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Game Design/Programming ?

IDMom2015IDMom2015 Posts: 26Registered User New Member
edited September 2013 in Math/Computer Science Majors
Looking for academically competitive program in game design...focusing on programming V. computer graphics. Not interested in DigiPen/Full Sail type environments, as branching out to robotics is an option. Any suggestions beyond the usual suspects ? RPI, RIT, Northeastern, Drexel.....
Post edited by IDMom2015 on
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Replies to: Game Design/Programming ?

  • 18yrcollegemin18yrcollegemin Posts: 103Registered User Junior Member
    Here is a link to the Princeton Review's top rated game design schools for 2013. Utah beat out USC for the first time ever. According to the director at the USC program, Disney/Pixar hires a lot of Utah grads.

    We visited the four schools listed above, as well as USC, UCF, and UT Dallas specifically for the Game Design programs.

    Top Undergraduate Schools for Video Game Design
  • 18yrcollegemin18yrcollegemin Posts: 103Registered User Junior Member
    We also visited WPI. It's a very small school, but I really liked it. My son was lukewarm about the size and number of girls, but it seemed to have a really nice program. We got to speak with the Program Director and 4 students from the program. They do not have a GPA requirement to keep merit money, the schedule is four 7 week periods where the students take only 3 classes each period and they have non-punitive grading (if grade is lower than a C, no credit is given but the grade is not factored into the GPA). The guys we spoke with ranged from freshmen to seniors. All but the youngest had interned/co-op'd with major companies and the senior was about to start a job with Microsoft Studios making a 6 figure starting salary. If you are looking at schools in that area, might want to consider WPI.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 37,509Registered User Senior Member
    Why not any school with a good normal CS major? The usual CS courses good for preparing for general industry software jobs are good for preparing to write game software (algorithms, operating systems, networks, databases, security, software engineering, etc.). Given the popularity of graphics and artificial intelligence (which are obvious applicable to game software), these are common enough electives in CS departments.
  • ReactorReactor Posts: 232Registered User Junior Member
    "According to the director at the USC program, Disney/Pixar hires a lot of Utah grads."

    Hahaha... no-one hires video game developers or designers out of school. The field is competitive as hell and everyone's interested in 1) your connections to the industry (many job offers go by word of mouth) and 2) your portfolio.

    I would also second the suggestion about majoring in CS instead. Majoring in video games is a good way to pigeonhole oneself from even general software jobs, because people who study video games/game development are, well, "not as appealing candidates" for writing non-games software.
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,042Registered User Senior Member
    The games industry is a tough one to make a decent living in, but I disagree with the idea that if you get a degree in CS games, you're putting yourself at some kind of disadvantage.

    There are plenty of non-games applications that are graphics intensive, and the games curricula that I've seen would well prepare students for those. The networking aspects of online games, and working as a team member on class projects, are also things that employers would find valuable.

    I've worked on cloud and medical applications with people who had degrees related to digital games. They were working on the user interfaces, and were better qualified than most programmers with a vanilla CS degree would be.
    Hahaha... no-one hires video game developers or designers out of school

    From what I've read on the USC forum, the students in their games program have no problem finding games jobs straight out of school. That is one of the best programs around though, so it could be the case that if you graduate from a lesser-known school, it's hard to find a games job. And the people I see who work at Bay Area games companies sure look like they're not far removed from college to me.
  • TomServoTomServo Posts: 2,047Registered User Senior Member
    Any school with a good CS program should do. I wouldn't go to a specific "game" school without documented proof they had strong industry contacts, but that's me.

    How to decide which school? Look for schools with more graphics classes/research groups, and more project classes. If there are classes or senior project classes that involve making a game, that's a good sign. Make sure they teach OpenGL and shaders.

    There is also more than graphics. Compiler design/formal language skills are useful for creating scripting interfaces, a big thing in games. People who make developer tools are important too.

    Simple Newtonian physics simulations are popular now too.

    Networking, parallel programming, dealing with large data sets, good software engineering principles, these are all good. Don't specialize in graphics because it pays the best or jt's the coolest, do jt because you love it.

    Also, OSU is a good graphics school. The creator of Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age), and the technical director at Pixar, and many others work in Hollywood and the game industry (and scientific visualization) came from OSU. We also have a good game and graphics curriculum taught by professors who specialize in that.
  • ReactorReactor Posts: 232Registered User Junior Member
    "From what I've read on the USC forum, the students in their games program have no problem finding games jobs straight out of school. That is one of the best programs around though, so it could be the case that if you graduate from a lesser-known school, it's hard to find a games job. And the people I see who work at Bay Area games companies sure look like they're not far removed from college to me."

    An "accredited" sort of school ought to make graduates more appealing (or most appealing from a pool of graduates) to entry-level positions in game companies as the companies wouldn't need to do that much internal training. But a degree is surely not the most important thing in a creative field, i.e. it's not the most significant thing for making games or demonstrating game making ability, it's the portfolio that does it. Now, the reason why young people may find game jobs "out of school" might be the same as it's in some other industries: young people straight out of school are easy to exploit and they can be hyper productive. The games industry doesn't have many people over 40 years old, because "many" end up leaving the field after 5-10 years of work.

    A game programming degree might be useful just because of its graphics, AI and networking courses. But I'd say a CS degree would be more useful in the long run (who in the world wants to read game development specific versions of the same theory?).
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,042Registered User Senior Member
    As I said before, the games industry is a tough one to make a living in. But if you understand that and still want to give it a go, it just makes sense to get some kind of games-related degree. You'll have the chance to come up with some kind of project portfolio to show potential employers, whereas that would be difficult to do if enrolled in a vanilla CS program.

    From what I've seen of most CS/games degree programs, you won't get hurt if you pursue one of those rather than a straight CS degree. You learn how to program in both. And I would argue that it's actually better to take the 2,3-D graphics or user experience classes that many games programs require, rather than the discrete math or analysis of algorithms classes required of many typical CS programs, because the former are practical while the latter are overly theoretical. A longtime complaint of employers is that CS programs prepare students for graduate school rather than the workplace, and I tend to agree.
    (who in the world wants to read game development specific versions of the same theory?).

    I have absolutely no idea what that means.
  • jeffologistjeffologist Posts: 2Registered User New Member
    Don't do game design, do CS.

    Computer science will cover most things and you can still work other places with that degree.
  • ReactorReactor Posts: 232Registered User Junior Member
    As I said before, the games industry is a tough one to make a living in. But if you understand that and still want to give it a go, it just makes sense to get some kind of games-related degree. You'll have the chance to come up with some kind of project portfolio to show potential employers, whereas that would be difficult to do if enrolled in a vanilla CS program.

    From what I've seen of most CS/games degree programs, you won't get hurt if you pursue one of those rather than a straight CS degree. You learn how to program in both. And I would argue that it's actually better to take the 2,3-D graphics or user experience classes that many games programs require, rather than the discrete math or analysis of algorithms classes required of many typical CS programs, because the former are practical while the latter are overly theoretical. A longtime complaint of employers is that CS programs prepare students for graduate school rather than the workplace, and I tend to agree.

    The focus is just different. CS is fundamentally the study of the theoretical foundations of computation and the implementation of computing in real-world computers. Anything more specific is more specific and concerned with some direct application, rather than the foundations.

    Yes, applied knowledge is by definition "more practical", but it may not help in solving entirely new problems (or help in solving them in the best possible way), when/if those are met. That's why e.g. math is useful.
    (who in the world wants to read game development specific versions of the same theory?).
    I have absolutely no idea what that means."

    It means that a games programming degree is chewed math and chewed computing theory, built specifically to serve the purpose of game development. But the theory of computation is universal, the math is universal, programming is "universal", computer graphics theory is universal, so why'd one want to study a game development specific "version" of these universal things? I'm not saying that a games programming degree is bad, but just that the content is in its own way much more shallow than the bare bones theory that is/can be studied in CS.

    Yes, if one's only interest is to do games programming, then a games degree would be cool. But if one is interested in universal topics in computation, then CS would be the right choice.
  • seattle_momseattle_mom Posts: 1,001Registered User Senior Member
    Some colleges offer a BSCS with a specialization, concentration or minor in game development.
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,042Registered User Senior Member
    Yes, if one's only interest is to do games programming, then a games degree would be cool. But if one is interested in universal topics in computation, then CS would be the right choice.

    From what I've seen of games degrees, you can apply what you learn to all kinds of applications outside of games, e.g., graphics-intensive applications, simulation and modeling, UIs, applications that need to work quickly over the web, working in teams. Those are practical skills that employers love to see on a resume.

    I'm assuming most people get CS degrees because they want a good job. If you look at the great majority of job postings, they primarily list specific skills that are needed. That's because employers are more interested in practicality than universal topics in computation. The latter is primarily of interest only to those who work in universities and don't have to make a living solving practical problems.
  • ReactorReactor Posts: 232Registered User Junior Member
    I'm assuming most people get CS degrees because they want a good job. If you look at the great majority of job postings, they primarily list specific skills that are needed. That's because employers are more interested in practicality than universal topics in computation. The latter is primarily of interest only to those who work in universities and don't have to make a living solving practical problems.

    Two bad generalizations there.

    It's useful to remember also that basic research tends to produce many of the substantial results. CS is primarily the core academic discipline for computing, somewhat comparable to e.g. mathematics and physics. A game degree should still be "elementary" (because it's more applied) compared to computer science.

    It's true that the real world operates by large on applied knowledge and by replicating stuff that's done a million times earlier, but for some people that's not the right path to take. And not the most useful path for undergrad university education either, whose main purpose ought to be to gain understanding, not employment.
  • simba9simba9 Posts: 1,042Registered User Senior Member
    And not the most useful path for undergrad university education either, whose main purpose ought to be to gain understanding, not employment.

    Noble thought, but naive.

    People go to college to get a piece of paper that says they're ready to enter the workforce.
  • aegrisomniaaegrisomnia Posts: 1,026Registered User Senior Member
    I would echo others' cautions against specializing too much at the undergraduate level. If you're absolutely sure that you want to make a career of games, and you are confident enough in your abilities that you don't want to hedge the risk of your failing in this career, then specializing is a bet that could pay off handsomely. However, getting a degree in CS - possibly with a minor, not major, specialization in gaming - could be a way to significantly hedge risk without sacrificing too much reward.

    Regarding the "broader topics in computation" question: if you're more interested in gaming topics than in general computation topics, this would tend to support the decision to specialize in gaming earlier. There's nothing wrong with having interests, and aligning your studies to those interests is an option that should be considered.

    Regarding the reasons for getting a degree, practically speaking, most people get degrees because their family tells them to get degrees, and their teachers tell them they need to get degrees, and what they see in popular media makes it seem like people with degrees are successful while people without degrees are unsuccessful. People want good things in life and getting a degree is a means to that end. I find this situation unfortunate but take some comfort in what I've perceived as a growing societal understanding that it's alright to be critical of the costs and benefits of getting a college education; this might point towards a not-so-distant future where college becomes something more like what I think it should be.

    One last, general, thought - understanding and having a deep appreciation of the fundamentals of a discipline can make you a better professional. Especially in software development, generally speaking, more prestigious/selective/desirable/whatever companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon tend to stress such fundamentals as algorithms, data structures, discrete math, and systems concepts, rather than focusing on specific technologies (languages, paradigms, frameworks, etc.) or applications (graphics, AI, etc.) during interviews. One might surmise that this is because these companies believe that, by focusing on these rather than on other criteria, they are selecting the best employees they possibly can.

    That said, from what I hear, having a portfolio is much more important in the gaming industry, so they might be using a different set of criteria to evaluate potential employees.
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