Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
Xetahex

Reality Of Being A Game Programmer

This topic is 4265 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Since I'm going to college next year I've been applying for schools, and my major of choice is Computer Science. My second major choice was gonna be sound engineering or music composition, but I realized there's very little chance of getting a job in that. Well one of the schools I'm applying for is DigiPen, which as a lot of you probably know is a game programming school. My other school choices are Washington State University, which has a fairly good CS program, and then Bradley University, which doesn't really have a good program, but I have other reasons to go there. I have two questions for those who have WORK experience in the field of game programming, or even programming. First, does what school you go to really matter to employers? My programming teacher now is encouraging me to go to a top computer science school, which I can only get into very few of, but I don't know how important that is in reality. Also, how realistic is it to get a job in game programming? I hear most of the people on these forums talking about their hobby projects, though as much as I enjoy programming as a hobby, but is that what a degree will get you? The reason I gave up music as a major was to be realistic about making money, even though my parents supported it. My parents don't support me going into game programming, and most people I talk to think it's a "joke" to try to get a job in it. I want to know if I should even bother finishing my DigiPen application, or I should just try to work in a different field of programming.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
I've worked in the games industry for about 4 years now (worked in dot-com biz for around 4 years before that).

A "traditional" college CS degree is still much more highly regarded inside and outside of the game programming industry. A top CS institution (MIT, CalTech, etc) are again even more highly regarded than a "typical traditional" college degree and will help you get a job; one of those degrees will basically guarantee that you have a well paid job in any programming industry immediately upon graduation. But, the bigger benefit of either college system is the networking with classmates/professors/recent graduates, all of whom can pass your resume along and help you get your foot in the door.

I'd highly reccomend ditching the digipen application and getting a "traditional" degree; not only is it more "respected" but you can switch fields more easily, the social life is infinitely more fun, girls are cuter, etc.

A digipen degree will lock you into game programming; a pretty significant percentage of people change majors in college, with digipen that's not an option. if you decide you hate game programming too bad, now you have to either drop out or take a game programming job for 3 years to get enough work experience to switch fields.

Out of the maybe 100 or so programmers at work I know of 2 who went to a digipen type university; they're decent programmers. However, I've interviewed maybe 6 people from there and they were all pretty poorly educated. One of the digipen dudes with whom I work doesn't even know who alan turing is; not that that's an indication of programming ability but come on. =)

-me

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gaming buissines is huge, its a multibillion dollar industry. No way its a joke. they might think of it like that becouse theydo not know better.
Im (also?) quite new to programming games, but the way (i think) the industry see you is, your talent. I do not believe theyll youll never get hired in a game company if you go to anything else than digipen/full sail. See what each school has to offer, and what YOU want to focus on. Again, i believe it all comes down to what you can offer when you send in your resumé, but also, again, people whom have been here longer might know "better" than me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Get a CS degree. You'll be much more well-rounded and credible to employers.

If you still want to do game programming afterwards, you won't have anything that Digipen graduates won't have or can't pick up with relative ease.

If you find out that you don't want to do game programming, you'll be able to do a lot more than you would with a Digipen degree, for a lot more money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
adding to what others have said, i'm not sure how it works in the US but in the UK if you have a good pass (2:1 or better) in computer science you allways have doors open for you to study a masters in a related field if you find you wish to specialise more. If you do something like digipen (as has been said) you're more boxed in.


one question i have to ask is "what qualifies a degree as being computer science?". I hear the phrase thrown around, but from what i've seen my degree (a games programming one) is more computer science than most computer science degrees.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
one question i have to ask is "what qualifies a degree as being computer science?". I hear the phrase thrown around, but from what i've seen my degree (a games programming one) is more computer science than most computer science degrees.


Well, for me a "pure" CS degree is not even related to programming, it is more philosophical like studying algorithm analysis, "turing" machines =), decibility problems, lambda calculus, mathematical logic and so forth.

You know, all that weird stuff your parents/friends don't have a clue you "actually" study (all of them think we go to college and take WindowsXP, MS Office and How-To repair PC's classes... give me a break)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A CS degree means you know the fundamental theories of programming that are true for all languages. In my experience those with a digipen type degree seem to have a more tradeskill oriented education: i.e. they know a few algorithms and how to implent them but are generally awful at things like complexity analysis, theory and designing new algorithms for new problems.

Yes a recent digipen graduate will likely know more game-programming related coding stuff. However, I've found the recent CS degree people to be able to learn any new system faster and are better at designing new & solid algorithms.

But that's all anecdotal and admittedly biased.

What's not anecdotal is that a CS degree is generally more respected and will allow you access to a greater variety of industries.

-me

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
one question i have to ask is "what qualifies a degree as being computer science?". I hear the phrase thrown around, but from what i've seen my degree (a games programming one) is more computer science than most computer science degrees.

If you ask me, the title Computer Science seemed always a bit misleading for me. In many, mostly non-english speaking countries, the Computer Science degree is called Informatics, or better say the correspoding translation to the actual country's language.
I think Informatics brings us closer to the scope of the degree, where Computer Science is merely just a small part of it. That said you will see that computers and programming languages are just the tools you would use to apply the knowledge, it's not the knowledge about the tools you strive for. This means going the classical Computer Science / Informatics route will get you a lot deeper into the theory of information, information processing, information system engineering ect. using Mathematics as your main tool and computers with programming languages as your secondary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm a Digipen graduate, and it really is a good school. Rightly or wrongly, and I'd say wrongly, there is some perception of Digipen grads being less than grads of more traditional programs in non-game industries, and even, to a lesser extent, within the games industry.

While the degree may not be *quite* as broad as a more traditional university program, its not nearly as narrow as people often presume or portray. You're not going to write an Operating System or compiler at Digipen, but you will study them, and you will write an optimizing mathematical expression parser, you will learn about bits, bytes and electronic circuits, build micro-controller powered robotic cars, and have access to a wealth of electives ranging from sound and image processing to advanced mathematics and physics. You can even Minor in math, and I believe soon, Physics.

Ultimately its about what you become. Some people absolutely thrive at Digipen, others would be better off at University, some do both -- coming to Digipen to get game-specific training after a traditional CS degree.

The Digipen grads who have previous University degrees are always snatched up quickly by employers, often during or before their last year. I'd say 10% or more of the senior class leaves Digipen every year because they've been "poached" by employers, and probably 40% have standing offers upon their graduation. I roomed with a guy who came to Digipen fresh out of high school with little or no prior programming experience and took a job at Bungie for 66k a year, he beat out ~200 applicants, many of whom had industry experience.

There are three primary advantages to Digipen:

  1. Your Portfolio. By the time you graduate Digipen, you'll have a minimum of 4 complete game projects to showcase for potential employers. They're all done in teams of various sizes, and employers love people who can be an effective team player.

  2. Your Training. Whatever advantages a traditional University may have, 99% will not teach you much about games. If your employer says "We want you to write a skeletal animation system using Inverse Kinematics" the foundation will be there for the university grad, but the experience will most likely not.

  3. Balance. While this is not true of all university programs, and finding a *good* university program is paramount, the one thing I'll say that Digipen had down was the balance between theory and practice. Some university programs lean too heavily toward theory, and offer too little opportunity for practice. Digipen is excelent in that you will do everything you learn at least once, and it will nearly always serve as a basis for things you will do later. All in all, you spend the appropriate amount of time *doing* for the amount of time you spend *talking* Not all University programs have found this balance. There's also a risk of a program being too much practice and not enough theory, where students graduate with only the ability to mimic what they've seen before, a situation which digipen itself has thankfully avoided, though the same cannot be said for all of its students.



That's not to say that Digipen doesn't have its downsides - Firstly, it's expensive, you can count on spending 25k per year with tuition, books and living expenses. Second, the social aspect is much different (read: lacking) compared to a larger, University program, and yes, generally speaking, the girls are prettier on the outside. Lastly, when looking for employment outside the games industry you may have to alter your approach a little - focus your resume less toward games and more on your skillset (you should be tailoring your resume to the position anyhow) and be prepared to demonstrate your skills as applicable to the industry at hand.

That said, I've found no problem getting employment outside the industry in my experience, in fact both jobs I've held since graduating have been outside the games industry (for the simple fact that they were the best offers at the time.) I've always had multiple offers when seeking employment, and I've been able to find my job within 3-4 weeks of starting my search.


Ultimately, what you need to do is consider your options as far as your CS education is concerned: I see University, Digipen/Fullsail/etc., or both.

You're not far from Digipen, its only a ~5 hour drive for you, so you should definatley visit during one of their monthly open houses, talk to some teachers (I'd specifically recommend Prof. Mead), talk to some students, and check out the area. Visit your desired WSU campus as well and do the same. Really, all anyone here can do, myself included, is give anecdotal and probably slightly biased evidence based on our personal experiences. Ultimately, you have to decide what will give you the best experience and will best fit your learning style, expectations, etc.

There's a forum-goer who goes by jpetrie who is a dual (University/Digipen) grad who may chime in if he comes along. He would be a good source to compare and contrast the University / Digipen experiences. I'm sure there are others like him as well.

My final words for this posting are these: Digipen is a fine school as long as you treat it that way, if you don't approach it seriously and you expect it to be all fun & games, I suggest you save your tuition and invest in an ostrich farm instead -- or better yet, go someplace where you can convince yourself that you'll need to put in real effort and work. If you can't approach it seriously, you'll fail out anyways, and if you slip through on a minimum of effort you'll only be a black eye on the name of the Institution and its graduates who truly did put in the effort to become well studied and intelligent professionals.

[Edited by - ravyne2001 on March 7, 2007 4:42:34 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have called and e-mailed many game companies and they have all said the same thing: Your degree matters very little compared to your experience and portfolio. From what I've gotten from it, if you have a great demo program that blows them away more than a Harvard grad's, it wont matter whether you went to a community college or an IVY League school. I am not finished with college and have not yet transfered to Digipen, but that is the answer I have gotten from game companies when I have asked.

I asked a question similar to this before on the boards, and I was surprised to hear of a person who actually did not have a CS degree (he had a degree in some sort of biology I believe) who is now a game programmer.

In my opinion, go to a school you will be happy at. Being able to associate with people and make friends, make networks with people who share similar minds, and just plain out be happy with your environment is the most important aspect of choosing a school. Being unhappy will affect your grades and performance, which will make your time at school a waste. This is something I have learned from experience. Whether Digipen really will or will not give me a better education than a traditional CS degree, I will be more satisified with the people and the environment, and that will be what helps me accel in my studies.

[Edited by - bugbear on April 5, 2007 4:36:39 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

GameDev.net is your game development community. Create an account for your GameDev Portfolio and participate in the largest developer community in the games industry.

Sign me up!