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Ryman

Looking for suggestions on schooling..

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A friend of mine came up to me and asked me if he should attend SMU Guildhall. He has 2 years of his computer science finished at his university, and I guess he wanted to see if he could get into SMU by submitting his portfolio and application for their Game Programming curriculum. He's definitely a very avid game programmer and always wanted to be one. So, now he's trying figure out whether it's worth completing his CS degree vs. going to Guildhall and finishing up their 2 year certificate program in about the same time. To me Guildhall looks like it has some really good career services and recognition within the game industry. It's a tough call...

What do you guys think?

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Finish the degree.

While Guildhall may be a great school it inherently limits the graduates to a single field; when times are hard it is difficult to get a job as a business analytics programmer or web designer or database programmer if your degree is only a trade degree specifically in games. He may want to always work in games, but the simple truth is that the industry is inherently unstable with frequent layoffs and hiring dry spells.

A traditional CS degree can work both inside AND outside of the games field. If he ever has difficulty inside games, or gets tired of the field, or otherwise has a desire to do other work, then the traditional CS degree provides that option.

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As someone who attended a game-specific school (Digipen, which is also well-respected) my personal experience was that I did get a relatively well-rounded education, despite the general focus around games. I don't count game-focussed programs as a lost cause as long as the curriculum is reasonable (which mostly means avoiding the as-seen-on-TV type programs). Still, I would finish the degree. If he's already producing games on his own, he's 90% of the way there. If its possible financially, and if he still desires some game-focused education, he can seek out that opportunity with his BS in hand. Guildhall offers a good program, Digipen offers an MS degree for those who already hold a BS and would like something a little more self-directed.

The primary advantage of a good "game school" is being able to work in a team environment and the oversight that gets from the staff (and elder students), so if he decides not to go on to a game program, I would encourage him to seek out a team to produce a small game, or demo of a larger game "vision".

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