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feluu25

Switching Careers

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Hello everyone,

I have decided to switch career-paths and become a game designer. My background is in music; I currently hold a Bachelor's degree in Music Composition (writing music) and a Master's degree in Music Theory (the math of music). This decision was a long time coming. I remember playing Duck Hunt and The Oregon Trail as a kid and have been in love with games ever since.

The reason I went so far with my music is partly due to my parents' encouragement and also due my natural musical talents. Music came easily to me, so it was just 'easy' to continue down that road. But I've come to realization that, while being a musician or music teacher would be gratifying, making games would bring me infinitely more joy in life. I've been hired on multiple occasions to tour Europe with a symphony orchestra as a principal/section leader performing amazing works. I know what music can offer me, and yet I still want to sit at a computer and make games instead.

I do realize there is a huge difference between playing games and making them. After some serious consideration about keeping gaming as merely 'a favorite hobby', I've come to the conclusion that it is not enough. I actually feel that creating a fun game, constantly tweaking its mechanics, coming up with new storyline, characters, skills, and levels, and updating it to be better and better over time, would be more enjoyable than playing the game itself!

I am a game designer at heart and have always been so. In a way, I have paralleled game design by pursuing music. While music is primarily audio-based media (as opposed to visual-based games), I have always been drawn to writing musicals, operas, and programmatic works. In these forms of music, the composer must create a storyline, come up with characters and themes, provide a setting, and so forth. Composers must always consider character interactions (duets and trios, counterpoint, canons, etc), instrumentation (what to use when) and balance, and consider how it will all be received by its intended audience. Composers must create compelling dramatic works that use creative combinations of only twelve different pitches! While our 1s and 0s are B-flats and F-sharps, hopefully, you can see the proximity between the two fields.

It should also be mentioned that I am currently working on an epic fantasy novel. I will finish it in the next three or four months (given my current rate of progress) and will attempt to publish it this summer. Published or not, I intend to put it on my new/fresh(/empty...) Game Designer resume.

So there you have it. I have made the decision to switch fields and couldn't be happier! The problem, of course, is 'breaking in'. I could use some advice. After reading a few posts, I have come up with the following (please correct me if I'm wrong!):

1. I NEED to get a degree in Game Design/Programming/Computer Science. I've come to accept that a Master's in music is basically useless in this industry (even when contracting composers, game companies care about the quality of your work and not your educational background). At least a lot of my credits will transfer and allow me to finish in 3 years instead of 4.

2. I really SHOULD go to a school in California. That's where all the action is (apparently) and it will make all that much easier to find internships while finishing my degree. I read an article that listed USC as the top school for upcoming game designers. I'd like more recommendations; I'm an East Coaster and don't know any schools in California. What are some other good options besides USC?

3. I WILL work very hard. I will create a rich portfolio and a spectacular resume (you should see how impressive my music resume is...). I will try to make myself stick out of the crowd by doing something unique. I will network and always be professional. This is a business and I will treat it as such.

4. I WON'T give up. This is what I want to do for a living, but I'm certainly not the only one out there who feels this way. The economy is bad and there are a limited number of jobs. I will be patient and bide my time with small industry-related jobs (like taking music contracts) and small challenges (create game mods, addons, levels, simple iphone apps, etc).

And I know this is at least a year away, but when applying for internships and jobs, should I even mention my Master's in music? How bad will it look that I won't have my Bachelor's in Game Design (or related subject) before I'm 28/29?

As a final thought, my musical background has made me a passionate person. I WANT to make games and I will find a way to make it happen. Please give me some advice and help me make this dream a reality.

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You really need to read the forum FAQs.

1. I NEED to get a degree in Game Design/Programming/Computer Science. I've come to accept that a Master's in music is basically useless in this industry (even when contracting composers, game companies care about the quality of your work and not your educational background). At least a lot of my credits will transfer and allow me to finish in 3 years instead of 4.
If you want to be a programmer you need a computer science degree. If you want to be a musician then a degree in music is perfect.

A single musician can support multiple titles, so you'll find roughly a 100:1 employment ratio from all the other jobs. Much audio work is done by contract working in conjunction with the full time audio person in the studio; look for contract work in addition to regular full time employment.

2. I really SHOULD go to a school in California. That's where all the action is (apparently) and it will make all that much easier to find internships while finishing my degree. I read an article that listed USC as the top school for upcoming game designers. I'd like more recommendations; I'm an East Coaster and don't know any schools in California. What are some other good options besides USC?[/quote]Completely false. Read the FAQ. If you are working near Austin, you'll find many people went to Texas schools. Working in Salt Lake? Again, they were educated there. If you're looking at studios in California, it is unsurprising that most of their employees are locals.

3. I WILL work very hard. I will create a rich portfolio and a spectacular resume (you should see how impressive my music resume is...). I will try to make myself stick out of the crowd by doing something unique. I will network and always be professional. This is a business and I will treat it as such.[/quote]Again, read the FAQ. This seems to fall under the bucket of 10 wannabe tricks.

And I know this is at least a year away, but when applying for internships and jobs, should I even mention my Master's in music? How bad will it look that I won't have my Bachelor's in Game Design (or related subject) before I'm 28/29?[/quote]One of the 10 wannabe tricks (see "stupid overpreparedness").

As a final thought, my musical background has made me a passionate person. I WANT to make games and I will find a way to make it happen. Please give me some advice and help me make this dream a reality.[/quote]If music is your passion, use it. The game industry needs musicians.

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There's an FAQ on switching. Click the FAQs link.
If you have a follow-up question, I hope it's a lot shorter and more to-the-point! (^_^) :P

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