Game Development Schools Part 1
Most of you are probably saying to yourselves "He must be joking, there aren't any game development schools." Well you couldn't be more wrong. There are a few colleges and specialized colleges who have game development programs or just a class or two on the subject. So who am I to give advice on this subject? Well I've personally visited 3 of the Game Development schools in the U.S.A. and Canada. I have also attended a 4 year university, and I have worked in the IT industry for about 2 years. I am currently attending a Game Development School called Full Sail; and I have also researched this subject extensively. So lets get going…
Schools? What Schools?
Yes folks there are Game Development Schools. I will provide links to all of the schools I mention in this article in the final section, just in case anyone wants to take a look at them. Currently, there are 2 places in the United States that are offering Full Game Development Programs, and there are a few other 4-year universities that offer either classes on game development, or game development clubs. The two colleges in the United States offering Game Development programs are Full Sail (located in the Orlando area of Florida) and DigiPen (located in Redmond Washington). From what I have seen, both of these schools offer great programs, but they both have advantages and disadvantages of which I will address later. Other 4 year universities such as the University of North Texas offer game development clubs which students can participate in. Canada also has a few schools offering Game Development programs. NAD Centere 's (located in Quebec) Game Design program looks fairly promising. And so doesn't L'Institut d'informatique de Quebec's programs (though you have to read French to see these). There are also 2 other game development schools that aren't even located on this continent. One is called the School of Computing at Middlesex University (located in London U.K.). And Ngee Ann Polytechnic (located in Singapore). All of these schools look quite promising but you'll have to assess them for yourselves.
DigiPen | Full Sail
I am going to focus on DigiPen and Full Sail here but the info I give can be applied to any of the above schools. Below you will find a listing of what each of the two schools offer.
That pretty much sums up the main differences between the schools. Both offer very good and intensive programs. You will work in teams to develop games, and by the end of the program, you will leave with a Demo CD to show your future employers.
So what will I learn?
Well, these Game Design programs are redesigned every few months because the current industry moves so fast. The educators need to adapt in order to supply the market with quality workers. But here is a list of the classes offered at both DigiPen and Full Sail.
As you can see both the above programs are quite similar, though DigiPen goes into more detail about the specifics of the classes.
What about regular college?
Why is it that a little piece of paper can get you through the door at so many companies? Simple - it shows that you have the persistence, the will, and the "Smarts" to make it through college and get a degree. It also shows that your thoughts aren't just limited to computer science because you've had to take classes such as Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, etc. This makes you a well-rounded person and helps you fit in better in the workplace. So by no means am I telling all you wonderful people to drop out of college or go to any of the Game Degree schools right out of high school. Large Corporations like to see that their employees are educated and often require at least a B.S. in some field before they will hire you. So it may be a good idea to get a 4-year degree, and then go to a Game Development school if you can't find a way into the industry.
Things to look for…
Here I am going to talk a little bit about things you need to take into consideration before deciding on a school.
I decided to add this section in order to do a little ranting, as well as help people out. About a week ago, I was informed that 50% of the students in the Game Design program at Full Sail were dropping out because the courses were too difficult. At first I got a bit nervous, then I started wondering why. I came to the conclusion that it was 1 of 2 reasons.
#1. The Game Design Program is of such quality that only the cream of the crop is able to pull through.
#2. The classes in the Game Design program aren't doing a good job at teaching the students what to do; therefore, they are failing miserably.
After a careful consideration, and a watchful eye, I came to the conclusion that the reason people were quitting was because they had a misconceived idea of what they wanted and they didn't apply themselves. It's so easy to forget about tomorrow's homework assignment when you've been out partying all night, or just don't feel like doing the work because it's "not what you want". Folks, if you're looking into any college, just make the realization that wasting your time there, getting mediocre grades, and partying all night/every night amounts to buying a brand new car every year. In 1, 2, or 4 years time you've paid out (or have to start paying back) all that money for a product that you've only partially used! So when you make a decision on where you want to go, take the steps to achieve that goal, or you've just wasted all that money for nothing else than a piece of paper with your name on it. Sure, it will get you in the door, but it's your knowledge of a subject that gets you hired - not a piece of paper.
Good luck in your endeavors.
FULL SAIL (http://www.fullsail.com)
[Editor's note: This article was written in 1999, and not surprisingly, some of the information is out of date. For current information on each schools' game development programs, please check the respective websites.]