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Degree in Computer Science or Degree in Game Development?

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I've been told that i'd be better of getting a degree in Computer Science than going to a school like Full Sail and getting a Game Development. i was wondering how come? im wantin to go to college on the East Coast and have been looking at Universities, and Tech Schools like Full Sail. I guess wat im asking is am i better off going to a university or tech school to be a video game programmer? or does it even matter? Anybody got any opinions they wanna share with me? thanx :)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Because maybe the well rounded university will teach you how to spell...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I've never seen a help wanted ad from a major studio... or any studio for that matter... asking for somebody with a "Degree in Game Development". HAHAHA.

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Is it just me or are the AP's getting more annoying.

To the OP, what grade are you in?

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I had considered the Full Sail route, but I decided against it and am working on my CS degree instead. The way I look at it, the worst case scenerio is that if I cant get into the industry, or if I cant handle the workload after a few years, that CS degree will have alot of other doors open for me.

I've got a few friends in the game industry who all have told me the same thing, get a CS degree and not go the Full Sail route. A big reason for that is the CS degree does round your skills out and proves to your employers that you were committed enough to go through it all.

Just some things to think about.

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I'm studying for a BSc (Hons) Computer Games Technology at the University of Abertay in Dundee and I quite like the course. It's a lot more focused on graphics, sound, gameplay and game-relavent programming than a regular computer science degree over here in the UK, not to mention the maths is way harder (FFTs in 2nd year, and fluid dynamics in 3rd year) The PS2 programming is particularly good here. The degree's not perfect, but it's improved a great deal since it was started way back when (Abertay had the world's first computer games programming degree). You do miss out on some foundation computer science knowledge, such as efficient searching and sorting, but these can be self-taught relatively easily. Abertay computer games degrees tend not to be hand-holding degrees, the lecturers encourage you to stretch yourself and learn beyond the syllabus.

There's almost never a strict coursework guideline, usually it's something like "Make a 3D game using only DirectSound" (a particularly interesting coursework, believe me). Recently, keyframed 3D model animation has been introduced as a mandatory part of the 2nd year OpenGL course (I missed this, but I self taught OpenGL before I started this degree anyway) I am fond of this degree course, but I can see that it has a long way to go yet. I think the best thing about the Abertay CGT degree is the opportunity to work with people who are like minded about making computer games. Also, this degree allows you the freedom to basically do what you want, because the coursework guidelines are so flexible, I find this provides an incentive to learn which self study would not.

This is my 3rd year group coursework:
http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=382338

That said, I've heard about the poor reputation of computer games degrees around the place. I was almost embarrassed talking to a number of people on other "computer games programming" degrees because I found myself explaining the simplest concepts, such as 2D sprite animation and parrallax backgrounds in 2D games (that was to lecturers, forget even talking to the students about these sorts of things).

I've heard good things about Full Sail, but I would advise you to investigate carefully before deciding on a course of action.

I hope that my experience helps you make your decision on this matter.

EDIT: As a matter of fact, most people who come out of this degree end up in regular programming jobs. The games industry around the Dundee area isn't doing so well at the moment. However, I expect this to change, especially with the large number of skilled graduates accumulating in the area.

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Here are some more reasons:
  • Sometime in the next few years you may discover something much more interesting than making games (robotics, space systems, weather prediction, whatever). If your degree is Game Development you are stuck.
  • It is difficult to get a job in the video game industry. If a can't get a job making games, your degree is worthless.
  • Employers are not impressed by game development degrees. A Computer Science degree from a well-known university has more value -- even in the video game industry.

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Ahh well at Digipen you can get a Bachelers in Computer Design. Usually by the third year people are getting quite a few requests from gaming companies to join them. This is basicly because companies like to scout just like sports teams.

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Really think about what you want to do with your future. I considered going to Digipen (and a few other schools), but after really thinking about it I decided to get my degree in Computer Science. I am going to be working on games while I am going to school (going to a four year school in the Spring '07). If you decide somewhere down the line that you don't want to devote your life for 18-24 months working on a game you might want to get out of the industry. At least with a Computer Science degree you won't have to play catch-up, and hope that your credits will transfer (or a school will accept them) towards the CS/CIS degree.

During your years in college spend some time working on games (like I am going to) and get some demos going for yourself. Join a mod-team or two, and start a project with some friends at your school. At least then you have something to show an employer as a technology demo, as well as with your degree, and hopefully some type of honors certificates from your college. You might join the first development house and decide that you don't want to work there, and you just want to do indie stuff. With the Computer Science degree you have those options.

There are also some post-graduate schools out there such as GuildHall@SMU (Texas) that specialize on teaching people who already have degrees. But I think they even require that you have some sort of portfolio before they will accept you. The choice is ultimately yours, but make sure you REALLY think it out before you decide. Those game development schools are a dime a dozen now: DeVry, Full Sail, UAT, and those schools on television. Do you really think that everyone there is going to make it?

If you do choose to go to a school for Game Development I would highly suggest (if you have the means) choosing DigiPen (Washington State or Canada) over Full Sail (Florida). Good luck my friend!

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