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Game Design with a CS Masters Background

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I want to design games at some point in my life. However, I'm going to get a Masters in computer science so I have the option of attaining a stable, well-paying job. Would getting a Masters in say, software development, be good enough by itself to get into the game design industry? Would working at some company like IBM be beneficial to game design or a complete waste of time?

 

Sorry if this is posted in the wrong place.

 

Please give me honest, informed answers, if you can.

 

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A CS degree of any stripe is plenty good if you demonstrate a passion and a level of skill for game development. On the design side, there are degrees you can earn where you'll study game theory, game production techniques (storyboarding, etc), writing, and methodology for breaking down games to their elements and critiquing them -- Like nearly anything, you can study these things on your own -- you don't need access to a fancy lab or million-dollar equipment, so there's no real barrier to entry. For the most part, you just need to study and use these things, preferably in the company of like-minded others. The focus and direction that a formal program might provide could be helpful, along with the over-site of an accomplished instructor, but its not a necessity. At the end of the day, most of what you do to become a game designer is to simply start designing games, many small-and-focussed games, to learn what was good and bad about them and why they worked or didn't, and to integrate those lessons into your methodologies in creating your next game. In the same way you learn to paint by paining, you lean to design by designing -- there are skills and fundamentals you use in its practice, but the art is in an execution and voice that is constantly refining itself.

 

Knowing how to program and think like a computer scientist will put you in a good place to bring your design ideas to life. Keep at that, study design theory and skills, and start designing now -- card games, board games, word games; designing any kind of game will start to hone those skills.

Edited by Ravyne

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A CS degree of any stripe is plenty good if you demonstrate a passion and a level of skill for game development. On the design side, there are degrees you can earn where you'll study game theory, game production techniques (storyboarding, etc), writing, and methodology for breaking down games to their elements and critiquing them -- Like nearly anything, you can study these things on your own -- you don't need access to a fancy lab or million-dollar equipment, so there's no real barrier to entry. For the most part, you just need to study and use these things, preferably in the company of like-minded others. The focus and direction that a formal program might provide could be helpful, along with the over-site of an accomplished instructor, but its not a necessity. At the end of the day, most of what you do to become a game designer is to simply start designing games, many small-and-focussed games, to learn what was good and bad about them and why they worked or didn't, and to integrate those lessons into your methodologies in creating your next game. In the same way you learn to paint by paining, you lean to design by designing -- there are skills and fundamentals you use in its practice, but the art is in an execution and voice that is constantly refining itself.

 

Knowing how to program and think like a computer scientist will put you in a good place to bring your design ideas to life. Keep at that, study design theory and skills, and start designing now -- card games, board games, word games; designing any kind of game will start to hone those skills.

Thanks!

 

Yeah, I was thinking about designing board games to get started. Any other media/programming language I could work with to get started?

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Well, I work from the assumption here that you already know that Game Designer =/= Game Developer. And I also want to tell you all you get from me is second hand information, as I neither are a game designer nor professionally work in the industry....

 

Game Designer is a Specialization, AFAIK best compared to the director of a movie. As such, again AFAIK, you will need SOME competency in ALL the specializations involved in creating a game. 

You will have to talk to the programmers, the artists, the sound engineers and artists, story writers and of course, the suits. So you will need to understand their language, and to some extend what they do all day long.

 

As such I would say, yes, a CS Study could help you with your goal of becoming a Game Designer in 2 ways: you will already be proficient in one of the specializations you will have to work with to create a game. And it is as far as I heard one of the easiest ways to get into a game studio (easy as in: you will find a job easier, because there is high demand and less applicants).

You might even be asked as game designer to do some lightweight scripting in some studios it seems.

 

You need to be aware though that the main job of a game designer is different from a programmers job. If you want to know more about that, best head over to Tom Slopers page at http://www.sloperama.com and look at his all encompassing Q&A for aspiring game designers... good read, not only for people interested in becoming game designers.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Sorry if this is posted in the wrong place.


Moving you to the right place.
 

I want to design games at some point in my life. However, I'm going to get a Masters in computer science so I have the option of attaining a stable, well-paying job.

1. Would getting a Masters in say, software development, be good enough by itself to get into the game design industry?
2. Would working at some company like IBM be beneficial to game design
3. or a complete waste of time?


1. Read FAQ 49: http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson49.htm
2. Nobody can foretell your hypothetical future. You might possibly learn something about game design at IBM, depending on what sorts of projects you work on. But will it look like game design experience to a potential game hirer? Unlikely.
3. Nothing is a waste of time (well, except several things I can think of that would just derail the conversation). Presumably you would want to do that so you can earn a stable, well-paying living, and pay off your student loan debt, before you veer off into what you say is your true goal. The fact that you are contemplating this path indicates that maybe game design isn't in keeping with your life goals. By all means, get the degree you want, and then take the job you want.

All that said, now that your question has been moved to the Game Industry Job Advice forum, you should read this forum's FAQs. The link can be found in this forum's main page,
http://www.gamedev.net/forum/101-breaking-into-the-industry/
The link sends you to
http://www.gamedev.net/page/reference/faq.php/_/breaking-into-the-industry-r16
 

How far does programming competency alone get you in game design?


Not very far. Read FAQ 3 (http://www.sloperama.com/advice/designprep.htm) and FAQ 14 (http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson14.htm). Edited by Tom Sloper

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I am pretty qualified to give you good advice. I have a MS in Computer Science and I am currently a designer at a top of the line AAA studio. It's generally hard to go straight into design and honestly I am glad to have had a variety of programming jobs.

 

The key to making the transition to design is to always be improving your design skills. Listen to game design podcast, read game design books and most importantly, design games. In my humble opinion, having a MS in CS and a decent portfolio of games you created is 1,000 times better then any "design degree" or video game degree.

 

I've darted in and out of the industry a few times, do not let that discourage you.

 

Think about it like this, if you keep making games on your own, you'll eventually get good enough that you won't need a studio to work for because you'll be able to support yourself off your own creations.

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I am pretty qualified to give you good advice. I have a MS in Computer Science and I am currently a designer at a top of the line AAA studio. It's generally hard to go straight into design and honestly I am glad to have had a variety of programming jobs.

 

The key to making the transition to design is to always be improving your design skills. Listen to game design podcast, read game design books and most importantly, design games. In my humble opinion, having a MS in CS and a decent portfolio of games you created is 1,000 times better then any "design degree" or video game degree.

 

I've darted in and out of the industry a few times, do not let that discourage you.

 

Think about it like this, if you keep making games on your own, you'll eventually get good enough that you won't need a studio to work for because you'll be able to support yourself off your own creations.

This is the exact sort of information I was looking for! Thanks!

Any learning materials you particularly recommend?

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