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Which Degree Should I Pursue?

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I'm hoping to get some help with a decision that is increasingly hard to make with the more research I do. I would like to become a game developer, or to be more specific, a game programmer. I prefer to say developer as I would like to know some aspects of design, but my skill set is more geared towards the math and science rather than the art, and programming is a very useful skill to be good at these days. I am currently enrolled in an online program to get a BS in game development and programming, but unfortunately I hate it. It's the program, the way it's set up is not going to teach me anything. So I need to switch schools and stop wasting money. My question is should I pursue a computer science degree, or software development, ect. or try to find another game development program? Although I enjoy all aspects of working with computers, my interests lay in game dev and programming, so which degree should would give me the best odds of getting a job in the industry?

Thanks in advance for the help!

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31 minutes ago, rechtash000 said:

My question is should I pursue a computer science degree, or software development, ect. or try to find another game development program?

There are many paths to your desired end goal.

I'm a fan of the traditional CS degree, and it's probably the safest route. You'll end up with a strong general foundation, which in the worst case you can put to work earning a living outside the games industry.

Game Development degrees are still a bit like the Wild West - many of the programs haven't been around long enough to establish much of a reputation. But if you find a good one, it may well be more relevant on a day-to-day basis than much of a traditional CS program.

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I would say go for Computer Science. Most game dev programming jobs list that as a requirement (or at least a nice to have) and it will give you a well rounded foundation for becoming a programmer. As @swiftcoder says, it also gives you some flexibility if you want to get a non-gaming job down the road. Game dev specific degrees aren't worth as much, even if you may actually learn more applicable skills. I actually had a similar decision years ago, and ended up switching from CompSci to art school and kind of think I made the wrong choice. Though I'm sure people say you can learn things on your own, etc. I find that lacking the CompSci degree has held me back from more technical positions. So I think it would be worthwhile.

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Select a programme with a strong foundation in data structures and algorithms, theoretic computer science, linear algebra and at least a few more semesters of mathematics, some basic digital circuits and microcontrollers, assembly languages, parallel algorithms, networking. Basic Newtonian physics, probability theory, statistics or relational databases aren't a mistake either. These will lay out some computer science minimum for you. Then you need to get into C++ (asap) and as many other languages as possible, gradually, so you aren't scared of anything. As for (advanced) computer graphics, that's a topic for masters, I believe. If you'll hear terms like rendering equation, BRDF, BVH, kDtree, path-tracing, Monte-Carlo, convex hull, ... that's what's going to be in a master's degree (not viable without the few semesters of mathematics). This is about what I got (2004) and it made me aware of all the different stuff I might have and you bet most of us have encountered to some degree.

Over the years I also managed to forget most of the details... :( But I know where to look and what do the things "do".

Regarding C++, DirectX, OpenGL, shading languages, assembly languages, networking, gameplay scripting, Unity, Unreal, Maya, 3dsmax etc, they showed us a lot in school but they'll never show you enough, they can't and it isn't their goal. Work at home, make (little bullshit) games at home, create a small app to help your mother sort books in her archive, make an app to count beers in the pub, clone asteroids, mario and tetris, write your own UDP chat application... WHATEVER is going to help you.

I ended up doing engine/render in an AAA company and if you send us your resume and we see you graduated a computer science / software engineering programme, it's a big plus. Then if you show us that you made this small thing here and that funky thing there, it's going to sound even better. It's going to sound very good for an engine coder, for a gameplay coder you'll have to show even more of your own games, but the CS basics are going to be important as well. In either case and coding role, expect basic CS/algebra/C++ tests when applying to gaming companies, to filter out people without even minimal knowledge.

Good luck!

Off-topic: "Online" university sounds weird, maybe I'm old :P I think I'd miss shaking in the cold, dark and hundreds of years old hallways with a bunch of schoolmates before and after any harder exam... plus the exchange programmes (at least in EU) :) But I understand it's becoming an option nowadays.

Edited by pcmaster

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