don''t even hand over resumes that don''t have an appropriate degree. Why? Because we get about 200 resumes for every opening.

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quote:

Assume for a moment that getting an education at a university is not the only form of education, and that someone could gain a comparable education through reading books and independant study.



I already assume this. You can.

The problem is that there''s no standard way of measuring your aptitude, and a degree at least ensures that you know some of the basics.

Going to college is a possibility for anyone in a major industrialized nation. You might need to get loans, you might need to (*gasp*) get a job, and you may not get much sleep - but you can certainly do it.

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Sorry Etnu, I was replying to no one in particular. I understand that you can put yourself into debt and work your ass off in order to pay for college, and that in order to be guaranteed a good job in today's society, you really have no other choice. My point is simply that it seems a shame that a person should have to pay a university tens of thousands of dollars just to prove to society that they are a knowledgeable individual.

[edited by - EvilSteve on May 31, 2004 4:21:17 PM]

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Whats wrong with going the independent route? I dont see why you are forced to automatically assign your life to working for someone else who is making the decisions and getting much better payed then you.

Another option not mentioned here is starting your OWN game development buisness, online. E-Commerce. Shareware can be lucrative if you are careful and do some market research, and plan accordingly. Puzzle games, for example, sell well, are not difficult to create, and are easy to extend. Bejewelled, anyone?

People mention job security.. How can you lose your job running your own buisness once it`s set up properly and things are going OK? You would need massive amounts of bad luck for it to actually happen, since your revenue is coming in small shots from lots of places.

Another benefit is complete creative control. Of course, watch what you make (you DO have a target audience, remember), and the rest is up to you and maybe client suggestions.

Lets say in the end, every goes bad, and you lose your buisness. So what? When you apply to a company, you`ll have a HUGE lead on almost every other guy. So, they got good demos? You dont have demos; you have REAL finished products done in the REAL world, with REAL success behind them; you show your employers your ability to lead, understand how the industry works, and, most importantly, how to make games that are fun, and sell.

Understand that its not an easy route to fame. Most companies fail due to a number of factors, including:

1 - No Plan
2 - No Market Research
3 - No Marketing
4 - Ugly Web Pages

The list goes on and on, and can include pretty much hundreds of points. Most of it is common sense, some of it is experience: Take your time.

You would also need some sort of bobo job to help support you while working on your game. And once the game is DONE, you need to sell it, which is a whole other beast. You`ll need to make a web page, market it all over the place, deal with payments and credit card, create an image for the company, setup a system for tech-support and customer care.

Its alot of work, but in the end, is completly worth it, in my opinion.

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On the track of Available Schools to go to, im going to Add UAT to the list, its really prety good (a bit expensive at 6k per semester) But anyway what other people have said is true, you could probly make it with just a CS degree but there are those of us who get bored writing out flow charts for a java app, that would take 15 seconds to code, for a teacher that follows the old/new proverb: those who can do, those who cant teach. Anyway the nice thing about a Game school is that all of your classes are set up for a Game programmer, eg. instead of taking US history you take a class on Mythology, or somthing that is more game oriented.

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