For the thousands upon thousands of high school gamers all over the world, a degree in ‘game design’, ‘game development’, or ‘game art and animation’ is a perfect fit. With the sheer number of new degree programs relating itself to the booming video games industry, many students may not think beyond the title of the degree. Being a part of a company that creates the most amazing video games is within easier reach after obtaining that diploma. However, they fail to realize that this path isn’t the only way towards the goal.
In fact, many career advisers would convince you against trekking that one-way narrow path. Instead of shoehorning into a space where everyone else and their mothers are filling up, there exists other wider paths that actually lead somewhere.
A Games Design Degree Only Limits You
Acquiring a degree is supposed to open up new opportunities for employment. However, in relation to other courses, a BA or BS in game design wouldn’t help much in convincing target companies into hiring you. This is because there is less flexibility for a game design graduate to move beyond the scope of the field.
For example, someone who has a degree in computer science can easily get into the video games industry because the demand for top-notch programmers and coders never dwindle. On the flip side, game design graduates have a harder time getting both into a developer startup or big coder-friendly companies like Google or Amazon. The sheer amount of flexibility offered by a computer science degree severely outweighs anything positive about acquiring a degree in game design. This is a sentiment echoed by many game developers from Reddit in this discussion from over a year ago.
“Get a CS degree, and barring that, at least take enough programming courses (with an eye towards games) to know how to actually make a game, not just design it),” commented user Soviyet.
“Let me say it again to really drive it home. Get a CS degree,” pointed out independent game dev James Dalby from FrenchRoastGames.com. “What is a degree in game design going to do to help move you laterally into a similar industry? Not much,” Dalby added.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
There is an underlying root for whatever reason we love video games. Whether it is the gameplay and mechanics, the lore and writing, the aesthetic design, or the sound – the passion to play and get inspired by games can be traced to a certain element whether we are conscious about it or not. It is better to find one’s true passion and spend four to five years of college fueling and honing that passion instead of studying about the other fields. It is important to create a holistic knowledge of the industry, but having no expertise has been the undoing of many graduates.
There are more specialized and well-rounded degrees available for each part of game development. Some examples are degrees in creative writing for concept and story development, media and visual communication for the community and design aspect, even finance and business degrees can possibly enter the scene with ease. The same cannot be said for a games design degree which dips a little bit in each part of the development spectrum without staying long enough to acquire mastery.
“Initially you may not know what area of games design you will be best suited to. Ask yourself these questions: What do I enjoy about games? Am I artistic? Am I good at problem solving?” advised Joshua Brown on his list of tips for aspiring game designers on How2Become.
A Strong Portfolio Weighs More than a Degree
The most important thing to note is that no matter how long your resume’s list of academic achievements is, if you can’t back it up with a strong portfolio then it’s pointless. One thing that game design school can help you with is to build a body of work. However, aspiring programmers, artists, and others can create the same with more focus on their field of expertise, which is more attractive to game companies.
Ultimately, someone who is dead-serious about a long career in the video games industry as a game designer or developer should just get a degree in computer science. What are your thoughts?
GameDev.net Soapbox logo design by Mark "Prinz Eugn" Simpson
About the Author(s)
Dennis Redley is a master’s student and freelance writer. He is currently doing research on human resources management in the tech industry.