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DJ_Bioxic

My College Dilemma

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Hello and thanks for reading this.

This is my first post by the by, so I might sound like a noob (it's because I am).

 

So I have been passionate about the video game industry since middle school, and I have always made up games and all that but that was because I had a kidish-type mindset.

Nowadays I am a senior in a technical high school. My trade is Electronics Technologies. I've been doing scholarships and all that stuff since sophomore year and I have a nice and concise list of colleges I plan on applying to (most with the common application).

 

At the beginning I thought, since I aspire to be a Game Designer, that I simply take a degree in Game Design. Seems logical, right?

 

For some time I just accepted this fact until I recently saw that a degree in Computer Science (CS) might be a better alternative, with a minor in some form of Game Development (programming, art, sound or design).

 

Keep in mind I have been on multiple websites reading about this topic, however I still can't make a reasonable decision.

To understand what I am asking, let me first explain what I am aiming for:

 

I am aiming for a Game Design career. I know these jobs are not "immediate placement" nor are they "the idea-guy". To my knowledge it goes on the lines of mechanics, prototypes, bug-fixing, some creative aspects (like story and characters however this is more of a Lead Designer's job) and of course the GDD (Game Design Document). If I am missing anything, or maybe I seem ignorant in anyway please let me know.

-------------------------------

 

Anyway, so I know the answers on here cannot dictate what I actually do, but can someone please respectfully give me their opinion on whether or not I should aim for a Computer Science degree or a Game Design degree?

 

Any answers would be very much appreciated.

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Is there anything else you're interested in studying?

 

I normally would not advise a "game design" degree, because in general I think those programs aren't worth the money; generally the programs seem extremely shallow or overly topical (that is, focusing on trends).

 

 A computer science degree is a good course of action for aspiring game programmers. It's not necessarily a good idea for somebody who isn't interested in computer science (which is not "programming"). Consequently if you're looking at the degree because you think it might be "better" for your career but aren't actually interested in the actual subject matter... I would recommend against it, and instead suggest you take the game design degree program or some other course of study related to things you are actually interested in studying.

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Is there anything else you're interested in studying?

 

I normally would not advise a "game design" degree, because in general I think those programs aren't worth the money; generally the programs seem extremely shallow or overly topical (that is, focusing on trends).

 

 A computer science degree is a good course of action for aspiring game programmers. It's not necessarily a good idea for somebody who isn't interested in computer science (which is not "programming"). Consequently if you're looking at the degree because you think it might be "better" for your career but aren't actually interested in the actual subject matter... I would recommend against it, and instead suggest you take the game design degree program or some other course of study related to things you are actually interested in studying.

Thanks for your opinion.

 

I've seen that Computer Science is a good introduction to the entirety of game development due to your flexibility. There were even designers stating themselves that it would be better just to take CS.

It's not that CS doesn't interest me I just would like to eventually be in a designing position. 

If I did go in CS I would also have to be making side-projects (portfolio has to be strong) whereas in Game Design you are making your portfolio in class.

 

In general I heard CS is just overall better. It does interest me, it would be just as challenging as whatever I do with my life but I just want the best option.


Is there anything else you're interested in studying?

 

I normally would not advise a "game design" degree, because in general I think those programs aren't worth the money; generally the programs seem extremely shallow or overly topical (that is, focusing on trends).

 

 A computer science degree is a good course of action for aspiring game programmers. It's not necessarily a good idea for somebody who isn't interested in computer science (which is not "programming"). Consequently if you're looking at the degree because you think it might be "better" for your career but aren't actually interested in the actual subject matter... I would recommend against it, and instead suggest you take the game design degree program or some other course of study related to things you are actually interested in studying.

 

It is also said that with a Game Design degree you're stuck in game design, as in it's hard to transfer it around, while in CS it is easier. 

I'm not sure but these are just what people are saying.

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If I did go in CS I would also have to be making side-projects (portfolio has to be strong) whereas in Game Design you are making your portfolio in class.

 

You'll probably want to be doing this anyway, regardless of your degree program.

 

It is also said that with a Game Design degree you're stuck in game design, as in it's hard to transfer it around, while in CS it is easier. 

 

Yeah, this is a theory, and not dissimilar from an attitude I used to have myself, but I don't actually think it's that much of a concern. Sure, some place might bin your resume because you have 'the wrong degree,' but it's also possible they'll bin it because of some other arbitrary reason. Or maybe they wanted a game design degree, but you don't have one. And so on. Catering to a future hypothetical employer's whims is not a good way to spend tends of thousands of dollars and four years of your life.

 

Similarly...

 

I just want the best option

 

The only way to get the best option is to evaluate the best option in terms of the next four years of your life: what are you interested in studying, what experiences do you want to have, and what extremely general vague direction do you want to go afterwards (you seem to know this already: game design). Going to college is an expensive and time-consuming decision, so you should make it based on more criteria you control than criteria you don't.

 

What you don't control is what the industry will be like in four years or ten years or twenty years, or what your own goals and life circumstances will be then. What you can control is what you want to do now, and so long as you restrict that to options that don't immediately close-out being a game designer it's hard to go "wrong" there.

 

Ultimately getting into the industry will be more about you and the work you've done leading up to that first job application. It's less about where you went to school and what the name on your degree is. You want to have gotten the most out of whatever education you pursue, certainly, but you're more likely to get more out of an education you enjoy than one you don't.

 

If you like computer science topics, great. Computer science would be a good degree program and all things being equal I would generally recommend that over a "game design" program. But if you don't like it, don't study it and pick the game design degree.

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If I did go in CS I would also have to be making side-projects (portfolio has to be strong) whereas in Game Design you are making your portfolio in class.

 

You'll probably want to be doing this anyway, regardless of your degree program.

 

 

 

It is also said that with a Game Design degree you're stuck in game design, as in it's hard to transfer it around, while in CS it is easier. 

 

Yeah, this is a theory, and not dissimilar from an attitude I used to have myself, but I don't actually think it's that much of a concern. Sure, some place might bin your resume because you have 'the wrong degree,' but it's also possible they'll bin it because of some other arbitrary reason. Or maybe they wanted a game design degree, but you don't have one. And so on. Catering to a future hypothetical employer's whims is not a good way to spend tends of thousands of dollars and four years of your life.

 

Similarly...

 

 

 

I just want the best option

 

The only way to get the best option is to evaluate the best option in terms of the next four years of your life: what are you interested in studying, what experiences do you want to have, and what extremely general vague direction do you want to go afterwards (you seem to know this already: game design). Going to college is an expensive and time-consuming decision, so you should make it based on more criteria you control than criteria you don't.

 

What you don't control is what the industry will be like in four years or ten years or twenty years, or what your own goals and life circumstances will be then. What you can control is what you want to do now, and so long as you restrict that to options that don't immediately close-out being a game designer it's hard to go "wrong" there.

 

Ultimately getting into the industry will be more about you and the work you've done leading up to that first job application. It's less about where you went to school and what the name on your degree is. You want to have gotten the most out of whatever education you pursue, certainly, but you're more likely to get more out of an education you enjoy than one you don't.

 

If you like computer science topics, great. Computer science would be a good degree program and all things being equal I would generally recommend that over a "game design" program. But if you don't like it, don't study it and pick the game design degree.

 

 

Thanks this helped a bunch.

I think I will look for a CS minor or some type of programming minor to add. I will also look more into CS to see if it's a good fit for me.

 

As of now a Game Design program seems the best for me, despite the opinions out there.

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I'm an industry professional (developer side) and now a lot people in game design that have made a realy expensive apprenticeship (arround $15.000 - $20.000) and worry about that these days. The fact is that in this country you have the private institutes like Games Academy, SAE and whatever trolls arround these days are commercial related institutes where the quality is not what it should be. Game Designers are not only the idea guys any more but also in a position to do scripting (and therefor need to now a little about programming) or paired with artist. The problem is simple, anyone could be the "idea guy" but the idea guy could hardly be an artist or fully programmer.

I personaly do some game design too in my spare time and one of these sufficed for an already published title on steam but I didnt learned any game design nor made an apprenticeship on this topic but studied computer science related to game development.

 

Ive had a talk to someone who is project lead and he mentioned that game design is very simple today except a little bit of insider know how and financial/motivative work. You should know actual main stream games and AAA title, how the gameplay is and what may the trend goes to. As game designer you plan and assemble gameplay concepts (not stories that is the task of the story writer) write concept papers the game design documents and need to think about what a player will held playing your game and how you could monetize it for example by DLCs (what have been AddOns in the past) and thats it. Balancing may be task of a game designer and QA depends on the size of the company you are working at. The bitter turth is that companies are seeking for persons with know-how and either you have already shipped a well performing title or it is hard work to go for an adequate position.

 

I would always recommend to go for anything else primary. This may be the game programmer, sound specialist or graphical artist or project manager (producer). These are the jobs that companies in games business are looking for and more important want to pay for here. An HR recruiter at Ubisoft told me that most game designers working there have made the way over QA position.

 

At the end matters what make you happy!

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Hey DJ
so I saw alot recommend you about CS
I'm too going to say that's the right step (for my opinion) because the skills you get during those studies are great not just for video game design
however do concider that it's a lot and i mean A LOT!!! of mathematics, and not the fun one 
I'm also studying CS, and I have to be honest so fat I failed 4 courses and it's not very easy however it's doable

as far as I know, if money is not the Issue i'de recommend you to go to VFS (vancouver film school) website and check it out
it's some major level of video game design with a lot of helpful courses that can help as well and not just diploma

seriously if I could I'de go there for sure

hope I helped :)

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I'm an industry professional (developer side) and now a lot people in game design that have made a realy expensive apprenticeship (arround $15.000 - $20.000) and worry about that these days. The fact is that in this country you have the private institutes like Games Academy, SAE and whatever trolls arround these days are commercial related institutes where the quality is not what it should be. Game Designers are not only the idea guys any more but also in a position to do scripting (and therefor need to now a little about programming) or paired with artist. The problem is simple, anyone could be the "idea guy" but the idea guy could hardly be an artist or fully programmer.

I personaly do some game design too in my spare time and one of these sufficed for an already published title on steam but I didnt learned any game design nor made an apprenticeship on this topic but studied computer science related to game development.

 

Ive had a talk to someone who is project lead and he mentioned that game design is very simple today except a little bit of insider know how and financial/motivative work. You should know actual main stream games and AAA title, how the gameplay is and what may the trend goes to. As game designer you plan and assemble gameplay concepts (not stories that is the task of the story writer) write concept papers the game design documents and need to think about what a player will held playing your game and how you could monetize it for example by DLCs (what have been AddOns in the past) and thats it. Balancing may be task of a game designer and QA depends on the size of the company you are working at. The bitter turth is that companies are seeking for persons with know-how and either you have already shipped a well performing title or it is hard work to go for an adequate position.

 

I would always recommend to go for anything else primary. This may be the game programmer, sound specialist or graphical artist or project manager (producer). These are the jobs that companies in games business are looking for and more important want to pay for here. An HR recruiter at Ubisoft told me that most game designers working there have made the way over QA position.

 

At the end matters what make you happy!

 

So you studied CS and still managed to design a game? As in the degree might not be worth much?

 

And companies are wanting people with know-how which, as a designer, is hard because fresh out of college you probably don't have a AAA game under your belt. However, you could have side-project games that show off your abilities in designing I would imagine.

And most Designers start in QA.

 

Also are you saying go for something in the lines of programming, sound, graphics, producing, etc. but work your way up from their to game design?

Because I'm interested in the entirety of the game development process, however design is just where I want to end up eventually.

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"fresh out of college you probably don't have a AAA game under your belt" - you don't need a AAA game. There are many other levels of game which yield useful experience. As you say, side projects are useful, but so are small indie releases, or mobile games, or internships/work-experience placements/etc.

 

"most Designers start in QA." I don't think that's true, except at big places like Ubisoft perhaps. For a start, not every company even has a QA department (sometimes because they outsource it to publishers, or simply because they are too small).

 

Everyone will give you different advice about getting into game design because the role of a designer differs from company to company. (I've even worked at places that didn't employ designers at all.) What I would recommend is this: if you're passionate enough about game design to be willing to relocate to get a job, do whatever will get you the broadest and most impressive portfolio in the next few years. That is probably a game design degree, providing you can find a university with a high quality course (and all the caveats other people have mentioned apply there). A Computer Science degree will help you get a job as a programmer, but won't necessarily let you transition to designer later. But it will pay better, and give you options outside of the games industry.

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As of now a Game Design program seems the best for me, despite the opinions out there.


Have you read those FAQs yet?

 

 

I read a few of them. 

The ones about becoming a Game Designer, Passion vs Feelings and job advice.

 

Like how someone had a degree in programming but then got changed to game design due to his talent in it.

 

I know getting a Game Design degree isn't exactly what some employers may/may not look for. But in the FAQ it seems like if designing is what I want to do then getting the degree seems good.

 

The thing with CS is it can get you jobs outside the game industry right? It leaves more opportunities, really. I want to look more into CS to see if it looks interesting, however I still eventually want a designer position.

I think CS is kind of like a "back-up" or something, or is that not the way to think about it?

 

Because I've seen people who took CS and still got into game design and were more flexible, however the ones into game design all they say is to take CS. It's a little confusing is all. 

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"fresh out of college you probably don't have a AAA game under your belt" - you don't need a AAA game. There are many other levels of game which yield useful experience. As you say, side projects are useful, but so are small indie releases, or mobile games, or internships/work-experience placements/etc.

 

"most Designers start in QA." I don't think that's true, except at big places like Ubisoft perhaps. For a start, not every company even has a QA department (sometimes because they outsource it to publishers, or simply because they are too small).

 

Everyone will give you different advice about getting into game design because the role of a designer differs from company to company. (I've even worked at places that didn't employ designers at all.) What I would recommend is this: if you're passionate enough about game design to be willing to relocate to get a job, do whatever will get you the broadest and most impressive portfolio in the next few years. That is probably a game design degree, providing you can find a university with a high quality course (and all the caveats other people have mentioned apply there). A Computer Science degree will help you get a job as a programmer, but won't necessarily let you transition to designer later. But it will pay better, and give you options outside of the games industry.

 

So basically, if I am passionate about it (which I am), then the GD degree. 

On the other hand, CS is good for programmers (I figured) and a bunch of assets in the game industry. I also know that programmers get paid more, which is understandable. Programming interests me too but designing seems to be my main focus. 

 

I know payment is a big chunk of what a career leads to, but I also want to do something I will enjoy doing.

So CS kind of opens all the doors, whereas a GD degree opens one door which is Game Design? 

 

In other words, study what I want to study because it will lead me to where I belong.

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As of now a Game Design program seems the best for me, despite the opinions out there.


Have you read those FAQs yet?

 

 

I also saw Lesson #3 (Preparing for a degree in game design) and it helped me a lot.

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So you studied CS and still managed to design a game? As in the degree might not be worth much?


Wrong conclusion. The degree is worth a lot. It helped him get a career in games. Being an
industry professional, one can migrate into design. Study whatever you want to. But get a degree,
and get into the industry. Then play your cards right.

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Hello, 

 

This is my first post so forgive me if I do something wrong. 

 

I just wanted to share that I am currently in school for my Bachelors in Game Design and Development at New England Institute of Technology and feel I may be able to help you with this decision. At this school we start off learning code such as html and design programs like 3ds max or Flash animator. The point of this is to help guide a student in a direction they want to go. Around quarter 4 of 6 you get to choose a focus between design or programming. I chose the design branch.

 

From there your core focus is what you chose but you still get experience with the other side through mutual group project classes or necessity in finishing a project. I am currently a quarter 8 out of 12 in my degree and I have learned a lot. To give you an idea of what I have learned so far I attached a photo of my completed courses. (further descriptions of the courses can be found on the NEIT website.) 

 

I wont lie to you this program is tough and requires a lot of hard work. We also realize how competitive the industry is and how it can be difficult to enter. However, it is still possible. To prepare us for a different outcome though I am taking a class called Game Industry Perspectives. In this class we analyze the industry and ourselves. We go over our skill sets and how we could apply them to other industry's as well. Example: I want to be an animator the fields I can look into for employment are games, media and entertainment, movies, medical, army etc..

 

The school is providing you with the tools needed to carry out what you want and succeed but it is up to you to master them. 

 

Also, this is the design perspective if you want to go programming you are in better shape. You learn many different languages such as html, java script, c++, C#, etc... the program side is diverse in what they learn as well and it can be applied in various ways. 

Ex: A buddy of mine graduated from the game program here after going through the programming track. He now works and programs at Brown University helping engineers develop medical simulations in Unity. He still hopes to pursue games but the experience he is gaining will be extremely valuable and could be the stepping stone into games he needed.

 

I hope this helps. Its a tough decision to make but I would also say to go with what you think will make you happy. Schooling is a lot of money and time you want to be sure you are choosing something that you will be content with in the future. 

Edited by CBravo

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My feedback is mostly generic in the context of career hunting in the scope of Computer Science. I've never worked a job outside of this umbrella of an industry so I can't rightly speak to much of anything else.

 

Personally (I may catch some heat about this) I believe there is a huge discrepancy from "going to college",  and "Going to College to earn a degree" as opposed to "Going to College to earn a degree, and get a job in my Major".

 

Do what you think is right. A degree is a good thing, but viewing college as a meal ticket to any career is a dangerous mentality, and it is healthy to be weary of joining the college bubble! College imho should be treated as a place to make connections, and to undergo self enlightenment in some skill or trade. Which indirectly may land you a job, but nothing is for certain.

 

A brief digression in the context of choosing your major, the last thing you want to do is type-cast your credentials in a market segment that some employers, honest to god, don't even believe constitutes a separate career path.

 

I can't speak to much about Game Programming as a profession, but I can't imagine it being that much different than Software Development in general. Obviously you have to know your stuff when it comes to whatever technology, APIs, and languages the development house is using (Or demonstrate an ability to pick them up quickly). Which leads to my point.

 

I think a degree is good for showing you can stick things through; It can be beneficial as well if you feel you learn best in a more structured environment, and also for passing any bots the HR department may be using to filter out any resume that doesn't have a key word of "Bachelors" in it. But, conversely I believe a decent portfolio showing your prowess in the technologies the development house is using, and critical thinking skills, and a natural ability to speak well and give thought out articulated responses during an interview (Naturally, being able to pass the technical portion helps as well :wink: ) speaks larger volumes than a degree.

 

To play devils advocate to my earlier assertion of the evil HR bots; you will always have certain postings stating, "5 Years Experience, Bachelors Degree Required". But, having been a interviewer before, I find semantics to be a harsh lady indeed, as most should say "5 Years Experience, Bachelors Degree Preferred" as the exception to the rule always seems to occur more often than most people think.

 

Marcus

Edited by markypooch

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