I'm coming to you for advice. I'm currently 30 years old, full-time government employee, and I'm looking for a career change. I'm interested in going into computer science/game design, and I have a couple of choices as far as education goes.
I'm in the Dallas area, and SMU has a program that offers a Bachelor's in Computer Science with an emphasis in Game Design, and there's also a community college that offers an Associate's Degree in Game design.
Which option is better, obviously the community college would be cheaper and shorter, but would I be able to find work with a game company with that kind of education?
Let me know what you think. If you need more information about the programs, I can post it.
I too would like to hear the answer to this.
I don't know much about the game course, but they always sounded rather narrowly focused to me. Doing a CS degree would likely give you a better range of skills, and you can always include courses that cover game dev anyway.
On the flip side, focusing on game design will allow you to actually just focus on game-related courses and not waste time trying to fulfill required English, Math, and other courses that getting a CS (or other) degree will make you do. Not to mention that getting into a specialized program will allow you to network with like-minded students as well as professors and the school has a good chance of being connected to gaming companies (i.e. your foot into the door, so to speak).
With that said, if you get a gaming degree, it's not as flexible as getting a CS degree because with a CS, you can at least go for other jobs in other fields if getting into or being in the game's business isn't working out for you. Not to mention, if you're really into video-game making then you should already be looking into and working on games on your own. If you have something to show for it, it still counts as experience even though it's not through a class.
Anyways, at the end of the day - what's important to you? List the pro's and con's by going to either one and depending on which one hits your own priorities, go with the best one that suits you.
A broad education is invaluable and can be used in any discipline. And don't forget in the context of game design, general knowledge is essential. I would expect that Sid Meier has a passion for history based on the games he has made.
When it's not going to be used in your field* and when you're paying for the class, then - yes, they are a waste of time. Or rather, on a personal level, I would've preferred to have had more computer classes than to have had most of the other general classes that were required. And since we're talking about this - I'll say it out flat: If you, the original poster, go into the community college and you pick things up quickly, that's all well and good but you will have to wait at the pace of your fellow students or however fast the professor wants to push the class. At the end of the day, you may (ok, most likely) have to continue learning on your own. Keep your books, especially if they're really good.
* I'm not an indie developer so I saw those classes as being pointless at the end of the day. If I ever decide to become an indie dev, then I may see the value in the classes especially the accounting class and a few others but right now, where I am (IT), those classes aren't really useful. (i.e. accounting is handled by an accountant, law is being handled by a lawyer, etc - all I really need is computer-related information to do my job) For personal enrichment, those classes were great, I will not knock that especially when the professors knew what they was talking about and I enjoyed attending them. At the end of the day, though, to each their own - go with what suits you best for where you want to go and what you want to be. :>
It may be worth looking at the shortest program first. Community colleges offer six-week courses on a particular topic like "Learn DirectX". Don't just quit your job and enroll in a 4-year degree program unless you have the finances to back it up and enjoyment of the material.
There is no substitute for experience. Take a programming course and knock out a simple game as a hobby.
If you are actually serious about making it as a game developer, forget school. Buy a few books, self teach and start making games ASAP. After a couple of years either start trying to make money as an indie, or use your shiny portfolio to get yourself a job.
I can't speak for others but leaving it til 30 years old before starting, seems a bit late. Not saying it's not possible, but personally speaking I was waist-deep in code by the age of eleven (I'm 37 now) with 16 published PC and Mac games since 2001.
I'm not sure there's anything to be gained by doing courses. It's mostly in the blood. Writing games for me is an addiction - much the same in a lot of ways, to somebody with a drug or alcohol dependency. It does me no good whatsoever and I KNOW it doesn't, with the 18+ hour days, sleepless nights, unbearable stress of it all to the point where I need to sit in a dark room alone to stop myself from snapping at people (and I'm not even kidding), but after all that I still keep doing it, because I can't help it. Plus it pays the bills (though there are much easier ways of making money).
Education doesn't count for an awful lot in the games industry - experience does. I got a job in QA at Gremlin Interactive purely on the basis that I'd written a bunch of Amiga games - my academic history is laughable. Less than six months later I was working for the same company on bespoke motion capture software and my salary had doubled.
Seriously, I wouldn't bother with courses. Concentrate on getting experience.