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To school or not to school?

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If I want to become an app developer/game developer, should I attend school? Did you attend school to get into this profession? What are your thoughts on this?

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I am interested in the answers to this. I am wondering myself if I need school. I don't think it is necessary, but self education is less structured than structured and focused education. 

 

The best thing about school are the resources and on-site help you can get. That is the main thing to me. 

 

Computer Science (which is what you should go to school for if anything) is a broad field, and can apply to games as well as other things. 

 

Now, I am not in school, I thought to try out this computer programming thing as a venture. So far, I have nothing to my name but a few tests and my longest program being 300+ lines with much more to go (adding features and making it object oriented). 

 

I have a larger background in 3d modeling and art (hobbies I had obtained in the same way- looking for something new to do.) 

 

If you don't have the art side up your sleeve, then game developing is going to hurt a little, especially if you are trying to make 3D games, or want animation and such, and don't want to hire anyone (costs a lot). 

 

All I know about 3d modeling I learned from the internet. All I know about programming, I learned from the internet. All I know about most of my late hobbies I learned from the internet. Before, I stayed in libraries reading. 

 

So I have to say, yes, time is required. I will also say, it doesn't have to take long though. If you need me to point you in the direction for good information, just let me know. 

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It depends. If you want to do either or both as a hobby, several well written books and game dev forums will guide you in the right direction. The books will teach you key concepts and not make insert game here so keep that in mind. Your job is to put the pieces together to make the app or game. There are indies dev who learn on their own.

If you want to be either or both as a profession however you will need a Computer Science degree and your own projects you did. School projects will not cut it. Employers want to see a degree or a pursue in a degree because it does make a difference whether you have the strong will to get a degree in computer science. Strong math is needed too. Any game companies will always list strong math background is a must. Plus they also tell you during the interview a test will be given.

I also want to stress making a game is not the same as playing a game for the first time. It is more technical more fun rewarding and a lot of systematic thinking and workload much more than your average college cs project.

I also want to stress computer science is not all programming. It is all problem solving. So you will need to take the physics, math,
Data structure, computer organization and architecture, theory of computation, operating system etc programming is a small subset of computer science. The journey getting a CS degree is a thought provoking one because it will make you become a better problem solver if you choose to put in the effort in the coursework.

Edited by warnexus

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It is somewhat location specific. Generally if you are going to get a job as a professional software engineer, get the CS degree.

Most people who want to be programmers are located near universities and other places of higher learning. Most of the good programming jobs are also located in cities near schools. You don't compete in a vacuum, the others who apply to the job will have degrees. It is well documented that professionals with a college degree earn much more than a non-degree counterparts. In many fields (such as software engineering) over your career the cost difference can reach several million dollars.




Note that when shopping around for a degree, you don't need to go to the nearest school or the popular school. Cost of education is a frequent discussion, and some people (US specific) talk about how the nearby popular school costs $20,000 or more per semester. You might need to move, but there are many excellent schools across that cost far less money; A quick Google search brings up articles like "13 universities that cost under $5000 per year".

The cost of higher education is interesting. In the US as of 2010, the median cost was $8748 per year and the mean cost was $26,273. That means of the roughly 2800 four year schools out there, about 1400 of them cost equal or less than the median. It also means that people who are paying more for education are usually paying dramatically more money for it. Since the mean average is so much higher than the median, it means that the very expensive schools are so expensive that they make a very skewed distribution of costs. If you are willing to move around the country, or if you happen to live near one of the 1400 cheaper schools, you can have a fully accredited, valid, useful diploma --- along with the education you gain during your studies --- for a fairly low cost.

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Go to school. It doesn't matter what you study, get whatever advanced degree you feel like but get a degree. To not do so in this day and age is professional suicide, end of story. No, the degree may not train you to do the career you wind up in afterwards. It doesn't matter. A high school degree leads nowhere in the white collar world.

Edited by Promit

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If I want to become an app developer/game developer, should I attend school? Did you attend school to get into this profession? What are your thoughts on this?

#1: I agree with @warnexus. While you sure can become an app developer/game developer without going to school, there's a good chance you won't want to study several subjects that look useless and/or unrelated to development at first glance, but are actually really important and useful.

#2: I began programming when I was 16, and went to school twice (BSc and MSc). I wore several hats since I got my first job 18 years ago - support technician, programmer, network and systems administrator, and DBA. I do development as a hobby in my spare time.

#3: My thoughts are: go to school. That said, should you decide against it, at least take the time to read this article about what every computer science major should know so that you can put together your self-study plan.

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You don't need to get a qualification to be a developer but, it is a lot harder to get work without one. 

 

It's OK having a great demo, portfolio or website but, some larger companies have a HR department and having a degree is a pre-requisite before they actually send your demo on to the lead developers.

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  All of the above responses are appropriate.  There are several Factors to consider in making a decision on School or Not to School. 

Here are a few Presented in no specific order!!

 

  •   Your Ultimate Goal - Work for a Larger Company = School - Be an Independent = Can go either way.
  •   Money!!  Can you afford school and is school Available to you ?
  •   Time. Do you have it .
  •   Motivation.  Do you need to be pushed and pulled to get it done ?   Or can you stay focused and learn on your own ?
  •   Mental Ability.  If you have a question, do have the ability to answer it yourself ?

  Myself, Personally I attended a few classes on computer programming as an elective in pursuit of another degree.  Then I followed up on programming as a Hobby.  I know write Small Business Applications and Games for personal Pleasure that I sometimes give to friends.  Although I make money off of the Applications, The whole programming thing for me is still a Hobby.

 

If I had it to do again, knowing then what I know now I would say to attend at least and Intro to Computer Programming Class and at the same time buy 2 books.

Book 1 - Learning how to program in a language

Book 2 - Learning how to game program in the same language.

 

This way you have a little formal training - If you like it continue, and a little self-taught experience as well

Edited by Poigahn

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To take this a step further, what are your opinions on a traditional computer science education vs a niche game development program? 

 

I'm torn on this part, because computer science will give you a well accepted degree that the other one might not offer. On the other hand, many of these "game development" schools have good contacts in the business and can be a great stepping stone into a company. 

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