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Education Advice

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Hello Gamedev.net! I have a question for those of you in the game development industry. Allow me to briefly explain my situation. I earned my B.S. in Computer Science back in 2001, and have been a software engineer ever since. Lately I've been developing mainly web applications (using the Microsoft .NET platform with C#, plus a variety of other technologies). However, back when I was in high school/college, I did some game programming on the side - nothing too complex, mainly 2D graphics and text-based games, but I had fun. Recently, I decided I wanted to take my career in a different direction and try to get into game development. My instinct told me that I should have some extra education, so I started looking around for continuing education classes. I only wanted to take one at a time, and not necessarily get a degree - my goal was to learn, not to get a slip of paper. However, all I could find was a B.S. program in "Game Design" at a college called IADT (International Academy of Design and Technology). I was so anxious to get started on my new goal that I enrolled right away and started taking classes, even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted. Since then, I've had a chance to speak with someone in the game development industry - a former Blizzard employee who now does consulting work placing developers and designers with development studios. He had some surprising things to say - mainly that extra education wouldn't help me get the job I was after. He told me I would be better served by creating a demo - perhaps a mod of an existing game or an open source game - to show employers. In addition, I've seen that if I have patience, there are continuing education classes I could take at other places which might help (such as 3D modeling and animation in 3DS Max). Having thought more about it, I've realized that by taking classes only part-time at IADT, it would take me a long time (up to 5 years) to get a new B.S. degree. (I never really planned to go for the whole thing, I just planned to take classes as long as I felt like it.) However, I'd be forced to take some classes that don't directly relate to game development - gen eds and others that are more art classes, when my first job would likely be as a programmer. So, what to do now? Should I just cut my losses and drop out of IADT now, and head in a different direction? Or should I stick it out for the rest of the quarter, and maybe even stay for more? I'm curious what those in the industry have to say.

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Well I would certainly take the former Blizzard employee’s advice in high regard. To indirectly quote someone here on the boards, "A degree MAY get you a job in the industry, but it won't help you keep one". As for quitting your college, I say the answer depends on if your willing to put serious time into learning how to produce a working demo with your time off, but I'm certainly no expert, so don't be so quick to listen to my advice alone XP

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It's true that a degree alone won't get you a job or help you keep one. It will potentially make your salary higher depending where you work. Getting a job in the industry usually is a large factor of things.

Degrees such as those focused around game design, are not really directly related to computer science and programming games. People can get jobs in the game development industry from many sources. You can get it from having nice demos, connections, working with a small company that intends to make games, etc.

The list of ways to get in the industry is rather vast. I am wondering why you decided on a degree in game design? Game design is not really programming games; it is much more of an artistic field then scientific. Many people get jobs in the game industry with degrees in computer science.

You might be better off going and taking some additional classes to your CS degree at a college on things like DirectX, OpenGL, and AI. Then simply make demos for your portfolio, this way you have proof of what you can do. Apply for jobs, get an interview show off your demos.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by DevLiquidKnight
The list of ways to get in the industry is rather vast. I am wondering why you decided on a degree in game design? Game design is not really programming games; it is much more of an artistic field then scientific. Many people get jobs in the game industry with degrees in computer science.


Well, I originally looked for single classes I could take to help me learn game programming techniques and technologies such as DirectX. When I couldn't find any, I went for game design as the next best thing. Yeah, in hindsight I realize it's totally different, and I should've held out for something different. Ah well, I'm chalking it up to a lesson learned.

Quote:
Original post by kevtimc
As for quitting your college, I say the answer depends on if your willing to put serious time into learning how to produce a working demo with your time off


Yes, that's what the department chair at IADT said when I talked to her about it. I believe I have the self-discipline for it, but I guess I'm about to find out. :)

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In game development, what you produce is more important than what qualifications you have. That's why the person from Blizzard suggested that you work on your demo. Most studios want people who produce products, and produce them well. Your education may help you to produce good games, but your education alone isn't really enough.

My advice is to keep going through school (got anything better to do?), work on your demo, and apply for all of the positions you can. If you get a job, leave school. Otherwise, you are probably learning something that'll be useful later on (even the gen ed classes).

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When I look at someone's resume, whether or not they have a degree is more of a curiosity than anything else. The only thing it really tells me is that someone has enough discipline to stick to something for four years, and can function within a system - those are useful things to know, but there are other ways of determining that.

That said, if school is the best source for you to learn, stick with school.

If you want a game programming job, nothing beats a demo - except a demo with source code that demonstrates that the person writing the demo can think clearly.

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