The Promises and Pitfalls of a Gaming Education

Illustration for article titled The Promises and Pitfalls of a Gaming Education

The LA Times had a nice industry-focused series of articles earlier this week, and the one that really caught my eye was on the increasingly common 'game degree' of a variety of stripes — as one person quoted in the article noted, games are 'the ultimate interdisciplinary art.' But one problem of (popular) emerging fields is schools that hop on the bandwagon to lure in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed students without really having adequate support for getting those students jobs (sounds like a lot of PhD programs I know):

The surge in interest has led schools to add games to their menu — but not always to the benefit of its students. Recruiters say they often see "mills" that run around-the-clock sessions to quickly churn out as many students as possible. Other programs teach specific skills but not how games are pulled together. "It's a very hot academic growth area," said Colleen McCreary, who runs EA's university relations program. "I'm very worried about the number of community colleges and for-profit institutions, as well as four-year programs, that are using game design as a lure for students who are not going to be prepared for the real entry-level positions that the game industry wants."


I was up at USC yesterday for a non-game related workshop and had dinner with a friend who is in USC's Interactive Media MFA program; I continue to be impressed with USC's record of success and the students that go through the program. It's a shame — but not a surprise — that the field is getting cluttered with programs that simply don't have the resources, know-how, or curriculum to help place graduates in the industry. While it often seems like 'academic gaming' and 'real-world gaming' will never quite meet, this is one point that the industry as a whole should have more discussion about. The other two articles of the LA Times series are worth a read, as well. Majoring in video games [LA Times]

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I went to Vancouver Film School for my Game Design degree... and I think they are on the right track to making a worthwhile program. Most of the teachers were awesome and still working in the Industry. If they weren't, they had just recently retired from the 'crunch' time syndrome. The program is one-year intensive and focuses on the last 6 months of students actually creating a game. That's the test, right there.

Make a game. Finish it. Polish it. Show your best. Work with a team. Make it work.

The biggest problem is the admissions in which they let almost anyone in so they can churn a profit... but the people who really REALLY want it and have that natural talent and will to learn on their own can and will succeed.

I got a job in the Industry 2 days before my grad thanks to that final game project and presentation. The presentation itself has an audience of current recruiters, designers, HR managers, etc. that can give you an honest chance to work in the Industry.

The point of a Game Design school, in my opinion, is to live a one-year interview; to really show you want it bad enough... and are qualified to roll with the Veterans.