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Should someone like me look into a job in the gaming industry?

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I'm at Purdue, double majoring in Computer Science and English. I have one year left before graduation. I like both computers and rhetoric, and I was hoping to combine them and do writing for the computer industry or do usability testing. I've made it through my CS classes with acceptable grades, but the farther along I get, the less I like the topics covered. I've realized I get no redeeming value from doing projects on dynamic register allocation. I have no passionate interest in researching whether there exists an algorithm to do matrix multiplication in faster than O(n^log2 7) time. I just don't enjoy it. The programming projects I enjoy the most are the ones that have the least to do with my academic background... things like building PHP-based dynamic web pages, or putting together games in SDL or writing practical little Linux tools. With that being said, how about a career in the gaming industry? Would that be something I enjoy, or is it another career of algorithm analysis and theoretical computing? I don't want to spend the rest of my life determining if I can solve random problems in polynomial time. Any insight? Thanks, and sorry for the novel. :)

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Well, there are some roles you could take without doing any "hardcore" programming... Being exposed to the general topics of CS gives you a "background" for certain tasks in the industry, where a "non-programmer" could have problems to fit in.

Which roles? That depends on what exactly you would like to do. Game Design? Level Design? Definetely not a tools programmer =/

Son Of Cain

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Original post by trax
With that being said, how about a career in the gaming industry? Would that be something I enjoy, or is it another career of algorithm analysis and theoretical computing? I don't want to spend the rest of my life determining if I can solve random problems in polynomial time.

Any insight?

Thanks, and sorry for the novel. :)


In this industry you worry about the end product and finishing it within a set deadline. You don't have the time to worry about determining random problems.


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Here's why you should endure education. About 5-8 years from now you'll notice something:

- Those little tools, SDL games, web pages will seem like time wasted.
- Everyone else will be making tools, SDL games, and web pages faster and better than today.
- Tools, games, and web pages are/will be worth very little.

The money is in highly advanced software, the other stuff will leave you stuck at a mediocre salary/lifestyle basically until you move on to the more valuable stuff which I would say includes scientific, business process, and financial software.

Game jobs can mean anything from UnrealScripter up to double-pHD scientists. Unreal scripting is fun, pHD pays six figures plus. Scripting gives you results in just a few seconds. Some engineers don't get to enjoy any results for years.

In the end you have to redefine what a 'fun' job is. Yes, it can be gratifying for a while to make things move around on the screen. That gets old. Another 'fun' might be to completely obliterate business rivals with some powerful code and get payed mega-bucks to do it.

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I feel the same way you do. I'm an electronic engineer and I've just started a master in Mechanical and Environmental Informatic at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan and the reason I took this was because I tough it would be fun to implement enviroment and mechanic simulation into softwares and games. Well, usually school is not the way you think is going to be, some things are not directly apliable but in the long run you will see that many of the things can get you out of a pickle.
I will like to get into the gamming industry after I finish my masters, but there I have a major setback, I'm from Panama and there are no gamming companies there and it's really hard to get an international company to hire foreigner, specially after 911.
Having said that, the first thing you have to stop thinking about is money. I've always tought that what ever you do has to come from your heart and what ever comes from there will make you happy. If you like doing web pages, just do it. If your good you will succeed and you will be happy. This applies to everything in you life. I you don't feel it don't do it or you will regret it.
When it comes to game programming if you like to try it, try it, but don't get in to it for the wrong reasons.
I think this is the best advice I could give you.

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Having said that, the first thing you have to stop thinking about is money. I've always tought that what ever you do has to come from your heart and what ever comes from there will make you happy. If you like doing web pages, just do it. If your good you will succeed and you will be happy. This applies to everything in you life. I you don't feel it don't do it or you will regret it.


I totally agree!

But hey, I'm from Brazil... and you say there's resistance to hire foreigners? Oh my God...

I thought of taking the same path as you (seek Japan =). Could you please share your experiences? Was it too hard to get there? (I know the procedures, but I'm asking universities). I'm finishing my CS degree this year, and my aim is to seek a master's degree outside Brazil, to try out a position in the game industry. That is what I want to do, by heart =D

Son Of Cain

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Original post by mvtapia
Having said that, the first thing you have to stop thinking about is money. I've always tought that what ever you do has to come from your heart and what ever comes from there will make you happy.

Yes and no.
Yes you should work on something that makes you happy but no, you shouldn't forget the money. Other people are making a lot of money from games and will happily pay development staff too little, if they accept it. Development staff are worth a decent wage and it is up to them to ensure they get it otherwise people will take advantage.

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Original post by mvtapia
Having said that, the first thing you have to stop thinking about is money.

I completely disagree. Money is your ticket to doing things you've always dreamed about. Oftentimes it's a ticket to doing things you didn't even dream about. Travel, new hobbies, business opportunities, etc. If you only make enough to make ends meet, your quality of life (and therefore happiness) will be significantly lower.

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Remember... money is neither a necessary, nor a sufficient condition for happiness. I know quite a few single income families in my neighborhood who are pulling in 6 figures a year but have crumbling marriages, bad relationships with their kids, and an obsession with keeping up with the Joneses. I don't know about you guys, but I'd trade that for a decent punch card job and a loving family in a heartbeat.

I'm not trying to say that good income = poor lifestyle. Quite the opposite, provided that you don't look to your income as your sole source of livelihood. But making $100,000+ a year doesn't gaurantee happiness.

To each his own, I guess.

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Original post by trax

With that being said, how about a career in the gaming industry? Would that be something I enjoy, or is it another career of algorithm analysis and theoretical computing? I don't want to spend the rest of my life determining if I can solve random problems in polynomial time.



The game industry sounds much more like something you would enjoy. The theoretical world of computing and analysis of algorithms typically is left to the IBM's, Raytheon's, and Universities. When you finish with a CS degree, you can go write different software for those corporations without doing the analysis or even any other corporation. You could also develop software for thousands of other corporations. Even the railroad industry hires software developers. Most of these applications are creating data access and combining different forms of data, and they don't involve performing complex analysis on Matrix multiplication.

I haven't actually had the chance to work in the games industry, but I'm pretty sure you don't see programmers doing much big-Oh analysis on their algorithms. Unless the shift is beginning for more research in the game industry, they typically work to get the thing fast and if it is psuedo-polynomial who cares.

So, having said all of that the world of CS degrees prepares all types of students. Those who want to continue and get Ph.D's. Those who want to develop software and even some of those who want to be system adminsitrators. So, no your not constrained to only doing theoretical CS.

Deerslyr

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Original post by trax
I'm at Purdue, double majoring in Computer Science and English. I have one year left before graduation. I like both computers and rhetoric, and I was hoping to combine them and do writing for the computer industry or do usability testing.

I've made it through my CS classes with acceptable grades, but the farther along I get, the less I like the topics covered. I've realized I get no redeeming value from doing projects on dynamic register allocation. I have no passionate interest in researching whether there exists an algorithm to do matrix multiplication in faster than O(n^log2 7) time. I just don't enjoy it.

The programming projects I enjoy the most are the ones that have the least to do with my academic background... things like building PHP-based dynamic web pages, or putting together games in SDL or writing practical little Linux tools.

With that being said, how about a career in the gaming industry? Would that be something I enjoy, or is it another career of algorithm analysis and theoretical computing? I don't want to spend the rest of my life determining if I can solve random problems in polynomial time.

Any insight?

Thanks, and sorry for the novel. :)


The vast majority of subjects taught at school are useless to a career. Most of it is crud, to the point where the industry accepts that college gradueates will need a good deal of training because their education wasn't sufficent.

Almost no one does algorithm analysis for a living. They write code. 90% is the gunky code that's not even hard to write -it just has to get done.

If you still have a year left and want to get into games, then takes some math courses. Those are more useful then CS classes.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I totally agree with you EvilDecl81, most of the subject you will get at the university are useless.
I think here in Japan they have a good orientation to education, even tough the classes are just like we have said useless, what they do is they make you find the information, by having few class hours. Which is what you will need to do in the future. Be an engineer, find information, be efficient and fast. So in a sense even if the clases are not interesting (which in my case they are), you get to practice what you are going to use.

I also agree with the math part, even tough game math is fairly simple. If you are making an engine is another thing.

Because I have not worked in the game industry I cannot share my experience, but it seems to me that you just like coding. And that my friend is something that is always in demand in the game industry. Just check the job listing in this page. I think I have never seen under 15 job posting for programmers on this page.

Don't worry to much about the future, I like to think the future comes to you.

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Original post by ironpoint
Yes, it can be gratifying for a while to make things move around on the screen. That gets old.


I agree, it gets old fast.

Like every other Joe here, my first games were clones of the classics: Pong, Tetris, and Asteroids. I was in the middle of planning yet another clone (Pacman), to me a boring but necessary task, when I came across Free Lunch Design. This indie developer's games inspired me. I realized that I don't want to make games just for the technical challenge of programming, but also for the creative challenge.

That realization has made me doubt getting a job in the game industry, as apposed to getting some other job that could be more fulfilling and becoming a hobbyist game developer. The first job a programmer gets in the game industry is just that – programming. There won't be any creativity (in terms of game design) until we rise up the ladder.

EDIT: Link fixed.

[Edited by - Phineas on April 21, 2006 12:11:50 PM]

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Original post by Joseph Mahsman
The first job a programmer gets in the game industry is just that – programming. There won't be any creativity (in terms of game design) until we rise up the ladder.


In a lot of companies, that is a lateral shift rather than a step up. Totally different track (often with less pay).

Having said that, as a programmer I often influence the direction of the games I work on. They don't pay me a lot more than what the designers get to keep my opinions to myself.

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I agree that you should fight for your salary ie. don't sell yourself cheap. Start negotiating high not low but don't make the same mistake BEOS did and ask for something ridiculous. Good programmers are always needed, well as long as there is a need for us and I don't see it going down in future but only up. Technology is a new industry. However if you want to make money then you need to make money with money ie. some kind of investor but it's very risky job as well. So do that if you love money and just want to make more of it. However, most of us just want to make something decent and have fun as well and not become business oriented. If coding is going to take most of your time then it's unlikely you're going to be going on vacations or playing sports or any of that activity so you don't need that much money to survive. I mean, sure having a new ferrari is fun but that feeling wears off after a while. It then just becomes very expensive car to maintain and ride around. Might as well get a beeter car and not worry about someone slamming door into you on parking lot. Don't keep up with Joneses, companies are counting on that so they can sell you crap. Have your own life, do things you like to do and remember that the worst can happen is that you can die which will happen anyways so utilize the short time you have the best way by having fun and less stressful life. What is the point of living otherwise? You might as well go dead now and save yourself the aggravation of crappy life. Stress is the number one killer, btw.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I don't know, I've been a professional doing games for a while, and my opinion of being in this field for personal fulfulment is kind of low right now. The problem is, even if you get a job in the industry, the chances are so low that you'll be able to work on a product you're really interested in. I mean, yes, it would be awesome to work on the big name games. They could pay me one dollar a year for the chance to develop Halo or World of Warcraft. But everybody wants to work on these projects, and there are so few awesome products compared to how many crappy products there are out there. Most likely, you will end up being a developer on Army Men: Sarge Strikes Back or John Madden Lawn Darts 2006.

Or even worse, you could end up on a project that has the potential to be cool, but is killed by the game designer's decisions. You could be working on a Star Wars game and have the designer say, "Kids love candy, so how about the lightsabres don't actually kill people, they just spit out candy!" And sometimes you can't fight it, no matter how much they respect your opinion, because you're just going to be one voice at a big company. Lord knows that some horrible decisions can be made by committee. And getting voted down can be far more painful when it's something you care about. I mean, light sabres that spit out candy is way more offensive than if you had a real job, and you lost an argument to use ASP instead of PHP.

So what I'm getting at is I think it's better to just get a normal job, and save yourself the inevitable painfulness of trying to make video games for profeit. Making video games independantly in your spare time will make you much happier.

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