I need some really serious college advice from any and everyone in the game industry

Hiya folks, I've written on this advice forum about college a lot in the past and have continued to do so because as I grow closer to leaving high school, I get closer to college and than the real world so I need some help planning out my next steps. So I need a few questions answered:

1. Does having a degree in computer science bar me from becoming specifically a game designer? The two colleges I have in mind to go for higher learning are Carnegie-Mellon and Texas A&M, and both of those have Comp. Sci degrees. But does Comp Sci mean I can't be a game designer?

2. Does drawing and writing comics have any appeal to developers when it comes to hiring new developers to their studios? I started to learn how to draw and write to prep for being a game designer since a game designer has to be familiar to every branch of game development(art, music, programming,etc.). If I managed to get a comic series published or bought out by a major publisher, could that be something I could put down in my resume or portfolio to make employers more interested in me?

3. If there are any Carnegie-Mellon or Texas A&M alumni reading this, do you have any advice in regards to scholarships or if there are better places to study? Keep in mind, I chose TAMU because I live in Texas and CMU is a long way away.

Well those are my questions, thanks for reading this and any advice you can give me.

Well first you need to think about what exactly it is you want to do in the game developing process, the art, sound, music, animations, engines, scripting, story writing, dialog,...?

You don't need an exact degree for making games, like you said they need pretty much every talent available, primarily you need to make sure it is something you would like to do for a very long time.
And the decision to hire you will much more heavily rely on your work, if you come in saying "I made Minecraft" bam you are in, but if you come in with "I have X,Y,Z degree and zero experience" well then you will go stand in the back of a very long line with all the others.

Something important to note here is those game developing dreams might not work out (you probably heard the game industry has very harsh working conditions), I would go for an education that can be put to use in multiple industries.

in regards to your comic question having a successful would be something useful when applying to be a designer, it shows you have an understanding in script writing and story telling, something you may have to do as a designer. the drawing is also useful as you may also need to do quick sketches to explain ideas to other members of your team and have a basic understanding of graphics design.

having an understanding of every aspect of game creation is required as a designer, however computer science courses are generally focused towards programming, i know a lot of artists who have massive problems with programming, it may not be the correct course for you, but as i don't know what the course specifically provides so i cant say.

Another thing is that game design is one of the hardest positions to get in a company in an industry that is particularly ruthless. Companies usually hire designers who have already got a lot of experience and rarely hire graduates.

Also specific game design courses are generally considered to be a waste of time by developers so avoid them

For background information. i am currently doing a games technology course (in the uk) and want to be a game designer. i realise how unlikely it would be for me to get a job as one a designer so i am also learning as a programmer and concentrating on design in my spare time, to get experience as a designer i may be moving to Japan for a year to work as a designer there so i have a chance of getting a job as one in the future

More skills never hurts, it allows you to be flexible and be aware of other aspects of the dev process to account for when designing something.

A degree helps, but is not required. While it demonstrates you have the dedication to see a task through to completion, a portfolio for the field you are interested in will mean more. Obviously you can use what you've created in said course as part of your portfolio, just make sure after the course is over, you spend a bit of time and polish it up and finish it if you haven't.

As always, best way is to pick up an existing game and mod it - change the gameplay around, make something new, redo the rules system, will show you you can design a game. Neverwinter Nights, UDK, Unity are good engines to work from.

First, watch some Extra Credits. Great info about that on there. Second, it really depends...being a game 'designer' is just too broad a term for me to recommend one specific educational track.

That being said, a computer science degree and some demonstration of artistic ability will help you out immensely. Definitely a good point to work from. My advice would be to go to school with strong courses in both digital art, animation, and computer science. Just be aware that a 'computer science' degree will be more focused on things like programming and chips and such. You'll maybe just want a couple classes in some basic stuff there. The digital animation stuff will be much better for you.

But that's just school. What you really want is experience. Make a portfolio.

What discipline of game development are you wanting to get into? "Game design" can mean a few different things, but isn't generally an entry-level kind of job.

Something important that you should consider about college and game development is that nobody cares if or where you went to college. In fact, having a degree is seen by many in a rather negative light. As you can see by the latest 2011 game developer salary guide breakdown by discipline and education level:

image

I'm certainly not trying to talk you out of the programs you're interested in. I think there's plenty of value in an education, and I have a Master's degree from SMU Guildhall myself. I just advise that you contact and talk to some people who work in the industry, and see what their experience with college was like and in what ways it prepared them for what they do.

The most important thing besides experience and connections is your body of work. You need to focus on a good portfolio, whether it shows mod experience on a team or personal work. And you want to show work that is relevant to what you want to do. I'm an artist, and in interviews there has been a lot of interest in my fine arts background and traditional drawing skills, but ultimately it's my modeling, texturing, etc. that count.

It's certainly not a bad thing to have experience with comics. But let's say you want to be a level designer. It would be much more beneficial to have experience with UDK/editor of your choice, scripting, lighting, etc. Or an artist to be familiar with Photoshop and a variety of modeling and sculpting packages. I'd rather hire someone with relevant modding experience over someone with experience in comics, just in terms of skillsets alone.

If you want to be a game designer, than you're a game designer. Drawing comics won't get you that job, but you'll learn some stuff that could benefit from. Their's some bits of programming that you probably need to know. It's tough to show yourself as one so you'll need to prove yourself with proof. That probably means being in mod teams or doing your own. You need to prove you got some great ideas and that you can implement them.

Not only that, you need to present your ideas very well. For anyone in the game industry, if you can't present what you want to show, than you may as well not know what you're talking about. This is super important. Even though I can overlook poor communication skills, not everyone notices that as separate to ideas. BUT, a game designer has the important job of presenting ideas to the people that will fund the project with money. You better talk well.

What you do need to know for a game designer is to write documents. Yes, you need to have fun writing documents. Your job is to write docs for others to implement your ideas. SPREADSHEETS! Tons of SPREADSHEETS! You're going to be balancing out mechanics. Drawing diagrams, describe ideas, and layout guidelines. You're likely not the story writer, that's a totally separate job. If you have that ability, than it's a separate job that you tack on but that will likely not benefit you on your resume. The industry is now very segmented. We all have our specific jobs.

And please please please, find a nice person (but don't you dare bother them!) and ask what it is to be a game designer. Ask what you need to do and prove. Also, find a forum out their for game devs so that you can talk with other game designers. And a professional forum too. You can try your hands with starting up game designers but you're going to move on from them. Also, gamasutra is your friend.

Chemical Alia:
What discipline of game development are you wanting to get into? "Game design" can mean a few different things, but isn't generally an entry-level kind of job.

Something important that you should consider about college and game development is that nobody cares if or where you went to college. In fact, having a degree is seen by many in a rather negative light. As you can see by the latest 2011 game developer salary guide breakdown by discipline and education level:

image

I'm certainly not trying to talk you out of the programs you're interested in. I think there's plenty of value in an education, and I have a Master's degree from SMU Guildhall myself. I just advise that you contact and talk to some people who work in the industry, and see what their experience with college was like and in what ways it prepared them for what they do.

The most important thing besides experience and connections is your body of work. You need to focus on a good portfolio, whether it shows mod experience on a team or personal work. And you want to show work that is relevant to what you want to do. I'm an artist, and in interviews there has been a lot of interest in my fine arts background and traditional drawing skills, but ultimately it's my modeling, texturing, etc. that count.

It's certainly not a bad thing to have experience with comics. But let's say you want to be a level designer. It would be much more beneficial to have experience with UDK/editor of your choice, scripting, lighting, etc. Or an artist to be familiar with Photoshop and a variety of modeling and sculpting packages. I'd rather hire someone with relevant modding experience over someone with experience in comics, just in terms of skillsets alone.

What can you tell me about SMU? I live in Texas and I'd love to go to school at "home", y'know? My grandparents went their in the '50s, and I've heard a lot about that place especially the Guildhall. If I want to get into the gaming industry but stay in state, I have to go to somewhere like AI and that's a sort of "For Profit" school that I avoid. If I start looking over there, what should I keep in mind? I mean my only other options here is the Computer Animation school at Texas A&M.

Hectix777:
What can you tell me about SMU? I live in Texas and I'd love to go to school at "home", y'know? My grandparents went their in the '50s, and I've heard a lot about that place especially the Guildhall. If I want to get into the gaming industry but stay in state, I have to go to somewhere like AI and that's a sort of "For Profit" school that I avoid. If I start looking over there, what should I keep in mind? I mean my only other options here is the Computer Animation school at Texas A&M.

I have mostly great things to say about The Guildhall, aside from the cost of tuition (my first semester was over 17,000). If they army hadn't paid for most of my undergraduate studies, I would have never gone here due to the cost. The professors all have at least five years of experience working in the industry, a requirement which actually isn't all that common for game schools.

The placement rate in the industry is also relatively high. Of the 35 or so in my cohort who graduated, almost everyone was successful in getting a job at some point. And that was in 2009, when the job market just got REALLY bad. Before that, the placement rate was even higher. Programmers get jobs super easily, but it's a lot harder for designers and hardest for artists.

The program itself is quite good, though it's changed somewhat since I went there (they added a production track and the course went from 18 to 22 months or something). I feel that it gave me a good foundation in art and professional skills that I was able to use to build a good body of entry-level work and get my first job. It's just a start, but it does give people a pretty good start.

Overall, you are exposed to a lot of helpful people in a location where there's a good number of studios, and you meet talented people who go on to become future contacts at other studios, and that's really important. The course is extremely condensed, and I had absolutely zero time to play games or have a social life, between my portfolio, team stuff and my Master's thesis.

I should also probably note that it's a graduate school. There' a master's program and a certificate program, but it's pretty much assumed that you have a bachelor's level of education to get accepted. There are exceptions, but pretty rare, I think.

 

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