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Computer Science - a MUST?

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I take a look at alot of job posting here on gamedev but whether the job is for programming or design it states that a 2-3 year degree in computer science is a must for that position. I have heard from people within the industry that talent is the most important tool you have to getting into the industry. So if there are two people applying for a position that listed Computer Science as one of the requirements, one canadate has a degree in computer science and the other has not even attended university. The canadate that has no degree but has an outstanding portfolio that appealed more to the employer, would talent then prevail over a degree? I'm not asking so I can take computer science and just walk in but I would actually prefer to get in due to any talent I may possess. Obviously a combination of both would be best but lets say it is either great portfolio or degree. Anybody have any insight on this topic?

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I would say that the dedication required to complete a degree program usually serves as a prescreen against slackers (not always true, but it reduces them). However having samples of your work is also important, as is showing that you can complete projects.

Why not have both? Surely you can still have a good portfolio and get formal education in a subject. They are not mututally exclusive things ;).

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In the past in the game industry it was a 'really nice to have' but if you could prove you were brilliant and had a nice portfolio than it wasn't a must.

Quite honestly today is a different story and unless you can convince them you are well above an average CS graduate there is absolutely no reason to even look at you. Although there is one backdoor to this, and that is if you already have experience in the game industry than that is much more important than your degree.

That being said I was in the game industry and did not have a degree but that was in the past, and I had always wished that I returned (as I didn't go initially due to the dotCom boom and business reasons). I am actually doing my degree part-time right now.. not because of a job requirement as I have 9 years of development experience so a degree is pretty redundant, but because I want to end up with an MBA to start my own company in 10 years time.

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The game industry isn't the only one that does this. Go to Monster or Workopolis or any of those job sites and look for programming jobs, and you'll find that most of them are asking for the same things that game development houses are asking for; 2-5 years experience or more, a bachelor's or better, a broad range of knowledge, and all kinds of other things that seem like too much.

My college teachers keep saying that this is mostly a "wish list" that employers are putting out, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if that is the case, since it seems that EVERY employer, regardless of industry, is asking for the same things. The only things really stopping me from getting a degree in Software Development instead of my wimpy Computer Programmer diploma are A) time (not that I don't have the time, but I'm 23 and feel the pressure to, you know, get started with my life), B) money, and C) my desire to have an actual job (which goes back to A).

Whether these things are a "wish list" for the game industry or not, I don't know. I certainly hope so, otherwise what was the point of ever going to college and getting a diploma?

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Original post by Quanta_StarFire
Whether these things are a "wish list" for the game industry or not, I don't know. I certainly hope so, otherwise what was the point of ever going to college and getting a diploma?

Please don't let the following discourage you, it is just my personal experience in Canada of about 10 years of development starting as a developer, to project manager, to lead technical, back to senior engineer (I've actually been in charge of hiring for about 7 years of work). My experience here in Canada I can say that the majority of game companies (and also regular tech companies) will only look at you if you have a B.Sc., M.Sc. or B.A.Sc (although degrees in mathematics and physics are also accepted and deemed just as good, and sometimes they are actually individually sought after). The place I'm working now only looks at applicants that either have a BSc/Msc or do not have post-secondary education (as these guys seem to be brilliant or utterly stupid so it's easy to weed out). We actually don't even look at the college applicants or PhD applicants (mainly because the PhD's only want to work in the single little area they studied, they want high pay, and 99 out of 100 are definately not worth any more than a junior B.Sc., although obviously if you are hiring them to do a single job and it is in their area of research they would be a real nice fit.. but they don't seem to match product-lifecycle oriented companies at all)

Also regarding the 'minimum requirements' on job sites, the majority of the time those are hard requirements to be honest, although maybe .5-1% are not. The reason is that HR manager and recruiters have no idea about tech and are told to weed out people without certain skills and credentials. This is why 99% of the jobs that say 'minimum B.Sc.' actually mean it. But like I said you do find a small percentage which is normally always a small company where the development team/manager does the hiring himself, and that is where academic requirements are usually relaxed.

[Edited by - Saruman on September 28, 2006 1:47:14 AM]

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You can look for my other comments on this matter on this board, but the gist of it is: I don't care much about a degree, beyond it saying that you can sit still for a few years and function within an established system.

If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

The other people in the game industry that I know (personally) that are also responsible for making hiring decisions have similar views. This isn't to say that that's universal, but it is my experience.

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Original post by JasonBlochowiak
If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

Maybe it depends on the program. I'm in the last semester of a CS B.Sc. -- and one more semester away from a Chemistry B.Sc. as well -- and I honestly have to say that my programming ability has vastly improved because of it. You don't learn, say, the Operating Systems and Computer Organization side of things from work experience (which I've had) or reading C++ books (done lots of that too), but understanding the low-level stuff has made me write better code instinctively.

Sure, the piece of paper itself doesn't mean much. You can scrape by and get a degree with minimal effort. But if you actually learn and understand the material being taught, it's incredibly useful.

"Talent" is nice if you're an artist. Software development requires knowledge, experience, the ability to rapidly learn new things, a propensity for math and logic, and good communication skills.

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A degree doesn't necessarily demonstrate technical knowledge. I know for a fact that my technical knowledge is from my self learning and nothing to do with my university.

However, I did a lot of work for IBM's university team and they distilled the vital knowledge that a degree is not about the specifics and more about the process.

A graduate knows how to learn things and can pick things up quickly - sounds simple, but for a company looking to invest in future employees, someone who can learn is much more valuable than someone who already thinks they know everything.

Being a graduate proves your calibre wrt learning - it shows you're capable of understanding complex technical concepts as well as being able to take an assignment and produce a complete solution. Those basic skills can be improved by your employer, as opposed to someone who goes in all guns blazing claiming to know anything and everything - that (potential) arrogance doesn't make a good long-term employee.

(Apologies if this is a repeat of previous posts, but I'm tired from a long day on the MS campus ([razz]/[grin]) and haven't read much!)

Cheers,
Jack

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Original post by drakostar
Quote:
Original post by JasonBlochowiak
If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

Maybe it depends on the program. I'm in the last semester of a CS B.Sc. -- and one more semester away from a Chemistry B.Sc. as well -- and I honestly have to say that my programming ability has vastly improved because of it. You don't learn, say, the Operating Systems and Computer Organization side of things from work experience (which I've had) or reading C++ books (done lots of that too), but understanding the low-level stuff has made me write better code instinctively.

Sure, the piece of paper itself doesn't mean much. You can scrape by and get a degree with minimal effort. But if you actually learn and understand the material being taught, it's incredibly useful.

"Talent" is nice if you're an artist. Software development requires knowledge, experience, the ability to rapidly learn new things, a propensity for math and logic, and good communication skills.


I'm not saying that having the foundations down isn't useful - quite to the contrary, they're very useful. I'm just saying that that foundation layer that I've seen from grads is a tiny part of what I really need from programmers that I hire.

A number of years ago, someone (forget who) was complaining about talking to recent grads. Conversation went something like:
interviewer: "What can you do?"
grad: "I can program in C and Pascal." (like I said, this was awhile ago)
interviewer: "No, no - what can you do?"
grad: "I can program in C and Pascal."
interviewer: "Aaaaaagh!"

I would say that talent, on its own, is pretty useless for either an artist or an engineer. However, when appropriately applied, it's priceless.

I do agree wholeheartedly with jollyjeffers about learning: I expect that people that I manage will treat learning as a continual process; people who already think they know it all are wrong, and should stay away. My personal rule of thumb is that if you look at code you wrote a year ago, you should be embarassed by some aspect of it that you could now do significantly better.

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Haha I'm embarrased by code I just wrote... rewritten my programs so many times.

Anyway, a quick side question: I am doing a degree called "Information Technology and Physics". It used to be called Computer Science and Physics but for some reason they renamed it... I think it's a bit more web-based than what it used to be. (My first lectures tomorrow, callled "Programming for the WWW". Anyway, is that degree going to be any good? As you've probably noticed it's a joint degree, 50-50 physics and computers split. Because I like computers and science, and I just couldn't pick "one"!

Anyway, I'm considering a job in computer industry, possibly games possible not, I've got a while to think about that. But would that degree be beneficial, or do they want a "straight" computer science degree?

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I don't know much about such things, but if I were you I'd milk it for all it's worth. Physics is becoming a big thing in game development, so if you have a nice physics related demo or two and say that's your area of expertise, you might get some interest. Maybe make it sound like you chose the degree with that in mind.

I've heard that people will accept math and physics degrees anyway.

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Original post by RAZORUNREAL
I don't know much about such things, but if I were you I'd milk it for all it's worth. Physics is becoming a big thing in game development, so if you have a nice physics related demo or two and say that's your area of expertise, you might get some interest. Maybe make it sound like you chose the degree with that in mind.

I've heard that people will accept math and physics degrees anyway.


This comes up quite a bit on these forums, but I think it's worth bringing up again. 'Physics' as in the subject studied at college, is not the same as 'Physics' the term used in Game Development.

College Physics is electromagnetism, optics, atomic and sub-atomic particles, radiation, waves, astrophysics, quantum physics, thermal physics, etc.

Game Physics is classical mechanics, statics and dynamics, calculus, differential equations, optimisation, topology, etc, which is basically applied mathematics as studied in a Maths or Mechanical Engineering degree.

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Original post by WillC
This comes up quite a bit on these forums, but I think it's worth bringing up again. 'Physics' as in the subject studied at college, is not the same as 'Physics' the term used in Game Development.

College Physics is electromagnetism, optics, atomic and sub-atomic particles, radiation, waves, astrophysics, quantum physics, thermal physics, etc.

Are you speaking from your own experience, or what? It would be very difficult to find a physics graduate that didn't have a strong grasp of Newtonian dynamics and calculus. Yes, most of the program would be modern physics and quantum mechanics, but 'game physics' is the very basics. If you're trying to say that it would be stupid to get a physics degree for the purposes of game development, well then I'd agree with you. One semester of physics, 3-4 semesters of calculus, and 1-2 semesters of linear algebra is sufficient.

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Original post by drakostar
Are you speaking from your own experience, or what? It would be very difficult to find a physics graduate that didn't have a strong grasp of Newtonian dynamics and calculus. Yes, most of the program would be modern physics and quantum mechanics, but 'game physics' is the very basics. If you're trying to say that it would be stupid to get a physics degree for the purposes of game development, well then I'd agree with you. One semester of physics, 3-4 semesters of calculus, and 1-2 semesters of linear algebra is sufficient.


Yes, sorry, I didn't mean to give the impression that College Physics doesn't cover these subjects at all. Obviously it does to some degree, and this will undoubtably be useful to anyone who wants to get into games.

They won't however be coved to the depth required for someone wishing to `specialise` in Game Physics. For this they would be much better off studying mathematics.

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Its been my experience that degrees don't matter at all once you have a game dev job. Once the foot is in the door it just comes down to how you apply yourself, i've seen a number of graduates or students on summer jobs come through our doors and the only real distinction (its rare that they can pick up the job and run with it) is the drive to apply themselves.

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Since there seem to be a few people here who know about getting hired for game dev, I'm just curious: is it worth it do get a dual major in math?

Right now I'm working toward a BS in Math and Computer Science. Does a second degree in math mean much on a job application?

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Original post by drakostar
Quote:
Original post by JasonBlochowiak
If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

Maybe it depends on the program. I'm in the last semester of a CS B.Sc. -- and one more semester away from a Chemistry B.Sc. as well -- and I honestly have to say that my programming ability has vastly improved because of it. You don't learn, say, the Operating Systems and Computer Organization side of things from work experience (which I've had) or reading C++ books (done lots of that too), but understanding the low-level stuff has made me write better code instinctively.

Sure, the piece of paper itself doesn't mean much. You can scrape by and get a degree with minimal effort. But if you actually learn and understand the material being taught, it's incredibly useful.

"Talent" is nice if you're an artist. Software development requires knowledge, experience, the ability to rapidly learn new things, a propensity for math and logic, and good communication skills.


I've got to say that there are a lot of CS Alumni who can't program their way out of some of the most trivial solutions. I would also argue University teaches you very little about programming unless you actually force it to. Beyond this, you learn sleightly dated techniques and a lot of stuff that a really interested person will research anyway. What I find I get from university isn't a good education, but rather, time and an excuse to give myself a good education.

I would argue that piece of paper is about the most valuable thing you can get out of University. If you teach yourself how to do something, don't give the university credit for it. I really don't learn much at all from profs unfortunately and that's sad because I spend thousands of dollars and sit through the courses, but at the end of the day what I learn comes from my own personal projects outside of university. I'm not trying to sound smug here, but that's the truth of it. I'm sure some people learn a lot at university, but the courses I take are either trivial or dull and by reading the textbook on my own I'd learn just as much as if they sat me in the lectures. How can I say "Yes, university teaches me a lot" when I can pick up a textbook for a course, read it cover to cover, and it teaches me everything I need to know about the subject and does it better than the actual professors in charge of directing the learning process?

""Talent" is nice if you're an artist. Software development requires knowledge, experience, the ability to rapidly learn new things, a propensity for math and logic, and good communication skills."

Talent IS the result of hard work and understanding. Are you so naive to believe that every single piece of art you see from the pros has been shat out without effort and that there isn't a mountain of crap and tossed sketches for every completed work? Being an artist requires knowledge, experience and the ability to rapidly learn new things. It also requires logic and a keen eye for design and quality that has to be developed through hard work over time.

Talent is equally important in the software field.

The problem is that the word talent is so misunderstood. It's as if people actually believe that things come without any work. I suppose it's the whole nature vs. nurture thing, but even people with a natural predisposition towards certain types of activities still have to work at it. In fact, they probably work at it harder than other people do because it's something they enjoy.

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Original post by M2tMTalent IS the result of hard work and understanding. Are you so naive to believe that every single piece of art you see from the pros has been shat out without effort and that there isn't a mountain of crap and tossed sketches for every completed work? Being an artist requires knowledge, experience and the ability to rapidly learn new things. It also requires logic and a keen eye for design and quality that has to be developed through hard work over time.

Talent is equally important in the software field.

The problem is that the word talent is so misunderstood. It's as if people actually believe that things come without any work. I suppose it's the whole nature vs. nurture thing, but even people with a natural predisposition towards certain types of activities still have to work at it. In fact, they probably work at it harder than other people do because it's something they enjoy.


People tend to use the word "talent" when referring to latent ability, which isn't a misuse of the term by any means; matter of fact, it's the dictionary definition of the word.

What you're referring to is "practice", whereby a talented or untalented individual becomes good at an activity by immersing themselves in it to the point where it eventually becomes second nature to them. All it requires to reach this point is dedication, but those with a natural aptitude for logical processing are going to advance far quicker than those who's aptitudes lie elsewhere.

That said, there aren't that many people who are dedicated practitioners. I mean, sure, most people who take up CS or Programming or anything probably want to be there, and they'll do the work required of them, but most people want to have a life outside of that, and writing code for fun doesn't fit into that perception in most cases, but drinking, getting laid, and playing WoW fit perfectly.

Of course, when they get their first IT jobs and realize how little they actually know about what they've been supposedly studying, they'll wish they HAD coded for fun a bit instead of helping their guild down Nefarian.

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Of course, when they get their first IT jobs and realize how little they actually know about what they've been supposedly studying, they'll wish they HAD coded for fun a bit instead of helping their guild down Nefarian.


Quanta_StarFire, PLEASE let me use that as my sig quote. =) It describes almost everyone in my school who plans on majoring in CS.

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Yes. What I've learned so far in college, pre what I knew before I went to college, just showed me how much a BSc degree matters. I'm in my last year now.

I did used to think I could go without it, thinking it wasn't neccessery, but I was wrong.
The world is becoming a hard place, people are competing hard to maintain their way of living, and those who get crushed (first) are the ones who have less education. Poorer get pooreer, less educated get less educated, and the richer get richer.

In 10 years, a bachelors degree will be the bare minimum to get any good job. A masters degree will be the norm.

Modern day people change jobs many times during their lifetime, 5-20 times, compared to maybe 2-3 times 20-40 years ago. Being able to show that you have a certified university degree is priceless during each of those job-changes.


Someone mentioned "Information Technology degree", stay the hell away from that. Anything that has "Information Technology" in it, must be crap, remnant-hype from the DOT-COM era.

Go "Computer Science" with emphasize on low-level systems, math.

The difference between the two; IT teaches you how to produce practical software, like web applications. Computer Science teaches you how to produce software that the IT-professional use to produce software.

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Original post by appel
Someone mentioned "Information Technology degree", stay the hell away from that. Anything that has "Information Technology" in it, must be crap, remnant-hype from the DOT-COM era.


Well it's too late now.. although I suppose I could transfer, but I really wanted to do science and computing.

Here is the sylabus. Please take a look and see if it is any good?
http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ph/teaching/programmes/itp.html

Thanks..

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