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Deciding on a Masters - Carnegie Mellon's Masters Entertainment Technology

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Hi all

Sorry if this is the wrong place- not sure where to post.


i'm a relatively new dev, and I'd like to gather opinions on Carnegie's Masters of Entertainment Technology.


I have been considering a masters related to games in order to invest my time and build an understanding of the medium. Plus, to push how far I can go. 


i'm no longer considering USC because of location and overall cost in time/energy and actual money (i'm in nyc).


Here's some reasons for a masters at CMU below; i'd really like some feedback.

also a link to their school info http://www.cmuportugal.org/dynamic.aspx?id=2650

and a link to their main page http://www.etc.cmu.edu/


  • I'm willing to go through the program.
  • I share the values they uphold- learn, work, play. 
  • I could get some solid projects out- ideally they'd reflect my vision for valuable games.
  • I'd expand my awareness of the field 
  • I'd graduate and start working on interactive media, which I can try to jump into, but may be more costly than school, time wise. I think school will help make more money longterm. It looks like a good investment to me.
  • Network, mentorship, & time to get better is a super plus. 


  • I would be happy if I had an opportunity to learn from those who have really explored games and other technology- they seem to emphasize mentorship in the student handbook. hmm.
  • i'm still a new dev (using dev loosely) in the early learning process. Not tech savvy yet. I feel I need to cover some areas before I can really execute well, even in a school setting. I'm working on it and slowly building experience.
  • CMU's program is project heavy so it may lack the coverage into tech and design that i may need or want. However I sincerely do not want to just "study" which is why this program is appealing. 
  • I don't know if they really adhere to the values they have stated- I mean, i don't know how they do it. Haven't met them yet. 
  • I don't see any news about their program in the game dev circle
  • They are sort of different in terms of games (educational focus), and am sort of unsure of this, but am interested.
  • it is very important to me to be around multi disciplinary fields. I want to see a good understanding of the arts. 


Thank you!

Edited by paraph

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Thanks frob. looking into that.

I probably over did the post. 


still wondering if anyone has opinions on carnegie's masters program, but I probably wont know until I visit and snurf it out, and also get more work done in games and interactive media.


i recently heard copenhagen has a 2 year masters program. looks cool. sort of jealous. :] not my thing though.

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For that, I prefer programmers generally with a CS degree, in this case master of computer science.


"Masters of Entertainment Technology" looks odd when I consider it with my resume-reading eyes, but because of the school's name it is less bad than it could be. The links in the forum FAQ page cover this topic fairly well. They tend not to transfer well, and most people in the industry do not remain for their entire career.


Looking over their program, it looks like they are trying to provide a "trade school" experience of job training rather than what is traditionally considered a master's program.

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hmmm- well then, i'll just put in Masters, Carnegie Mellon, and refer to all the work i did there. that's ethical right? 


i have considered a masters of cs a while back.


my background is in psychology (undergrad) and my emphasis is in design. so, a cs focus would help a lot right now. But so would a traditional art focus. i'm not sure a cs masters is the right answer.


in terms of my career, I don't know. I'm just starting out anyway, and if I can pull off making something good in the long run, that'd be nice. I am not trying to be the programmer for someone else's games though. There is a company i want to work with, but i would probably design and program there. or maybe something else? 


I think i'm going to have to live with the fact that someone else is going to solve or be much better acquainted with the computer end of things, while i try to pull it together at the front. But i do want to understand it, because i can't design for it otherwise.


carnegie's masters program is a very mba-like program (they say that), and i agree, it is untraditional. that's why i have considered it.

they also focus on different types of games, so i'm interested in that too, but i can't seem to confirm whether or not i can pull it off. as in, get something really good done while i'm there. 


eh- I already know something like NYU masters game design or Parsons is not the answer. 


i mean, i'm sure there are ways for me to fill the CS knowledge gap while i'm at Carnegie...probably.

Edited by paraph

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If you're in a different discipline then yeah, a CS degree is not going to match. That's another difficulty of such a program, historically 'master of x' is a specific discipline, but this isn't quite the same.

While psychology backgrounds can be good in games, it is generally difficult to enter the industry directly as a game designer. Many schools prey on the popularity of the position's name calling their program "game design" when it is not, other times they call their program "game design" and it really IS, but then graduates discover they have a near-impossible task of getting an entry level job.

Game Designer is not an entry level role. Usually the role is a person in charge of a multi-million dollar project or piece of a project; 7 digits or 8 digits budget assigned to their tasks, working closely with producers (a designer's peer) and lead programmers and lead artists with their accompanying teams. Businesses don't trust that budgetary responsibility on an unproven designer.

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I could not let this thread end without saying one point.

Just to be fair, I did ask for opinions on Carnegie. But moving on.


It's generally unhelpful to offer opinions that do nothing but say, you can't do x, or, no it won't work.

Even if there is decent intent, it solves nothing to emphasize what won't work or similar .
Not that this thread was meant to solve the problem, or expected to receive certain responses.

I had read the comment and thought, so what ? What does this have to do with what needs to be done?

for anyone reading this, trying to make moves, I'd recommend to read it and then not worry about it, move on forward. Not backwards. Not in circles. Have some faith, do what you need to do where you are now.

For myself, I've been thinking about what I needed to do, and Carnegie is not the right program. It's not wrong, just not what I need. Sometimes it takes a while to work through and decide what it is you truly need. And that's usually, consideration for right where you are.

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Just to reinforce frobs statement:


Generally, it is wiser to do a more traditional degree for 3 reasons


 - 1) it seems more traditional degrees (cs, arts) are seen as better educations by potential employers... cannot speak about the college you mentioned, but many in the industry distrust "game design" degrees for the simple reasons because there ARE many bad ones around (many schools open game design courses now because it seems to attract quite a lot of students, without having any idea about what is actually needed in the industry, or having good teachers) and its a rather new degree (whereas CS has been around for decades, and art degrees even longer).


- 2) Many game design degrees train their students to be a jack-of-all-trades... that might be a good fit for a small Studio or people going Indie afterwards (and at least here in switzerland, game design is taught at our art school, which is biased towards teaching artists creating art, not graphical designers, thus it makes sense to the school to train game designers as standalone Indies, as they are seen as the ones creating "art", not commercial games)...

For larger studios, they are looking for specialists. You can still specialize while doing a game design degree of course (your degree is only half of the equation, you need to work on your portfolio anyway in your own time and make games yourself to stand a chance on the job market)... with a cs degree you are already seen as a programmer, or with art degree as an artist (given you want to work in these disciplines... but then, these CAN be entry level positions)


- 3) Given you don't find a job in the industry and don't want to go Indie, or burn out of working in the industry at some time and want to leave it, you will never have a problem finding a job with a CS degree... programmers are in high demand in many industries, and given you haven't worked 20 years in games, you will find a job for sure (even if you worked in games that long, you might find someone who is less biased and knows how talented a programmer must be to survive in such a competitive industry).

Harder to pull off with an art degree, given there is less demand. Still, with a traditional art degree, and enough expierience and skill, you should be able to transition into a different industry.



Now, I am trying to come back to what you have said before. You mention a background in psychology.... I guess that means you already have a degree? If that is the case, and you are aiming at becoming a game designer, I am not so sure doing another masters degree is the best investment of your time. And here is why:


- 1) As frob has said, game designer is no entry level position. You will have trouble finding employment right out of school, no matter what degrees you have, without any (actually a lot!) of expierience as a game developer of any ilk. Game designers are normally chosen among the game devs already working at the company (be it in techical, art, or business positions) that show a lot of potential in designing game features.

That means as long as you are not already a game designer with work expierience, your only chance is to enter the industry in a different position.


- 2) You already have a degree! The degree you have might matter a lot if you want to "switch" to a specialist position like programmer, or artist, where you are expected to bring a CS or art degree respectively.

You seem to be aiming more at a game design career. A psychology degree seems to be quite sufficient, as long as you also bring the needed skills for the entry level positions that actually ARE open to you.



What you NEED to do (no matter if you apply for this college or not) is to create games. You need a portfolio, no school in the world can give you enough projects to fill a portfolio (besides the portfolio looking rather lame if everything in it was done for school).

While you certainly will learn many things working towards this degree, you can do the same in your own time or in shorter, more focused schools and courses. Colleges and universities are there for the degrees, not to be trained as a specialist. They are not extremly efficient at teaching at all (given the time you spend at a university).


Now, the positions that ARE open to you:


- 1) Level designer: This absolutely is an entry level position, in many studios. AFAIK there is no clear preference of a degree to apply for such a position, you might have a CS, arts, or game design school degree, doesn't really matter much. What does matter is that you have A LOT of expierience working with game engine editors and, you know, designing levels.

If there is THE entry level position for a game designer career, level designer is you best bet. While you do a lot of technical and art stuff, you already need to design a quite important part of a game yourself. Show a lot of skill and dedication, and you might be offered the chance to become a game designer ar some point (might take years, but that is true for ANY career).


- 2) QA/Testing: there are many entry level positions in testing. Actually, here you might find a job even without a degree, and certainly with less expierience in creating games.

Kinda hard to say what you need to bring with you to land a job... but if you land one, and again show a lot knowledge in game design matters (where testers DO have a lot of influence on, as they are expected not only to find bugs or weaknesses in the design, but also make suggestions as to how to fix it), and a lot of dedication, you might be able to move out of QA and into a game design position... maybe less easy than if you would start as a level designer, but still totally possible.


- 3) Other positions in game studios: There are many other professions working at bigger game studios... like HR, Business, guys not directly involved with the actual development. Then there are positions that are kind of support roles. Among them might be psychologists. That is a rather new field for game dev studios, but I have heard that some do employ behavioural psychologists to analyze player behaviour or tune their game designs for certain psychological effects.

If you have the chance to find such a rare position as a psychologist I don't know... depends on your current expierience and career a lot I guess.



Of course, other of your statements make it sound like you would rather follow the Indie route. Then a degree is even less a goo investment of time. What you need to do as an Indie is CREATE GAMES NOW! Start creating games today. And finish and release them!


Just be aware that a "career" as Indie is quite hard to pull off. Not because it is hard to create games on your own or with a small studio (it is, but that is besides the point)... but because you have a very small chance of ever seeing a RoI.

Most Indies will have to pay the bills with paid game development, creating applications outside of game development, or doing ANYTHING that they have the skills for and actually pays mones (yes, that includes flipping burgers). There are the big stars of the Indie movement, that can actually get rich creating their own games... they are one in a million. There are many that are able to survive just making games... they will not get rich, but do not need to do paid gigs outside of their development. Still a minority...


For most, its a tough business... so while it is totally possible to work as an Indie and survive, be aware of these facts before you choose this career.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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