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Old 12-09-2013, 02:54 PM   #21
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I have been peripherally involved in the computer game industry for decades. Shortly after retired I was the junior partner in a failed Turkish computer game. We never made a very good game but it was a fun opportunity to attend Computer Game Developer Conference and hobnob with the industry luminaries.

I'll recommend several web resources for you and/or your son.

Gamesutra.com is focus on both the technologies and the business aspect of the game biz.

GameDev.net is the more technical side but it has had a series of articles on breaking into the business.

My personal favorite is Quartertothree.com (Named because great games suck you in and suddenly it is "OMG a quarter to three!").

This is forum where game journalist (the founder), game developers, a couple of CEOs, and bunch of enthusiast hang. Including plenty of folks who hire.

The exact question has been posed before a few times. Is CS degree or video game specialized degree better. I'd say there was consensus that a CS degree was better than for profit video game degree, but some of the specialized programs from various university where gaining respect. It have been several years since the subject has been debated and it would interested in seeing what has changed.
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Old 12-09-2013, 03:26 PM   #22
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I think a minor in management would be a big help as he may want to move up from just writing code.
This may or may not matter to someone. But, in DS's program for the CS degree he has to take 17 hours of math. Given that, it makes sense for him to minor in math since one extra math class fulfills his minor.
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Old 12-09-2013, 03:47 PM   #23
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I had 3 years of computer science in high school. Then went into Mechanical Engineering in College. Computer science was a lot more boring back then, and I wanted to go into aerospace industry. I still had computer classes in college, but had a wider background of science classes. I also did a few projects on the side, like building websites. When I couldn't find an Engineering job, I took an entry level programming job (they basically considered any engineering degree as being qualified for that type of programming, and the website work I did as experience)

Needless to say, since I'm here, I excelled at that job and was making 6 figures in no time. After a few years working in boring jobs, I then went off to found my own computer development company.

So, my main suggestion is make sure there is some variety in his coursework, and don't be scared to experiment with programming stuff on the site.
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Old 12-09-2013, 04:04 PM   #24
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Excellent advice overall - I completely agree to stay more general with a computer science degree of some kind. If the school does not have formal co-op or internship programs (which are great) he can also look for summer internships (which may be unpaid). Also look for opportunities to use his skills on campus or in volunteer positions such as charity hackathons (doing a small software project as a team for a charity for free).
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Old 12-09-2013, 04:29 PM   #25
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One other thing. Is he interested in being a video game programmer or in being a video game designer? Those are not the same. Some programmers (who may have a CS degree) do become video game designers. But, plenty of video game designers are not programmers.

Here is an absolutely great post posting the thoughts of then then lead systems designer for World of Warcraft on how to prepare for a career in game design (as an aside, he has a PhD in marine biology and was an assistant professor in that field but he switched fields to gaming). I pretty much think this should be required reading for anyone interested in being a game designer (and for their parents):

8 year old gets advice about game industry - Forums - World of Warcraft
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Old 12-09-2013, 04:54 PM   #26
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I agree on the distinction of designer vs. programmer. I've heard that some good programmer/gamer types are pretty disappointed to find out that a somewhat non-techie designs the games and they are just cranking out code. With that in mind, a general CS degree might be enough, perhaps with some of the advanced courses in graphics in the elective degree courses.

I don't really know what the game companies are looking for, but the job that was posted was not for an entry level job. Within 4-5 years those companies may get more picky about who they can hire when more grads have specific degrees for gaming. Right now they probably can't be because of supply. However, I also agree with the point that technology is changing and learning the basics and being adaptable is really important. Co-oping or just having a part time or summer job doing programming will help a lot.

School rep does make a difference in that first job. At my last company we barely looked at the school of professional hires (my small group even hired 2 guys with no degrees, but with the right skills), but for college grads they only recruited a handful of top schools. My first company wasn't as picky but I had a high GPA and some practical experience so they gave me an interview and job even though they didn't recruit on my campus. However, if he has a much stronger comfort level at one place over another, I would strongly lean towards that. It's kind of like buying a house. One may look perfect on paper, but if it doesn't feel like home when you first see it, you'll probably never be comfortable in it.

Sorry I can't give a black or white response.
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Old 12-09-2013, 05:27 PM   #27
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Make sure he develops his soft skills along with the technical skills. If he's got both sides, he'll never be without work and will earn a very good living - whether he wants to work for mega-corp, startup-corp, or as an independent consultant.
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Old 12-09-2013, 06:41 PM   #28
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There are two sorts of jobs here. There are game developers, who write the game engines and game-specific code, build the user interfaces, write the graphics rendering code, and so forth. Then there are game designers, the folks who work out game play, character designs, specify game physics, the sound and video interactions, and so forth. There are very few game designer positions compared to developer jobs.

Game designers have to have both a good understanding of the game development process, and an excellent portfolio of work. This might be a large set of really impressive artwork, some cool physics demos, or previously completed games. Some university programs will include the student assembling a portfolio of some form, as part of a Digital Media or similar degree. Learning to use specific tools in school isn't nearly as important as having the raw talent. (Companies usually have their own tool sets, anyway, and this stuff changes very rapidly.)

For a game developer, go through a good general computer science degree program. If they offer it, take elective courses in computer graphics and if offered, courses involving User Interface or User Experience (UX and UI).

The internship in a company of interest is a very good idea. At least in Silicon Valley, these are paid internship positions with most companies, and often lead to job offers with the hosting team, or a related department in the company.

As someone who interviewed a lot of grads and potential interns as a graphics weenie for FruitCorp, I do have to say: Please, please stay away from the schools offering degrees in Video Game Development or similar such programs. These for-profit schools produce poor to mediocre candidates at best, while running up mid-five figure debt or expenses.
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Old 12-09-2013, 07:51 PM   #29
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Wow- I posted this question between meetings at work this morning and just checked in and all I can say is Wow! So much valuable information from all of you I wish I had time to respond to each of your posts. The consensus seems to be get the CS degree and avoid the gaming degree. I just asked DS whether he was interested in gaming design or programming and he said, "both." This doesn't really surprise me because he's quite the artist as well. At one point a few years ago (maybe he was 11 or 12), he said he wanted to be the guy who writes the PIXAR movies, draws the characters, animates the characters and directs the films. What!!?!? Knowing him like I do, I think I'll encourage him to head down the path of CS and programming and take some electives in graphics and design. The advice about asking about internship and co-op opportunities also is excellent. Also, thanks all for the links and websites. I just passed what I've learned so far to my son in a 2 minute summary but told him I'd send him the link to this thread.

Thanks so much for your help so far and I'm looking forward to reading more of your responses. DS thanks you too!
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Old 12-09-2013, 08:02 PM   #30
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If you live in Wisconsin, then US News has

Best Computer Science Programs | Top Computer Science Schools | US News Best Graduate Schools

as #11 in grad schools in computer science. If the grad school is good, then the undergraduate is also most likely good. Instate tuition and a good rep - can't ask for more than that. However from the course descriptions, it does not look like game programming is a strength other than the general graphics and other UI courses.

I am in software development but not game design. However, as people have mentioned, you have lots of options with a general degree. A more specialized CS program has less potential employers. You also have to guess at whether game programming will be in demand in 5 years.

In terms of a management minor, I would instead suggest technical writing, technical writing and technical writing. Also public speaking. A MBA might help 7 years down the line, but software development and project management courses would be better for an interim technical lead position.

My son is at a school with a coop program majoring in computer science - he is a "middler - the middle year in a 5 year coop program" He just finished his first coop job (jul - dec) and will do 2 more coops before he graduates. It adds a year to the college experience, but not any more money. But for my son, having that experience is going to be critical for him as he may not be the best interviewer. You may want to see if there are any good schools with coop programs - you can get most of the same benefit with internships, but you have to work harder at it.

It is also important to remember that kids change their minds about what they like (of course software engineers may be different, I know I haven't changed my mind in the 34 years since senior year). But a good university with lots of major choices may come in a handy if he does change his mind after a semester of college.
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Old 12-09-2013, 08:50 PM   #31
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If you live in Wisconsin, then US News has

Best Computer Science Programs | Top Computer Science Schools | US News Best Graduate Schools

as #11 in grad schools in computer science. If the grad school is good, then the undergraduate is also most likely good. Instate tuition and a good rep - can't ask for more than that. However from the course descriptions, it does not look like game programming is a strength other than the general graphics and other UI courses.

I am in software development but not game design. However, as people have mentioned, you have lots of options with a general degree. A more specialized CS program has less potential employers. You also have to guess at whether game programming will be in demand in 5 years.

In terms of a management minor, I would instead suggest technical writing, technical writing and technical writing. Also public speaking. A MBA might help 7 years down the line, but software development and project management courses would be better for an interim technical lead position.

My son is at a school with a coop program majoring in computer science - he is a "middler - the middle year in a 5 year coop program" He just finished his first coop job (jul - dec) and will do 2 more coops before he graduates. It adds a year to the college experience, but not any more money. But for my son, having that experience is going to be critical for him as he may not be the best interviewer. You may want to see if there are any good schools with coop programs - you can get most of the same benefit with internships, but you have to work harder at it.

It is also important to remember that kids change their minds about what they like (of course software engineers may be different, I know I haven't changed my mind in the 34 years since senior year). But a good university with lots of major choices may come in a handy if he does change his mind after a semester of college.
Yep, we're in WI and UW-Madison is a good school for CS. I went there for my undergrad so I'm familiar with the school. This was one of the schools I took DS for a tour. He liked it but not quite as much as the smaller alternative. This is mostly based on the campus. Maybe seemed a bit more like a city than a campus. Interesting comment on the writing and speaking issues. Thanks for all the tips.
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Old 12-09-2013, 09:13 PM   #32
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Yep, we're in WI and UW-Madison is a good school for CS. I went there for my undergrad so I'm familiar with the school. This was one of the schools I took DS for a tour. He liked it but not quite as much as the smaller alternative. This is mostly based on the campus. Maybe seemed a bit more like a city than a campus. Interesting comment on the writing and speaking issues. Thanks for all the tips.
Writing and speaking are so important as one advances their career in IT. There's a lot of good programmers, designers in the field.

Combine that with communication skills, those are the folks that become leaders. Add management, maybe an MBA, those may be future VP, CTO, CIO.

There's nothing wrong with any career choices in the field. Just what he wants to do. Early on I wanted to prove low level machine programming skills. Later on leadership became a goal. Both were great, it does have to be a goal/passion.

Best wishes,
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Old 12-10-2013, 02:35 AM   #33
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Ask your DS/DD if they still enjoy the same things that they did 7-8 years ago, continuing to do today. If they answer EEW or some such response, then remind them that the same thing is going to be true in game development/software development etc. moving forward. As a veteran of high tech industry, I can safely relate that I changed major job technologies/careers about every 7-8 years, some times more frequently, some times a little less, but that's a good average.
The advice to broaden their educations and go for the fundamentals is good advice. I would suggest that they challenge themselves further and take even more classes then required in Mathematics, Engineering (Electrical, Chemical, Physical), and business classes in finance, management, sales, etc, English and creative writing, History and the Liberal Arts, etc. Why? Because I found out that no matter how far afield I went in education, sooner or later, I did end up using that knowledge. In opportunities, and careers that I would never have imagined that I would get into.
Don't expect that your employer will pick the right training and supply it for you. Rather use your knowledge and experience and challenging the status quo, to keep exploring new fields and pushing the boundaries of where you want to learn.
If your DD/DS does that, they will never want for a job, nor will they ever go looking for a job, but rather will spend their careers doing what they find interesting and worth while to do.
Just my 2 cents.
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Old 12-10-2013, 06:31 AM   #34
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If the school does not have formal co-op or internship programs (which are great) he can also look for summer internships (which may be unpaid). Also look for opportunities to use his skills on campus or in volunteer positions such as charity hackathons (doing a small software project as a team for a charity for free).
In the engineering world, no worthwhile internships are ever "unpaid." I think most engineers look at the whole "unpaid intership spectacle" and wonder why anyone would do these. If they don't think you are worth paying, why would they give you something worthwhile to do?
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Old 12-10-2013, 07:26 AM   #35
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I recently retired from an IT career and agree with most of the advice about a computer science degree over a gaming specific program. I would also recommend taking some elective courses in project management for software development. That will help him move up more quickly should he choose to.
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Old 12-10-2013, 08:31 AM   #36
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I don't work in this field right now, but I do have a fairly recent computer science degree and I've been looking at graduate programs. For what it's worth, I've never seen or heard of anything like a gaming-specific degree program at any reputable school. Frankly, that sounds like it would be very narrow and would only be offered at some kind of marginally accredited for-profit college.

Most computer science programs allow concentrations in more broad categories like systems (e.g. architecture, networks, databases, OS), theory (e.g. algorithms, cryptography), software (e.g. languages, compilers, software engineering), and AI/applications (e.g. machine learning, human-computer interface, graphics). Reputable programs aim to give students some exposure to each of these areas. Taking more electives in software engineering, AI, and graphics would probably be a good path for someone who ultimately wants to build video games. And I bet that actually building some cool games on your own outside of class, to show off in a portfolio, would be even better.

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Old 12-10-2013, 08:48 AM   #37
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I don't work in this field right now, but I do have a fairly recent computer science degree and I've been looking at graduate programs. For what it's worth, I've never seen or heard of anything like a gaming-specific degree program at any reputable school. Frankly, that sounds like it would be very narrow and would only be offered at some kind of marginally accredited for-profit college.

Most computer science programs allow concentrations in more broad categories like systems (e.g. architecture, networks, databases, OS), theory (e.g. algorithms, cryptography), software (e.g. languages, compilers, software engineering), and AI/applications (e.g. machine learning, human-computer interface, graphics). Reputable programs aim to give students some exposure to each of these areas. Taking more electives in software engineering, AI, and graphics would probably be a good path for someone who ultimately wants to build video games. And I bet that actually building some cool games on your own outside of class, to show off in a portfolio, would be even better.

Tim
Thanks, Tim. After reading all these posts I tend to agree. For your information, here's a link to one of the more highly rated programs for gaming in the US:

Computer Game Development Major | Undergraduate Majors | DePaul University
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:27 PM   #38
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Yep, we're in WI and UW-Madison is a good school for CS. I went there for my undergrad so I'm familiar with the school. This was one of the schools I took DS for a tour. He liked it but not quite as much as the smaller alternative. This is mostly based on the campus. Maybe seemed a bit more like a city than a campus. Interesting comment on the writing and speaking issues. Thanks for all the tips.
I would not try to push too hard for the big state school if he is uncomfortable with that environment. Some kids get lost in such places, while others flourish. My DS went to big state schools, while DD went to a small private. Both turned out to be the right environments for them.
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:48 PM   #39
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It is also important to remember that kids change their minds about what they like (of course software engineers may be different, I know I haven't changed my mind in the 34 years since senior year). But a good university with lots of major choices may come in a handy if he does change his mind after a semester of college.
My son is in his first semester of programming. He says that roughly 2/3 of the class - most of whom were CS majors - have dropped the class. They either didn't like it or were failing. DS doesn't understand since he thinks the class is very easy and he is enthralled by it. As badly as people are doing in his class, his professor mentioned that section is doing better than the other sections. They teach about 8 sections of first semester programming in the fall. In the spring, they teach only 2 sections of second semester programming. My son says some people in the class were never really interested in CS. Their parents were interested in them majoring in it. Other people thought it would be easy, but don't have the kind of thought processes that lend themselves to doing programming. So they do first semester programming and promptly switch majors.

My is one of those who went through several other majors to end up with CS (he had planned to major in CS when he was starting college but didn't take programming his first semester. He did take English and decided to be an English major. He also tried Business Administration and Psychology, before going back to CS).
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:55 PM   #40
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For what it's worth, I've never seen or heard of anything like a gaming-specific degree program at any reputable school. Frankly, that sounds like it would be very narrow and would only be offered at some kind of marginally accredited for-profit college.
I do think there are some bad programs at for-profit colleges, but other universities are starting to offer programs.

Here is one at the University of Texas:

Game Development Program

One of my son's friends is in the game design program at the University of Texas at Dallas.

So - there are reputable programs out there, but my son decided that the general CS degree was better overall.
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