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Vulture626

Game programming specific or software engineering??

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Hey everyone I finished high school last year and need to set my final preferences for university. I want to become a video game programmer but I'm still not sure whether I should do a software engineering course or a video game specific programming course, or computer science. I've heard from some places on the internet that the game specific course don't go into a lot of depth and that they should be avoided. So I was wondering if this was still the case or if it's even true. I've tried emailing some Australian based video game companies a few weeks ago but didn't get any replies. I'm from Melbourne Australia and my choices are between games graphics programming at RMIT or Software engineering at Melbourne. So if there are Australian developers here that can give me some advice on how these different courses affect employment prospects it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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Landing a game programmer job is very difficult as there are so many people who want to be a part of the game industry. With that in mind, it is highly unlikely for a just out of college entry level programmer to get a game programmer job when their competition is made up of mid-level and senior-level developers with years and YEARS of professional experience in their pockets.

It would be best to go the Computer Science route, imo, to keep your field as broad as possible so that you are able to get the best job possible after you graduate (just landing that job will be difficult). As a programmer you will still be getting a pretty nice salary, and if you want, you can get your masters while working as a professional to increase your odds of getting that game programming job when you're around the mid-level range (actual professional experience + more credentials = good). If you're lucky (and you added in enough math courses) you can land a job in a field that is similar to game programming (i.e. simulation) which would look extremely nice on a resume come time for jumping into the industry.

On the other hand you can take a chance with the 'game development degree.' Perhaps you'll get really lucky and land a job as an interim tester and to-be coder, or maybe you won't. Let's say you don't. You're now going to try to find a career in other fields that relate to your skills, but your skills will not be nearly as robust and rounded as the typical CS graduate.. so you may be out of luck.

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Here's what I've observed, but I wouldn't take any one my advice without confirmation from someone who's not talking out of his/her ass.

There are way too many graphics programmers, but a lot fewer physics programmers.

People here tend to say that employers might throw away your resume if you went to a trade school. Although, many do say that Digipen (in Redmond, Washington, USA) is maybe an exception, but still no better than a CS degree.

Maybe you should start your own company. I wouldn't suggest it if you don't already have game in mind and know that they're good ideas, but that means that other people can fill the gaps of your knowledge. You can continue to go to college. And maybe, if you market well and have a good product, you can profit.

Again, I know nothing. Don't take my advice unless someone says "I think he's right."

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Landing a game programmer job is very difficult as there are so many people who want to be a part of the game industry. With that in mind, it is highly unlikely for a just out of college entry level programmer to get a game programmer job when their competition is made up of mid-level and senior-level developers with years and YEARS of professional experience in their pockets.

College graduates compete for entry level jobs. Mid- and senior-level programmers do not. Studios will frequently take unsolicited entry-level applications. It's not really that much more difficult, skill-wise, to get a job in the games industry -- there are more entry level candidates applying for entry level jobs however, and that does have some impact.

You don't need to worry about competation from mid- and senior-level people. If they're after an entry level position, they're either stupid, or have some other problem that would cause them to seek a job they were overqualified and underpaid for.

Quote:

I've heard from some places on the internet that the game specific course don't go into a lot of depth and that they should be avoided. So I was wondering if this was still the case or if it's even true. I've tried emailing some Australian based video game companies a few weeks ago but didn't get any replies.

In general, a "game" degree will be no extra benefit. It will frequently be held on equal footing (in terms of the degree only) and occasionally be scorned. Content-wise, the programs do tend to skimp on age-old fundamentals in favor of new-and-hot superficiality. More thoughts.

Quote:

It would be best to go the Computer Science route, imo,

I agree.

Quote:

On the other hand you can take a chance with the 'game development degree.' Perhaps you'll get really lucky and land a job as an interim tester and to-be coder, or maybe you won't. Let's say you don't. You're now going to try to find a career in other fields that relate to your skills, but your skills will not be nearly as robust and rounded as the typical CS graduate.. so you may be out of luck.

Two points: First, regarding degree "transferability," I have a degree from DigiPen, and I was hired at Raytheon doing work for the Department of Defense. I recieved offers from a number of other places doing similar non-game-related work as well. I feel from my experience that the same general truth about game degrees (at best, no better, at worst, scorned) holds up even outside the games industry itself.

Second, I'd avoid attempting to get into the industry as a tester unless you've failed trying to get a job as a programmer. Testers, when they get "promoted" frequently are on design or art tracks. I don't advocate ever trying to use testing as a stepping stone unless it's a last resort. It's not that hard to get the job you really want. We're not that elitist of an industry.

Finally, have you consider moving? The grim reality of the situation is that game development tends to be very localized to specific regions of the world. If you're in a sparse region, you may have only two or three companies to try to land jobs at, and you may fail. That doesn't mean you are unemployable though.

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I've been out of the industry for several years now, but back when I was in software engineering degrees were well respected. We didn't have many game degrees back then so I can't compare, but I don't see any reason to think it'd be a benefit over a software engineering degree. Conversely, I see a big difference if you decide not to go into the game industry and you've got a game degree instead of a software engineering degree.

This is anecdotal and is from several years ago, but I know of three software engineers from my year in the University of Melbourne who applied for local game programming jobs (including myself), and all of us were offered jobs instantly. As such I don't see much reason in picking a game specific course over software engineering from the perspective of job applications.

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Original post by jpetrie
Quote:

Landing a game programmer job is very difficult as there are so many people who want to be a part of the game industry. With that in mind, it is highly unlikely for a just out of college entry level programmer to get a game programmer job when their competition is made up of mid-level and senior-level developers with years and YEARS of professional experience in their pockets.

College graduates compete for entry level jobs. Mid- and senior-level programmers do not. Studios will frequently take unsolicited entry-level applications. It's not really that much more difficult, skill-wise, to get a job in the games industry -- there are more entry level candidates applying for entry level jobs however, and that does have some impact.

You don't need to worry about competation from mid- and senior-level people. If they're after an entry level position, they're either stupid, or have some other problem that would cause them to seek a job they were overqualified and underpaid for.


I'll agree, but I should add that during my adventure in attempting to get into the game industry as a programmer circa summer 2006, I found that entry level jobs were very tough to come by. I would say that for every 1 entry level job I sent my resume to, I sent another 5 to junior level positions. Lack of entry level opportunities compounded with enormous entry level applicants can make things difficult. And of course when attempting to compete for a junior level position, you compete against applicants with professional experience. After about 3 months of attempts I decided to bite the bullet and apply to non-game programming positions. Within a month I found a great job that I am still with today.

I would like to see the curriculum for the games degree. All you really need is maybe four core programming classes (C/C++, Data Structures, Algorithms) and some heavy math (which most CS curriculums do not require outside of Linear Algebra and Calc I) in addition to the provided game development classes (I'm sure most game design classes could substitute for certain core SE classes). Just slap a couple 3D game demos together, be prepared to explain OOP over and over, explain the advantages of quaternions over euler angles and matrices, etc, and you're in. Oh, yeah, try not to live 3,000 miles from the valley.

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Thanks everyone for your quick replies, everything you've said is very helpful. I was getting worried because I wasn't sure which I should choose and my last chance to change my preferences is tomorrow. So this takes alot of pressure off.

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