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Brendan LoBuglio

High School Senior Frustrated by Lack of Holistic Information

3 posts in this topic

I'm a High School senior, who for a couple of years now has been considering entering the game industry as my long-term career. This used to be idle, noncomitted assumption, but as of late it's gotten rather serious. At this point, I've decided concretely that I want a college experience directly pointing me toward the gaming industry, and I have thus oriented all the college research that comes with one's Senior year toward getting a handle on what the industry needs from me, which colleges can supply it for me, and where I'd be happy spending the next four-some years of my life.

My problem? There seems to be [b]no[/b] consensus, or even anything resembling a consensus about the task I have before me, beyond the simple chant that everybody seems to be parroting in this sort of discussion: “The Gaming industry is really, really hard. Lots of people don't make it.” I get this now, and I appreciate peoples' candor, but ultimately hearing this repeated over and over is just not helpful in my situation: I am one trying find out how I [b]can[/b] succeed.

Anyway, here's how I want this to work: from my research, the following conceptions have developed in my mind. What I need from you is to provide information where my research has been vague, and to confirm or deny the impressions that I have gotten thus far. Here's what I think I know:[list]
[*]With regard to actual involvement with games that are produced, the industry is essentially divided into three points of the trident:
[list]
[*]Artists: I don't think there's really any confusion as to what artists do. It looks like either through freelance work or through salaried employment at a company, artists produce work based off of the design documentation created by designers.
[*]Developers: From my research, it seems to me that “developer” is more or less code for “programmer.” This could be an oversimplification on my part- that's why I'm asking you guys to help me out.
[list]
[*]Something that is very unclear to me is the level of involvement developers have with design. Are they actively involved in the vision of what their code will eventually implement, or simply construction workers to the game designer's architect status? Somewhere in between?
[/list][*]Designers: While I know that it's an immature idea that such a thing as an “Idea guy” even exists, the research doesn't seem to paint designers any other way beyond this vague notion of the architect, the man who decides what the game is going to look and feel like.
[list]
[*]What is a designer, and is it a sect of this perceived triangle that one can actually market himself as, or does “designer” status simply arise from an artist/developer getting a promotion?
[*]Why is it that with pretty much every college I check out, the “design” major is either brand new, or at lesat years and years younger than “Game art” and “Game development”? It almost seems sometimes like this isn't a real position.
[/list]
[/list][*]The industry will not hire anyone without a portfolio and/or previous industry (internship, co-op, or full) employment
[list]
[*]Thus, I assume that my college of choice needs to have opportunities for workplace experience, and must heavily involve projects in the curriculum.
[/list][*]The indie market is both flourishing and voracious- it's possible to “make it”, but there are huge risks involved.
[list]
[*]More than anything else, I think this is where I'd love to work, but is this actually a practical ambition?
[/list]
[/list]
Anyway, that's the impression my research has given me. I also have a variety of college-based questions, but before I put those out, I'd like to tell you all a little bit about myself.

My name is Brendan LoBuglio, and I'm a high school senior living in Bethesda, Maryland. I get mostly A's, and My SAT score is just a bit above 2000 (though I'll test again this October to see if I can get that up a bit). I consider myself a strong student, and am working as the Stage Manager of my High School's drama program. My interest in Gaming is deep, and has its roots in what I refer to simply as “experience”. I don't want to bore you all with my wishy-washy teenage ideals in what I hope to be a practical conversation, but I'll just say that I'm interested in working in the gaming industry because of the medium's potential for deep, immersive atmosphere and it's ability to create lasting memories in players. My favorite games are Pikmin, Earthbound, Cave Story, and many of the titles that Nifflas has put out. With regard to personal experience, I have been developing games in Multimedia Fusion 2 alongside my schoolwork for years, now, and though the work can only be sporadic alongside my so many other things to do, I pride myself on doing a good, thorough job, and I think my latest project, though very simple, has a rather high degree of polish. I've worked with some beta testers and an artist on this one, making it more of a team effort. I've had a bit of programming experience, but beyond some shallow Java work and MMF2 scripting, this is an area of expertise I definitely feel could use improvement. I can't really draw, but I write very well, and can do simple spriting.

I hope this self gives you all an idea of what I'm looking for in a career- though I'm not afraid of doing hard work to attain my vision, I'm more driven by the affective domain of video games, the atmosphere, design logistics and sense of experience, than the cognitive domain- programming and mathematics. Anyway, here is what I'd like to know about college and how it pertains to the gaming industry:[list]
[*]In accordance with my confusion regarding game designers and their jobs, is “Game Design” a practical major, or just a scam-out for those who want to pursue the wishy-washy concept of an “idea guy” who doesn't have to work to realize his gaming ambitions?
[list]
[*]As someone whose strongest abilities fall further into English and design than they do programing and art, do I really stand a chance?
[/list][*]What are the implications of choosing a liberal arts school over a “tech school” over a vocational school? What are the different experiences I can get from each, and is attending one particularly necessary (or dangerous) if I want to participate in the gaming industry?
[list]
[*]In other words, how does it affect me whether I go to a Ringling or an RIT or a Full Sail? Can I get a serious, practical education in Game design if I attend a university without Digipen's hypernarrow, super in-depth focus on the industry?
[/list][*]Am I “allowed” to take non-gaming related courses during college if I want a chance in the industry? Would it be practical to major in some Game degree and minor in Biology or sociology, for example? I know these are taboo words to be spoken in the same breath as Digipen, but I [b]do[/b] have interests beyond gaming, just like any normal person does.
[list]
[*]I've been privvy to two conflicting notions about this: on one hand, a game designer is supposed to draw creatively from widespread interests and experiences in his work, but on the other hand, I've heard bad things about spreading myself thin when I'm trying to enter such a competitive industry.
[/list][*]What are the benefits and hazards of choosing a degree program which directly pertains to gaming? If a prospective college does not have a gaming program, and I wasting my time with it?
[*]How seriously should I take gamecareerguide.com, specifically with regard to it's college analysis? What about the Princeton Review's “Top Ten” list?
[*]Finally, and very broadly, what are the colleges I should look out for as “not serious”, and which ones are known as the cream of the crop?
[/list]
So, there it is. To put my questions in a nutshell, I want to know whether “Designer” is a real position, where I can go to be taken seriously, which sources to believe, and whether my education in Gaming needs to be to the exclusion of everything else. As much as I'd love to just enjoy being what I am and who I am right now, a High School student with good friends and a really nice life, I've started to realize that my first “rest of your life” decision is upon me. So far, I've been frustrated by the lack of holistic information online, and I'd be dearly grateful to anybody who can point me in the right direction.

Thank you all so much.
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[quote name='Pikjira' timestamp='1347948512' post='4981155']
Something that is very unclear to me is the level of involvement developers have with design. Are they actively involved in the vision of what their code will eventually implement, or simply construction workers to the game designer's architect status? Somewhere in between?
[/quote]
This depends on the project itself. In smaller productions (indie games) coders and artists often doing the gamedesign too. In very large productions coders are more likely just coders. They will sometimes consult the game designers about feasablity or add some nice ideas about some cool effects, but most of the time they will implement the game design of the designers.

[quote name='Pikjira' timestamp='1347948512' post='4981155']
What is a designer, and is it a sect of this perceived triangle that one can actually market himself as, or does “designer” status simply arise from an artist/developer getting a promotion?
[/quote]
The game designer creates the rules of a game, game mechanism, the game play, game pace, npcs, character features, balancing, [i]rough [/i]level design etc.
In indie games the role of a game designer is often taken up by coders/artists and there is seldom the space for a pure game designer (aka idea guy).

[quote name='Pikjira' timestamp='1347948512' post='4981155']
The industry will not hire anyone without a portfolio and/or previous industry (internship, co-op, or full) employment

Thus, I assume that my college of choice needs to have opportunities for workplace experience, and must heavily involve projects in the curriculum.
[/quote]
This is ok, but you should build up your own portfolio independently of any college courses.

[quote name='Pikjira' timestamp='1347948512' post='4981155']
The indie market is both flourishing and voracious- it's possible to “make it”, but there are huge risks involved.

More than anything else, I think this is where I'd love to work, but is this actually a practical ambition?
[/quote]
Do you want to earn money or do you want creative freedom ? It is really hard to earn money in the indie market compared to what you earn in the industry.
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[quote name='Pikjira' timestamp='1347948512' post='4981155']Anyway, here is what I'd like to know about college and how it pertains to the gaming industry:
1. is “Game Design” a practical major, or just a scam-out for those who want to pursue the wishy-washy concept of an “idea guy” who doesn't have to work to realize his gaming ambitions?
2. do I really stand a chance?
3.a. What are the implications of choosing a liberal arts school over a “tech school” over a vocational school?
What are the different experiences I can get from each, and is attending one particularly necessary (or dangerous) if I want to participate in the gaming industry?
3.b. In other words, how does it affect me whether I go to a Ringling or an RIT or a Full Sail?
4. Can I get a serious, practical education in Game design if I attend a university without Digipen's hypernarrow, super in-depth focus on the industry?
5. Am I “allowed” to take non-gaming related courses during college if I want a chance in the industry?
6. Would it be practical to major in some Game degree and minor in Biology or sociology, for example?
7. I've been privvy to two conflicting notions about this: on one hand, a game designer is supposed to draw creatively from widespread interests and experiences in his work, but on the other hand, I've heard bad things about spreading myself thin when I'm trying to enter such a competitive industry.
8. What are the benefits and hazards of choosing a degree program which directly pertains to gaming?
9. If a prospective college does not have a gaming program, and I wasting my time with it?
10. How seriously should I take gamecareerguide.com, specifically with regard to it's college analysis?
11. What about the Princeton Review's “Top Ten” list?
12. Finally, and very broadly, what are the colleges I should look out for as “not serious”, and which ones are known as the cream of the crop?
13. I want to know whether “Designer” is a real position,
14. where I can go to be taken seriously,
15. which sources to believe,
16. and whether my education in Gaming needs to be to the exclusion of everything else.
17. I've started to realize that my first “rest of your life” decision is upon me. So far, I've been frustrated by the lack of holistic information online
[/quote]
1. It depends on the school. A lot of individuals are scamming themselves with the delusions you are clearly not falling for. And there are schools that are willing to sell a degree to those individuals.
2. Read FAQs 50, 57, and 71.
3.a. If you want to be a game designer, liberal arts is better than those other two.
3.b. I recommend you stay away from for-profit schools that spend their profits on marketing rather than education, and that you make a decision grid if you have particular schools you're considering. Read these:
[url="http://scientificninja.com/blog/on-game-schools"]http://scientificnin...on-game-schools[/url]
[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For-profit_education"]http://en.wikipedia....rofit_education[/url]
[url="http://www.igda.org/games-game-june-2009"]http://www.igda.org/...-game-june-2009[/url]
[url="http://www.igda.org/games-game-july-2009"]http://www.igda.org/...-game-july-2009[/url]
[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_for-profit_universities_and_colleges"]http://en.wikipedia....es_and_colleges[/url]
[url="http://www.igda.org/games-game-august-2011"]http://www.igda.org/...ame-august-2011[/url]
[url="http://lmgtfy.com/?q=for+profit+education+controversy"]http://lmgtfy.com/?q...ion controversy[/url]
[url="http://sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm"]http://sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm[/url]
4. Absolutely.
5. You are "encouraged" to do so.
6. Yes. In fact, you don't really need to major in a game topic, if your chosen outcome is a game design career.
7. Yes. Welcome to the real world, with all its contradictions.
8. You've already mentioned them. Con: If you later decide to get out of games, you might regret not having had a broader-base education. Pro: If you study a game topic, you learn a lot about your chosen avocation.
9. No. Read FAQ 51.
10. The website has not been well maintained (I should know -- I moderate there) but their print magazine (and their magazine website) are updated often with good info. Just take anything about for-profit schools with a grain of salt.
11. Golden.
12. Beware of for-profit schools. Make a decision grid (FAQ 70) and trust your findings. There's no "perfect" choice, probably, so make the best one you can given your decision grid analysis.
13. Of course it is. But it takes time to get there. FAQ 14. (Read FAQ 55 too.)
14. You'll be taken seriously once you have a degree and a good portfolio and a job (any job) in the game industry.
15. My FAQs should be believed, in my opinion. And this forum's FAQs (which are mostly my FAQs). If you can't believe those, you shouldn't have come here and asked this question.
16. It better not be! Read FAQ 3.
17. Well, hopefully your search has reached a happy spot -- not the end, to be sure, but hopefully you get good answers here.

Edit. Location of "the FAQs" -- http://www.gamedev.net/index.php?app=forums&module=forums&section=rules&f=101 Edited by Tom Sloper
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Digipen rtis junior here. I haven't given you the proper respect of reading your post thoroughly. But heres the short of it, if you dont want to work, and i mean work, a lot. We don't want you. Obviously the specifics for what that means changes between the different programs, but across all of the different disciplines here, it is expected that you will work. 8 - 14 hour days usually. Im here 8:30 am till midnight every day. So im sure if you called admissions they would say all sorts of wonderful things about how great it is here and how they would love for you to visit the campus, but lets cut to the chase. If you dont want to work, or if you want a lot of free time, or if making games isnt your life's passion, then dont waste your time, because the rest of the students dont want you here anyway.
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