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seekingKnowledge

MSc in Computer Science or Games Programming

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Hello everyone,

I would like to get everyone's sincere opinion about this issue that has been bugging my head. I have just recently completed my BSc in Computer Science ( & I am glad I took the degree & successfully performed well at it - just to mention a bit ), also I have for a long time been yearning to be a games programmer ( or at least a game developer / designer in the future ). To further shed light on how much I really want to go into this field, apart from being formally educated in most aspects of Computer science (BSc) & groomed in the Java language, I have also gained C++ knowledge, DirectX , JOGL , little bit of C/C# , XNA & OpenGL to mention a few (thus, I do not think am lacking too many things except for of course the experience in the gaming field and their intricacies).

Now that I have given a little bit of my background to help get your sincere responses, here is my problem. I recently decided to take my Master's Degree and to be specific I was going for Master's in Computer Games Technology. My initial knowledge of making such a decision is that from my past researches most Game Companies or at least the Good ones require a Degree (BSc) in some sort of field such as Computer Science , Maths , Physics , Software Engineering. which made it safe for me to choose a Master in Computer Games as I have always had the notion that a Master's Degree should be aimed specifically at what one really wants to do (after all that why its called MASTER) , now I know its not always a good idea to be confined to one & only one area of a field but since my BSc was achieved at a broader field (Computer Science & not Games Development), I feel I can opt out to any other field of Computer science if one day I get tired of Games Programming or just want to work in another field.

Now, from my recent research I got some mixed comments (-ve & +ve) about taking a Master's specifically in Games Programming & not just Computer Science, some say its not worth it as it streamlines your chances of getting employed, some say its fine as long as you have a BSc in Computer science or any of the fields I had previously mentioned.


I would be truly grateful if you all could contribute in your own ways to shed some of your opinions on this issue, as I do not want to make such a mistake if it could have been easily avoided. Your responses are highly anticipated.

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It would be no different than if you got a degree in Software Engineering (though no one really knows what SE is). If the Game Programming is what you want to do then go for it. There's so many aspects to Game Programing: AI, Physics, Graphics, Sound, UI, Level Architecture/Design. You'll be fine. Go for it!

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Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
It would be no different than if you got a degree in Software Engineering (though no one really knows what SE is). If the Game Programming is what you want to do then go for it. There's so many aspects to Game Programing: AI, Physics, Graphics, Sound, UI, Level Architecture/Design. You'll be fine. Go for it!



Thanks for the encouragement, truly appreciate it & you are right about the Software Engineering aspect, as I recall from a Module I took during my Undergraduate, Software Engineering is still considered immature with respect to other fields of engineering mainly because the methods used are currently not standardized (I am not saying it doesn't possess standardizing bodies) or should I say thoroughly reliable. For example, Civil Engineers have a specific method for building a bridge that could last for years with only little renovation needed. But we all know how softwares undergo severe testing before being released but still have bugs that could creep out of the wood works unexpected & produce some unwanted results.


Nevertheless... Thanks for the reply.

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I've been told repeatedly that a masters may hinder your process into game programming. Basically because without actual work experience you will still start out on the low end of the totem poll. Now someone with a master's would be expected to get paid more, therefore a company feels they have to pay someone with a masters more then someone with a BS for the same exact job.

Regardless in my opinion I'd go with the SE master's or something similar. Some schools have dedicated masters to computer graphics. Really comes down to personal preference and how much you want to limit yourself in the job market.

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Original post by JonConley
I've been told repeatedly that a masters may hinder your process into game programming. Basically because without actual work experience you will still start out on the low end of the totem poll. Now someone with a master's would be expected to get paid more, therefore a company feels they have to pay someone with a masters more then someone with a BS for the same exact job.

Regardless in my opinion I'd go with the SE master's or something similar. Some schools have dedicated masters to computer graphics. Really comes down to personal preference and how much you want to limit yourself in the job market.


Thanks for your response Jon Conley, but may I ask. Assuming I decide not to take a Master's Degree, isn't it still possible for me to get a Job in any Computer Related field i.e: Analyst, Software Engineer, web developer with just the use of my BSc in computer Science. If so, I need to understand how taking a Master's in a specific field such as Game Programming can hinder or should I say ruin my chances of getting hired in other computer related fields as mentioned previously / changing to another field if I decide to pursue a career in a different direction in the future. As I believe even with a Master's in Game Programming, I believe I can still be a Web Developer/ Software programmer etc if I ever want to be ....

In my opinion isn't a Master's in S.E just as being confined to one area the same as a Master's in Game Programming (might as well take MSc in CS to cover a broader topic than S.E) . Please correct me if am wrong, Your response is highly appreciated.

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You can get those jobs with a BS, the problem is normally without relevant work experience a typical job will not hire you for an intro-level job (especially game companies) because with a master's there is a stigma that you must be paid more. This is most apparent in the game industry where experience is king over everything else.

Other non-game jobs won't blow you off because you have the experience coding, but as I said most larger game companies want a minimum of 3 years of AAA game development or a certain number of shipped titles for a non intro level job.

edit: I am going for my BS in Computer Science and a BA in Mathematics atm, I am going to apply at some larger schools for my masters, if I don't get accepted straight away I plan on working with the BS, but I would like my masters at some point. So I am not saying it is wrong, I am saying that I've been told and it seems in the game industry experience is the number 1 factor.

[Edited by - JonConley on July 14, 2010 2:58:05 PM]

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You can easily be over educated for a entry level position. Getting a masters isn't going to help you much in getting a game programming job and has already been stated may work against you. Two years making real games is worth much more then two years of sitting in class room. Spending more time in school isn't going to address the lack of experience you state you already have. I learned more in my first year on the job then I ever did in four years of school.

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Original post by JonConley
You can get those jobs with a BS, the problem is normally without relevant work experience a typical job will not hire you for an intro-level job (especially game companies) because with a master's there is a stigma that you must be paid more. This is most apparent in the game industry where experience is king over everything else.

Other non-game jobs won't blow you off because you have the experience coding, but as I said most larger game companies want a minimum of 3 years of AAA game development or a certain number of shipped titles for a non intro level job.

edit: I am going for my BS in Computer Science and a BA in Mathematics atm, I am going to apply at some larger schools for my masters, if I don't get accepted straight away I plan on working with the BS, but I would like my masters at some point. So I am not saying it is wrong, I am saying that I've been told and it seems in the game industry experience is the number 1 factor.


Well said, thanks for straightening things out for me. I now get a clearer picture of what is out there.

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Original post by stupid_programmer
You can easily be over educated for a entry level position. Getting a masters isn't going to help you much in getting a game programming job and has already been stated may work against you. Two years making real games is worth much more then two years of sitting in class room. Spending more time in school isn't going to address the lack of experience you state you already have. I learned more in my first year on the job then I ever did in four years of school.



Hi,

I do understand where you are coming from as I had a similar issue 2 years ago applying for an internship at a game company (won't go into detail on that). It's obvious one would learn more at the job in a year than in school, now doesn't that depend on what is being taught at such schools. For instance, if one choses to be a mechanic, one can actually apply for the job & get trained on site, or one can equally enroll at a mechanic school, where one would be given the same sort of training (but much at a slower pace in order to build ones confidence). Now am not giving reasons to buttress my point but I know (not heard of) couple of people that have equally benefited from a Master's programme which helped them build a portfolio much better than if they had to do it solo.


My main reason for saying this is because trying to learn on the Job is one thing, getting a company to actually put you on the Job to learn is a whole different ball game (which is why I lost the internship) because companies are not willing to take such risks bringing in a newbie just to be trained. Now understand that this was during my Undergraduate years, which meant I had little or no time to actually build up a strong portfolio to convince such a company to take me on.


So, stupid_programmer tell me exactly what you would do if you were in my shoes. By the way I truly cherish your response. Thanks

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Original post by seekingKnowledge
Hi,

I do understand where you are coming from as I had a similar issue 2 years ago applying for an internship at a game company (won't go into detail on that). It's obvious one would learn more at the job in a year than in school, now doesn't that depend on what is being taught at such schools. For instance, if one choses to be a mechanic, one can actually apply for the job & get trained on site, or one can equally enroll at a mechanic school, where one would be given the same sort of training (but much at a slower pace in order to build ones confidence). Now am not giving reasons to buttress my point but I know (not heard of) couple of people that have equally benefited from a Master's programme which helped them build a portfolio much better than if they had to do it solo.


My main reason for saying this is because trying to learn on the Job is one thing, getting a company to actually put you on the Job to learn is a whole different ball game (which is why I lost the internship) because companies are not willing to take such risks bringing in a newbie just to be trained. Now understand that this was during my Undergraduate years, which meant I had little or no time to actually build up a strong portfolio to convince such a company to take me on.


So, stupid_programmer tell me exactly what you would do if you were in my shoes. By the way I truly cherish your response. Thanks


You can be techically competent but still have no idea what really goes in to software development. What you learn in the class room is often different then how things get done in the real world. School may teach you things but it doesn't really prepare you for the real world. Which is why I said I learned more in my first year. Not specifically techical knowledge (although I did learn DirectX/C#/third party game engine, but it was really just learning sytnax and using skills from school) but lots of life experience on working with a team and getting things done on a deadline. Yeah this is stuff you do in school but its not quite the same. Getting points deducted for a late submission is different then getting deducted from your job if things go badly.

Also remember there are more to games then AAA games. Many smaller companies might be willing to take chances on people who may not have large portfolios but know what they are doing. I've never touched any AAA game code in my career but I can say I'm quite happy with my job as it pays really well and it gives me some creative freedom when doing my job (I'm not much above a junior programmer either).

If I were you I might take a crappy job for awhile to pay the bills while working my games in my free time to build up a portfolio and submitting a resume everywhere. Consisdering the job market and if I had the money I might do grad school as well. But probably a regular CS masters which sometimes can work very well for you if you wanted a job outside of games. Another option might be delayed entry to grad school to like fall of next year to see if you can get a job and if not then you have everything setup to go back to school instead.

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