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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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I recommend going to igda.org/Forums and checking out the subject. It's talked about in much more depth over there.

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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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My degree is a BFA from a large private (30k students) college, with emphasis on technical aspects of creating art, specifically with computers. The program really focused on "both sides of the brain", and it has served me very well. I'd never trade it for a "game degree", because the education was so much broader than a specialized school. It's given me more options and it's a better signal to employers in most cases.

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I'd recommend going the CS route. Most universities today have classes that deal with computer graphics, AI, etc. which you are able to take. Also although the AP was a little rude about it, being well rounded is a good thing when trying to find a job. I've found that English, Art, Psychology, Biology, Business, Law, and History have helped me a great deal. I wouldn't be the person I am today without that extra knowledge.

Now strictly speaking from a game design aspect, I found that the History, Psychology, and Art courses that I took gave me a greater understanding of certain things. Take for instance user interface design. Psychology can tell you why red is a poor choice for certain types of games due to the emotions that are associated with it. My History courses taught me how to appreciate other cultures and how to incorporate them into the stories within a game. With Art, I specifically took courses that had to do with motion pictures. History of the motion picture was especially interesting. It helped me quite a bit in understanding the composition of cut scenes and how to convey the story to the player in a form that both looks cool and is effective.

Its best to be well rounded. As a warning, the industry has a very high burn out rate. Generally that means you will need a backup career path and a CS degree will ensure that you have one.

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Without a doubt you must go with the CS degree.

For the most part, game programming schools are just that; Game programming schools. I don't think you'll be learning Physics, Electromagnetism, Literature, Public Speaking, Astronomy, etc. at one of these game programming schools. I bet you'll learn basic programming and APIs for at least one gaming environment, and that's about it. Not only that, but you will have spent more money than by going to a good public university.

If you get a CS degree at a real university, you'll get so much more. You always have to consider about your options if you don't make it in the computer game development industry. Can you use your game development education to work on an enterprise level database app?

At Georgia Tech, we were rarely taught how to code. Instead, we were taught how to think. In class, we were taught concepts and were pointed towards language manuals and references. We had to figure out the language on our own in order to do our homework assignments and projects. It was rough, but it has helped me greatly in the long run. I've since learned many other languages and concepts that I use every day at my job.

Not only that, but I also got a world-class education that helped me in many other areas. I also got exposed to more areas of computer science than you probably would at these game schools. I specialized in computer graphics, but I also took classes in operating systems, compilers, networking, and databases as part of my CS curriculum.

Ultimately, it's not just about what you know. It's about how you think, and how you can solve problems. You may have helped write the greatest PS game, but if you aren't good at figuring things out, then you're going to have a tough time getting hired somewhere. If you just want to learn about APIs and stuff like that, then by all means, go for the Game Development school. But if you want a well-rounded education, then you should seriously consider getting a CS degree.

Edit: Also don't forget the social aspects of a real university. You have sports teams, clubs, nice on-campus facilities, greek life, etc. You'll make great lifelong friends at a university that cover all backgrounds. I am good friends with architects, people that work for IBM, people that do consulting around the world, someone who works for Lockheed, etc, and none of these people code for a living.

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CS. Even inside the game industry CS degrees are much more highly respected than game development degrees by the people who will be deciding whether or not to hire you.

CS also has all the benefits of allowing you to change your mind during your 4 years of study.

-me

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Quote:
Original post by DunkelHelmut
For the most part, game programming schools are just that; Game programming schools. I don't think you'll be learning Physics, Electromagnetism, Literature, Public Speaking, Astronomy, etc. at one of these game programming schools. I bet you'll learn basic programming and APIs for at least one gaming environment, and that's about it. Not only that, but you will have spent more money than by going to a good public university.


If anything, a games degree is much more likely to teach you physics and literature/creative writing than a CS degree, since they are much more present in games than in typical software. How many CS degree have Fluid dynamics as a core requirement ? Tought so.

Quote:

If you get a CS degree at a real university, you'll get so much more. You always have to consider about your options if you don't make it in the computer game development industry. Can you use your game development education to work on an enterprise level database app?



OK. First let's get something straight. Game degrees are offered by real universities too this is a point that applies to all your arguments. Then, if we are speaking about CS, you are MUCH MORE likely to apply your in-class knowledge to enerprise level DB systems. Game programming degrees sits on the fence between CS and SE, and SE is more applicable to real life, while CS leads to more theoretical knowledge.


Quote:

At Georgia Tech, we were rarely taught how to code. Instead, we were taught how to think. In class, we were taught concepts and were pointed towards language manuals and references. We had to figure out the language on our own in order to do our homework assignments and projects. It was rough, but it has helped me greatly in the long run. I've since learned many other languages and concepts that I use every day at my job.


It is the same in any respectable game programming oriented degree.

Quote:

Not only that, but I also got a world-class education that helped me in many other areas. I also got exposed to more areas of computer science than you probably would at these game schools. I specialized in computer graphics, but I also took classes in operating systems, compilers, networking, and databases as part of my CS curriculum.


And you believe a 3-year programming why ? Because the teachers suck ? I don't get your point, really.

Quote:

Ultimately, it's not just about what you know. It's about how you think, and how you can solve problems. You may have helped write the greatest PS game, but if you aren't good at figuring things out, then you're going to have a tough time getting hired somewhere. If you just want to learn about APIs and stuff like that, then by all means, go for the Game Development school. But if you want a well-rounded education, then you should seriously consider getting a CS degree.


There's only one reason why you won't be hired, and that's why I still recommend SE and CS over game degrees. People such as the quoted poster ARE everywhere, and there is a lot of prejudice against 'game degrees'. Game companies are indifferent, and businesses look down on them.

I'd advise you, if you want a career as a software developper, to study Software Engineering. Go the CS route if you want to keep an eye on research/academia.

This rant comes from a CS major.

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Quote:
Original post by jfclavette
If anything, a games degree is much more likely to teach you physics and literature/creative writing than a CS degree, since they are much more present in games than in typical software. How many CS degree have Fluid dynamics as a core requirement ? Tought so.


Actually your only about half right. I find that most universities (or at least the ones here in Va) have about the same amount of Physics and English requirements as most of the game degrees. Then again the only program that I know much about is Digipen, it might be that Fullsail requires more in certain aspects.

While fluid dynamics might not be taught in a core class, its not as though he couldn't take a class that dealt with the subject. But I will say that I find the electives offered at Digipen (I haven't looked at other programs so I'm singling it out) to be rather poor in terms of the breadth of available classes. I'm sure that theres other courses that you can take but they don't have them listed. But then again the OP may not wish to take anything outside that list.

Quote:

OK. First let's get something straight. Game degrees are offered by real universities too this is a point that applies to all your arguments. Then, if we are speaking about CS, you are MUCH MORE likely to apply your in-class knowledge to enerprise level DB systems. Game programming degrees sits on the fence between CS and SE, and SE is more applicable to real life, while CS leads to more theoretical knowledge.


Actually it depends on where you go to school as to what the degrees are called. Depending on the area, there is no such thing as a SE degree. Usually SE is referred to as IS (Information Systems) where I live. However I've seen programs where what is commonly referred to as CS is actually more of an SE/IS degree (my friend ended up going to one such school). I would recommend to the OP that he definately take a look at what ever programs he is considering and potentially talk to people there to find out more information.

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Quote:
Original post by TheFez6255
Quote:
Original post by jfclavette
If anything, a games degree is much more likely to teach you physics and literature/creative writing than a CS degree, since they are much more present in games than in typical software. How many CS degree have Fluid dynamics as a core requirement ? Tought so.


Actually your only about half right. I find that most universities (or at least the ones here in Va) have about the same amount of Physics and English requirements as most of the game degrees. Then again the only program that I know much about is Digipen, it might be that Fullsail requires more in certain aspects.


Of course, this is true for Digipen and Full Sail. Their electives are bound to suck, since they basically only offer 4-5 programs. I doubt you can take German...

I'm not sure I like those. On the other hand, ordinary university have game oriented programs that are very viable, altough they are somewhat disguised are often disguised in graphics programming program with game-related electives and use name like "numeric imagery" or "interactive simulations" to avoid the game stigma.

Quote:

Actually it depends on where you go to school as to what the degrees are called. Depending on the area, there is no such thing as a SE degree. Usually SE is referred to as IS (Information Systems) where I live. However I've seen programs where what is commonly referred to as CS is actually more of an SE/IS degree (my friend ended up going to one such school). I would recommend to the OP that he definately take a look at what ever programs he is considering and potentially talk to people there to find out more information.


Here, IS is pretty much CS where you drop all the higher maths/CS and pick low-level business-related classes.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Frankly, it doesn't matter what your degree is - just as long as you have one.

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