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18, out of school, and lost...

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Sup guys, my name is Stephen, just created an account here at gamedev. As you can see, this is my first post. I googled game design forums and this was the first one on the list so I came here to ask a few questions if anyone would help me out.

I am currently 18 with my G.E.D., I dropped out of highschool in 11th grade because I was doing poorly and skipping school too much. I missed my first year of college because I just had no idea where to start and where I needed to go.

Now I don't know where to start, all I know is I want to become a programmer. Not just any programmer, I want to specialize in computer games. Ever since I was 10 I was playing Diablo 2, Warcraft, and Counter Strike. I've grown up playing all the popular computer games and more. Sure, I loved to play my play station every now and then but I've just always been a firm believer that my computer was the greatest gaming machine ever made.

So I come here to ask, where do I begin?
I have absolutely no experience in programming. My parents are web designers and have tried to teach me things before but I never really stuck to it. I've played around in the module maker in never winter nights, map editors in games, and done a few scripts, but I've never actually programmed anything using a real programming language.

I've checked out a few of the popular "trade schools" and found devry to be a popular/closely related choice for what I'm looking for, but I have a few questions:

If I want to become an computer video game programmer specializing in C++, creating different types of MMO's, strategy games, FPS games, whatever would I be looking at




Thats as far as I've gotten on my research XD.
So while I'm on here, does anyone have any suggestions?
I'm sure this question has been asked here before, I just wanted to ask from my own personal standpoint.
What degree am I looking for?
What schools offer that degree? (Also, which one is the most popular?)
Is it a school that will get me a job in the future?
Are there any actual universities I that offer this degree? (Perhaps I could go to community college and see if I can get in so I don't miss out on the parties)

I guess the main question I need help with is what degree am I looking for? Are there different programming specializations between console games, web based flash games, and actual computer programming? (I might also want to become a software engineer)
I don't want to go to a school that offers a broad programming class thats going to teach me a little about every programming language on the planet, I want to go to a class that teaches me exactly what I need and not much more.

Thanks for any help/feedback.

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Welcome to Gamedev,

first off a short info about the 2 courses you have chosen, Web Game Programming = Flash Games, Farmville and all that stuff.

So you'd want to choose the first, "Game and Simulation Programming" If you want to create MMOs, FPS's and all.

--- So while I'm on here, does anyone have any suggestions?

Stick with it, learning about game programming isn't that much fun. Programming in the early stages isn't either. Many loose interest very fast. And to be honest, from what you wrote, I have a feeling you might loose interest too

--- Are there different programming specializations between console games, web based flash games, and actual computer programming?

Switching between Computer Game and Console Game Programming for the big (as in Console Size) consoles nowadays luckily isn't all too difficult :)

--- (I might also want to become a software engineer)

The problem with transitioning from Game Programmer to Software engineer doesn't lie in your programming skills themselves, but your knowledge of, well... all the libraries, utilities and what not.

Game Programmers need to know how to make an Application run fast, figure out difficult Math/Logic problems and implement crazy algorithms that Game Designers thought would be fun. Many Games don't require alot of externel libraries, basically all they need is some Graphics Library, perhaps a sound/movie library and when you want to get fancy, Physics.

Whereas as a Software engineer, often your main concerns are reliability, useability, modularity, etc... You are going to work with a TON of different Libraries, and knowing your way around them is key here.

So keep in mind, if you want to transition later on, know what field you want to go into, read up and stay informed!

Final Words:

Sadly, I'm not from the US and can't comment on any University in the US, so I won't give you advise on what Uni is the best, what courses are the best and so on.

How much time do you have before you have to sign up? Learning a Programming Language isn't all too difficult. If you've got time now, I'd definatly suggest you learn one. Perhaps, C# combined with XNA. You'll be game programming fairly quickly and see if you even like it before going on.

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The first order of business is to remove Devry and similar as-seen-on-TV schools from your short-list unless there absolutely, positively, is no other option for you.

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I would recommend getting a Computer Science degree over a focussed education in game development. Typically CS degrees teach you the skills to learn and solve problems, rather some game development degrees that focus their efforts on learning specific API's (i.e. current industry trends) that by the time your finished your education are obsolete. This ofcourse is an over-generalization between the two, but that's the difference I've seen between graduates of both.

Another benefit to getting a CS degree is that if you cannot get a job in the industry (it is very competitive afterall), you still have skills that are relevant to work at other companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc. If you're degree is focussed solely on game-dev, then you may not have transferrable skills to other industries.

Good luck with your journey.

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As others have mentioned, you should likely major in computer science, and trade schools/for profit schools are not a great idea.

That said, there's an important conept to learn: colleges don't make success; you make success. It's not as though you go to college and suddenly you're employable. Or you'll learn everything you'll ever need to know in 4 years. It just doesn't work like that. Especially given your descriptions of other education failures. What makes you think that trying college again will be any different?

Game programming isn't fun, and involves learning a lot of things that have no (immediate) relevance to games. Education is certainly important, but it isn't going to give you any more direction or make you go to class.

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Welcome to gamedev!

First of all, you say you want to be a game programmer, even thought you haven't done any programming. Sometimes programming might seem more fun than it actually is to some people, so I would suggest you go ahead and try programming so you can see for yourself if you like it or not. And I would suggest you do that before choosing a college or university (which I'd recommend) to study at, because programming just might not be suited for you. There are plenty of books or tutorials to get you started, and you should read up the forum and FAQ to choose the first language you might want to start to learn programming in.

As Telastyn already mentioned, you asked if a certain school will get you a job after you finish - and from my point of view, no school will do that for you. A school/college or university might get you to an interview, but I don't think you could get past that with a mere piece of paper. What can get you a job though, are skills and motivation. So if you will enjoy programming, work hard to improve your skills, I think you will have no problem to catch yourself a job you would love to do.

Let's just hope that you will enjoy programming as much as the others here on gamedev ;)

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Thanks for all of the replies!

Yes I am aware than programming is a very tedious profession. All my life I have enjoyed problem solving and math and they are the only things I like about school. I like envisioning things and then trying to figure out how to create them, and when you do, its a great feeling.

I guess I'm crossing out all the TV colleges & online colleges off my list.

Thanks for the idea on getting a degree in computer sciences, I'll be looking into that tonight.

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