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A Master's In CS or a Master's In Game Programming? 278

Posted by Cliff
from the career-choices dept.
Rustcycle asks: "I'm attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which has just announced that they are offering a Master's Degree in their Games and Media Integration (GMI) program. There is a fair amount of overlap between the GMI curriculum and the CS courses, so I'm considering a switch in degrees. If you were hiring MS grads outside the game industry for visualization work, am I worth more to you with the more specialized program or would you be more interested in me if I had more exposure? Within the gaming industry, how much does a specialized degree compel a company to hire a recent grad?"
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A Master's In CS or a Master's In Game Programming?

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  • Get the CS degree (Score:5, Informative)

    by daVinci1980 (73174) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:11PM (#16891564) Homepage

    As someone who's worked in games and in game related industries, I'll tell you that the 'Games' degrees are largely laughed at by those of us in the industry.

    Good fundamentals are what I care about. I can teach you the domain specific knowledge you need to know, but if you don't have the fundamentals you'll never be good enough for me to bother with.

    Good luck!
    • by jfclavette (961511) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:16PM (#16891624)
      I would agree for a B., but a M. is different. A masters will most often than not be relatively narrow, so why not narrow toward something you want to do ? Of course, my advice real advice would be to find a job..
      • MS's aren't usually *that* narrow. If they let me, I'd consider doing my degree in CS, taking some elective classes is the games department, and seeing if they might let me do my research project for a games prof. At my univ., that sort of thing happened all the time.
      • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:36PM (#16891820)
        A masters will most often than not be relatively narrow, so why not narrow toward something you want to do ?

        It's not a bad idea, but don't narrow it down so much that you end up with a graduate degree that only helps you get work in one single small, cutthroat industry.

        Many universities allow matriculants to design their own course of study. Take courses and do research projects involving graphics, artificial intelligence, and distributed multi-user systems, but don't call it "Game Programming" -- call it "Interactive Multimedia Design" or something.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nwbvt (768631)
        Yes, thats true if you are looking for a job within the gaming industry. But he was asking about jobs outside the game industry and in that case, you absolutely do not want a degree that just says "I got into this field because I like video games, and I'm going to leave your boring company as soon as I get an offer from EA".
    • Re:Get the CS degree (Score:5, Informative)

      by adisakp (705706) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:32PM (#16891780) Journal
      I also work in the games industry and here are the degrees which are probably most useful to you if you want a job programming games:

      Bachelor of Science: Computer Science
      Bachelor of Science: Mathematics
      Bachelor of Engineering: Electrical Engineering (computer or digital design emphasis)

      They're certainly not the only degrees to get but they do stand out on a resume as someone likely to be able to handle game programming. Those "BA:Film Appreciation" resumes with "I wanna kode a gr8 game idea I had" go straight into the trash.

      Also very important is experience -- any experience. For guys who have never worked on a commercial game, being able to show demos of personal or even class projects covering aspects of game programming on graphics, sound programming, networking, etc will vastly improve your hireability as a beginning game programmer (not to mention probably get you a better starting salary). Being able to describe in depth some of the techniques will get you pretty far on an interview.

      Now what's interesting is that while the Game Programming degree will get you some of the experience and prossibly a cool demo, there is still a stigma that the Game Programming degree covers mainly some practical applications and doesn't cover enough theory to allow you to delve into solving new and more complex issues outside of the learned practical applications. Therefore, your best bet is to take one of the tradition degrees and if possible AS ELECTIVES take classes from the Game Programming track.
      • by Scrithy (919074) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:01PM (#16892000)
        I'd say definitely go for CS, but as a game programmer that has been in the industry for over 14 years I'd say #1 on the list would actually be: Bachelor of Arts: Computer Science More math courses, less "engineering" courses. At least that's how I remember it when I was in school (getting a BA in CS, of course).
        • by ameoba (173803)
          Maybe if the game industry had more software engineering background we wouldn't be forced to deal with games that need a dozen patches to actually work.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ash Vince (602485)
        From what I remember the main skills you need are huge amounts of 3D vector geometry to a level that is mainly taught only in the Physics field.

        But who wants to work in games software anyway. As a general rule in the real world - the more rewarding a job is the less you can expect to earn for it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by timeOday (582209)
          Most (all?) CS curricula will have a linear algebra course, add to that a graphics course where you learn why graphics is mainly linear algebra and you have the math pretty well covered.

          That said, I think physics might become much more important as games increasingly have realistic physical simulations, instead of the silly simple dynamics (or even static models, e.g. indestructible buildings and terrain) of the past.

          • by Nf1nk (443791)
            The physics that are going to become important are going to be important are generaly newtonian. basic newtonian physics are covered in the first semester of physics.
            After all solid body dynamics is just a subset of Newtonian physics and so is fluid dynamics.
        • by TheMeuge (645043)
          "As a general rule in the real world - the more rewarding a job is the less you can expect to earn for it."

          Really? I guess my MDPhD in Molecular Oncology is not gonna fair that well after all...
          • by Surt (22457)
            You're expecting to find overcharging patients with cancer for a hefty serving of false hope rewarding?

          • by b17bmbr (608864)
            Really? I guess my MDPhD in Molecular Oncology is not gonna fair that well after all...

            I'm sorry, but I someone that smart would not be hanging around /.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Broken scope (973885)
      I'm using a thing in my colleges degree to get a BS in game design and a MS in CS. In case i prove to be a complete creative failure in the industry and add nothing new, I can still throw myself into a corporate hell hole to survive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rblum (211213)
      They *used* to be laughed at. I heard good things about Guild Hall.

      Ultimately, I don't care what your degree is, though. Convince me that you are smart and get things done, and I'll recommend we hire you.

    • by pixel_bc (265009)
      I've been working for 9 years in game development.

      I assure you, most of these game programs are laughed at.

      Go CS degree, BS or Msc, and you'll do fine.
    • by samkass (174571)
      As someone who works for a data visualization company, I can say that I doubt it makes any difference which of these degrees you get. It's a lot more important what research projects you associate yourself with, who you meet and what impression you make on them while a student, and what initiatives you take outside your strict coursework. The only value one of those degrees has over the other is how it affects those things.

      For visualization work, you'd probably be better off taking a few art or design cou
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by littlewink (996298)
      As someone who's worked in IT, I'll tell you that the CS degrees are largely laughed at by those of us (still) in the industry.

      Seriously, fuggetaboutit and get a business degree instead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sj0 (472011)
      "Gee....Do I want to have a well-rounded, versatile education that will help me work in my chosen field, or do I want to learn how to use DirectX 9.0c to draw pixel shaders 3.0 using my Radeon X1600? I want the latter. Look at all those version numbers! Those will surely impress a prospective employer more than the skills neccessary to quickly pick up any API!"
    • by Surt (22457)
      Seconded ... 'Game' degrees are widely considered suspect in the gaming industry. Most game studios are going to give you much more respect with a regular CS masters and some good game development background on your resume, which you get by working on mods until you can get a game industry job.
  • Forget a specialist restrictive subset of development, keep your options open for the future.
    However, find a group of buddies and sit down as a team and code up your own games.

    Have fun.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by JNighthawk (769575)
      I disagree with you saying that it's a restrictive subset of development. The best analogy I read before was "Game programmers are to surgeons what normal programmers are to physicians. Surgeons can do everything the physicians can, and surgery on top of that." My education at Full Sail not only taught me programming, math, and the development life cycle, but we also had *two* actual game projects to work on. The most current project I worked on at Full Sail is Ultimate Fairy Battle, which is competing in t
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by nightgeometry (661444)
        I think what you meant to say is "Game programmers are to normal programmers what surgeons are to doctors."

        But then I don't agree with that anyway, so what do I know?
      • by Sj0 (472011)
        Drop that 'surgeon' game programmer into a situation designing areodynamics software, or the control software for an aircraft or industrial PLC that absolutely positively must never fail or people could die (and if it does fail it needs to fail in a certain way or more people could die), and see if his 'surgeon' skills are of any use.

        My point being, that saying such things is all just ego stroking. It doesn't matter hwere you're programming, there's going to be a pretty substantial learning curve. Every pro
  • Do Not! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kamineko (851857) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:14PM (#16891590)
    Do not get the games degree. Stick with CS. It's worth something.

    Please.
  • Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aarku (151823) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:14PM (#16891594) Journal
    A gaming degree doesn't mean squat to me when I'm looking for people. What is important is what they've done and how they are as a person. Passion is the strongest dye on the planet and it stains everything that someone does. If you don't have a lot to show then you're not passionate about games and you will be left in the dust by the people who are.
    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Funny)

      by OG (15008) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:27PM (#16891728)
      Passion is the strongest dye on the planet and it stains everything that someone does.


      Yeah, just turn on a blacklight in a room at a Motel 6 for proof.
    • Ugh. This is the problem about the entertainment industry as a whole. Passion for games? Whatever. When I hear "passion" I know it means "long hours low pay" I think professionals should be paid for doing good work, not how passionate they are about it. A good attitude and enthusiasm for the work? sure. But passion? please.

      I think a good rule of thumb is that if an industry is hard to "break into" avoid it. If every job has hundreds of applicants you can be sure that there will be ten that are qualified a
      • by aarku (151823)
        Wages and hours are separate issues from being passionate about developing games. I generally agree with you, but I think we just have some different connotations associated with the word "passion." One can get screwed in any job. If you feel you're getting screwed then get out as soon as you can and find a way to decrease your screwitude. Of course. If you don't like how people get hired, start your own company and hire some really apathetic people. Avoid those who were passionate about games and sin
  • What's in a game? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    That which we call coding, by any other job would smell as sweet.
  • by noz (253073) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:18PM (#16891644)
    Man gotta have skillz.. No seriously. ;-) Demonstrate an understanding of principle concepts across different computing niches; that's what makes you an asset to your employer and, should you need other work, yourself.
  • by JNighthawk (769575) <NihirNighthawk@@@aol...com> on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:18PM (#16891646)
    I'm about to graduate with a BS of Game Design and Development from Full Sail. It's mostly just development, since designing is something hard to teach, but, from my experience, Full Sail, Digipen and Guild Hall are among the best if you're trying to become a game developer. Ignore the people that say people in the industry laugh at gaming schools. Ignore the people that say if you don't go to a gaming school, you can never become a game developer. It really depends on you. Education is a tool, among many, not the one and only thing that will determine whether you'll get the job. So, do your research, and figure it out. Honestly, screw the paper that says you graduated, go with what gives you the best education. That's why I chose Full Sail.
    • by daVinci1980 (73174) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:27PM (#16891730) Homepage

      You might be different. Maybe you're great. I've worked with one guy from Full Sail, and he's painted a bleak picture of what they let through as graduates.

      Since then, I haven't had a single candidate make it past phone screens from gaming universities. Maybe you're the exception.

      Education is a tool, but it's pretty much the only thing I have to go on for recent graduates.

      Best of luck!
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Even the gaming industry doesn't take it seriously.

      Sorry.

    • I know a lot of people in the game industry (some good friends) that would agree with you and disagree with all the people on here who are saying the Full Sail is a bad school.

      I am a Full Sail grad myself. Personally I have not been happy with my own career in the game industry (QA work mostly) but I put the blame for that directly on myself not on the school (problems in my private life more then from my education). However I know many who have had very successful careers after Full Sail.

      There is a surpris
  • by creimer (824291) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:28PM (#16891742) Homepage
    The fact of life in the video game industry is that once you been in the industry for 10 years and/or over 30 years old, you're no good to the cheap bean counters who run a lot of these game companies. Once you're out of the industry, you're need to get a REAL JOB (TM)! Get a regular CS degree and take any game-related classes you might be interested on the side. The key thing outside of school is always keep learning new stuff, have an exit strategy to get into the next job, manage your career that benefits your situation the best and stay healthy.
    • by mikael (484)
      Or you could choose to set up your company, as all the veteran programmers from the home computer days in the UK have done (and many of the new graduates are doing as well), and avoid all the crazy politics such as directors giving the interesting works to their mates, rather than to the most experienced staff.

      And those employers then compalain that they can't find qualified candidates...
  • Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:32PM (#16891776)
    Lets see. Video games have been out for a while. Most of the programmers are Comp Sci degree holders. So you can do Game Programming with a CS degree, but can you do Comp Sci with a Game Programming degree?

    Most people have multiple careers. Choose wisely.
  • If you can contemplate other work then you're already not dedicated enough to work in the games industry.
    Its crazy long, hard hours for low pay. You gotta know why you're there.
  • Degrees in general (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:35PM (#16891810) Homepage
    As someone in the game industry, I care absolutely zero for what degree you have. Seriously. It makes no difference to me if you have a MS in game development or a PhD in agriculture. I simply don't care. If you wanted me to hire you, you'd have to have some proof of your skills - a game you worked on, a significant amount of code you'd done (or art, if you were an artist). Something that can prove you actually know what you're doing, and not simply that you have a piece of paper.

    The "game degree" path may push you through making an actual game. Or it might not. I really don't know, and I honestly don't care. Pick your classes based on what you'll learn from them, not what your diploma will say.

    This assumes you want to get a job at one of the smaller more personal companies, not a code-monkey job at a behemoth company.
  • Getting a degree in game programming instead of CS is a bit like getting a degree specifically in rap instead of all music. Sure, everyone wants the bling bling and the fly girls that most well-known rappers get for basically reciting bad poetry and appearing in videos, but the music cabal can (or will) only support so many people. If you don't make it in rap/game programming, fat lot of good that degree will do you.

    That said, most CS degrees don't focus on the specific techniques used in game programming
  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:46PM (#16891882)
    If you want a job in the games industry (as a developer), you need the following (forgive the things I've forgotten):
    1: Good C++ engineering skills. Have this as part of your portfolio you send with a resume
    2: A good understanding of algorithms in general, both single and multithreaded
    3: Datastructures
    4: Linear Algebra
    5: If you want to be a rendering guy (which I kind of am, though more generally I'm a high performance guy), you need calculus.
    6: Basic physics
    7: Depending on what specifically you want to do, some 'advanced' (ie second year) physics
    8: Operating systems. That is, how does the OS work, how does that impact me as a software developer.

    Things that can't hurt: Familiarity with some game specific problems, such as rendering, game AI, the slightly different philosophy for some of the advanced topics like networking and distributed systems. Obviously you need to know how to program in Windows, even minimally. If you have C++ skills by the time you graduate you can easily apply those to consoles and probably mobiles.

    Can you get all of those with an MSc in either CS or Game development? I suspect yes. With the game development you're probably marginally more prepared for game dev, after all this is MSc level, not BSc. Being at the MSc level means you're focusing your research interests and advanced topics on the details of some game related problems, but you can do that in a regular MSc just as well as in GD (that's what I'm doing/did, which is graphics stuff as an MSc in CS).

    So which is better? The GD might give you a tiny edge over an equivalent CS person (after all you've demonstrated your interest), on the other hand, the CS MSc means you can, after working 80 hours a week for 3 months of 'crunch time' decide to screw this and work somewhere else, and be equally valuable. Also your employer knows you at least on paper are more attractive elsehwere, meaning they may be willing to do a little extra to keep you, at worst they treat you the same as every other developer they have.

    Personally, I would do the MSc in CS, with a research topic/thesis on a topic that impacts game developers. If they like you, they'll give you a job, if not you still have a normal sounding MSc on paper you can use to work elsewhere. Esspecially if you're a graphics guy like me, diversify: Take medical imaging as well as game related graphics.

    That's mostly what I got from a conference held in london ontario a couple of weeks ago (futureplay).

    The only other useful tidbit I picked up, was a game dev studio can be picky enough to take the only the top 10% of CS grads out there. The huge desire to go into the game business means they have a large talent pool, and while right now you may feel you measure up, the last thing you want is to get your degree and find out 3 months from now that you don't.

    P.S. I met some of the people setting up this programme at the conference, I may even have met you if you were there (I was the tall thin loud one), it looks like a good program though I'd prefer a MSc in CS with a research topic in game development than a MSc in game development, I don't think you're done a disservice with either.
  • by John Carmack (101025) on Friday November 17, 2006 @07:49PM (#16891904)
    Game programs have been somewhat useful for finding employees, but we don't actually think that the students are learning particularly valuable skills in the programs.

    A CS or EE degree will almost certainly serve you better throughout your life than a game/media degree, but if getting into the industry immediately is your overriding concern, a game program will help with contacts and opportunities.

    Exceptional merit will eventually be noticed (perhaps not as quickly as you would like, though), and a degree of any sort is not required if you can conclusively demonstrate that you will contribute great value to a company. However, many entry level positions are filled based on people's opinions about potential, and honest assessments from faculty that work with lots of students does carry some weight.

    The best advice is "be amazing", but "diligent and experienced" counts for quite a bit.

    John Carmack
    • In reply to a very successful person--there are other jobs in computer development. Games is insanely competative with pay, benefits and job security that is way, way low at the entry level by and large. A recruiter gave me good advice once: games sounds cool to everyone, but it is brutaly hard work and you'd better be damn sure its what you want to do before you go into it. Also silicon valley needs developers! there is a shortage of good people out here that know the web. We want you and we won't make you
  • Gaming Degrees is where most online degrees were 5 or 10 years ago -- they're not taken to seriously in industry and they somewhat limit your options. Looking at the syllabus and the school, it appears to be a new direction for a decent third tier E-school. However, you're going to have a difficult time moving into another industry beyond general tech support -- simply b/c some HR bean counter isn't going to know WTF your degree with mean.

    If you decide to leave Gaming and go into other forms of IT, that

  • Get a job! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tuirn (717203)
    Please give this serious consideration. Having received a BS in CS and spending a little less than a decade creating software professionally (not game programming). From my experience, I'd rather higher someone with a BS who is intelligent and has several years of good experience than someone who only has an MS. I've unfortunately run into too many of these folks who lack the ability to cope with the real world. It seems like the best use of these advanced degrees are if you want to stay in school and te
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:07PM (#16892064)
    Note: I am a game developer, and therefore have at least an informed opinion on this.

    If your dead focused on going into games, then getting the GMI degree is probably a better bet. But if you want to keep your options open, go for the CS degree.

    The primary difference would be that with the GMI degree, you will end up taking courses that are very important to Game development at the expense of some other skills. (ie: I would guess that the GMI degree will get you courses on Matrix and Vector math, and the particulars of pixel shaders, instead of things like compiler theory and systems programming).

    The trade off is that there really aren't a whole lot of jobs out there that require the particular combination of 3d Math and graphics knowledge that game development requires. The graphics and animation stuff will come in handy if you decide to try your hand at making special effects software, but knowing how to transform a point from local space to screen space wont help you get a job doing Linux programming for a telecom company.

    On top of that, the games industry is just not as mature an industry as other programming jobs. Things like the ea_spouse incident with EA's overtime practices are one aspect. And the industry as a whole needs to get a much better grip on the project management side of things. Things have been improving, but there is still a long way to go.

    Anyway, if you just want to be a programmer, the CS degree is the way to go. But if you want to be a game programmer specifically, go for the GMI degree.

    END COMMUNICATION
    • by plalonde2 (527372)
      Never mind that as a hiring manager I'd rather have the applicant who understands compilers and OS theory over anyone who just knows pixel shaders. Someone who understands compilers, hardware, & OSes will learn pixel shaders in a day. The opposite is not true.
  • Masters in CS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by topham (32406) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:13PM (#16892114) Homepage

    If you have a Masters in CS and have a keen interest in writing games you should be able to create proficient demos showing your technical and artistic skills for creating games.

    If you get a Masters in Game Programming you will have a harder time convincing someone outside the Game industry that your skills are appropriate to their industry.

    Assuming you absolutely only intend to go in to Game Programming related jobs then either are probably equally good choices, but if there is any chance at all you'll take a job outside of the game industry then there isn't really a choice.

  • Any game degree is laughed at by most IT shops. I've always thought of gaming majors as kids who just want to play, whereas people with a CS degree are more serious about their work. Whether or not that's true in all cases is another story, but when an employer is looking at your resume and he sees "Masters in Videogame Devel" he's not going to take you seriously; it doesn't matter how good you are. And remember that if your goal is actually to be a videogame developer I still say go with CS. You can st
  • Plumbing.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikelieman (35628) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:26PM (#16892262) Homepage
    Everyone wants to change their bathroom.
  • Not only because it's broader and probably more respected, but also because the game industry market can be a quite volatile one.
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:41PM (#16892404) Journal
    Do not get the Games degree. Stick with CS, or get a Management degree (or both if you can).

    And, please, get over this "degrees are for jobs" mentality. It destroys your education. With a good CS degree you may become a researcher someday and win a place in next century's schoolbooks. With a Games degree you will just get hired to work 15 hours per day with unpaid overtime for an incompetent boss who spends his time with call girls, and you will get fired when you get sick from overwork. Learn to lead your life and understand that a Master's degree is for masters, not for slaves (employees). Become a capitalist, found your own startup and focus on becoming a free man.

    A games degree wouldn't make me hire you. Work experience wouldn't, either. What matters to me is your ability and willingness to learn, your educational and academic/research background (but it's also ok for me if you managed to learn real science on your own without going to university), your general intelligence, and your leisure activities. If you watch TV in your free time, you aren't gonna being hired by me, but if you read books (I assume you already have a Safari subscription, right?), hack open-source code or write good stuff at Wikipedia, or if you participate in free community wifi networks, then this matters much more to me than work experience (and actually also more than academic background). I want to hire hackers, not employees. I do not want people who like being led, I want to get other self-starters and leaders collaborating with me (with profit sharing of course). I would prefer a hacker with 1 year's verifiable volunteering experience in Apache or FreeBSD kernel to an employee (read: slave) with 10 years of experience in a Dilbertian company (some exceptions allowed for serious innovative companies that pay for their staff's training and perform real R&D). I do not want slaves working for me, and people who destroy their education by getting vocational degrees have a slave mentality (and they are unproductive: Trained slaves aren't motivated and don't get things done). Get over this "work experience" thing: At companies you only learn some random stuff here and there to do your work as your boss wants, at universities you learn the real stuff (often without much focus on practice but it is assumed that you are smart and therefore capable of practising on your own after you learn the theory), and in the free communities (open source, open content, community wifi) you learn how to be a good citizen in addition to polishing your practical skills.
  • by rubberbando (784342) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:44PM (#16892422)
    If both degrees are that close in requirements, I'd say get the CS degree and if you can afford it, take the few other courses afterwards to complete the other degree. That way you have 2 Masters degrees on your resume. :-D
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:57PM (#16892524) Homepage

    The original article has a link to the "games program" at Colorado State. This is just a proposal within the school, not an established program. In other words, it's a pre-release beta. In fact, it's not really a "games program", it's really just a list of existing courses being repackaged as a "games program"

    There are some well-respected games programming degrees [digipen.edu] but this isn't one of them. Maybe in a few years.

    One thing I can say, as the person who first made ragdoll physics work - if you want to work at that level, you need math. Far more math than most CS majors. Not just the ordinary math for graphics, but the math for dynamics, control, and modern AI as well. Nonlinear differential equations. Computational geometry. Linear and nonlinear control theory. Classifier systems. Bayesian statistics.

    On the programming side, you need to understand things down to the bit level. You're liable to have to do something awful like make a computational algorithm work on a GPU that's all wrong for the job.

    If you're not good at heavy math, you'll be shunted off into maintaining the level editor or similar low-level programming work. For which the hours and pay are both lousy. Too many low-level programmers want to get into the game industry.

    It also helps to have some artistic talent. You won't be doing the real artwork, but you need to be able to sketch, just to talk intelligently to the artists.

  • I've got my Info Sci bachelors degree. It's CS with a bunch of info theory thrown in.

    Looking at graduate programs they all leave me a little cold. I could do an MBA, but I'm not that much of an asshole. I did look at an MLS, and my IS degree kind of dovetails with that. But to be honest, if the Democrats reduce the interest rates I may well go back and get my undergrad EE.
    • That's interesting, coz I'm actually considering getting a masters/PhD in information science [cornell.edu] myself. Not to diss "regular" CS degrees, I have a lot of respect for someone who shines through some of these programs, but I'm looking at doing some academic work using my technical skills, rather than on my technical skills. Meaning, comp sci as a means for solving something, and not necessarily as an end in itself.

      I'm curious about hearing about your experience with an information science degree, and why you'd

  • by istartedi (132515) on Friday November 17, 2006 @08:58PM (#16892546) Journal

    I'm not in the game industry, but if a resume ever came across my desk with a "game degree" on it, I'd almost reflexively trash it. True or not, the impression is that such "degrees" are offered by profit-motivated, crank 'em out, trade school companies. If I were in the game industry, the profile I'd be looking for is somebody with a CS degree (not necessarily a master's) who has the additional background is applicable to games. (vector algebra? assembly optimization? I don't know--you'll have to do some research to find out what skills are really required for game development, and then select coursework in your MSCS that will prepare you for it). If the candidate didn't have game development experience, I'd be looking for a freeware or OSS game that he'd written. It wouldn't have to be popular, it would just have to demonstrate skill. IMHO, when looking for people to do any type of programming, there is no better indicator of future success than the fact that they are already practicing the art. That seems rather obvious, and yet so many people don't even consider it. They just look at your degree; so get a MSCS. Don't even think about a game degree. Run really fast in the other direction. Did I mention not to get a game degree? OK, good.

    • It raises an interesting question. I have a job, doing some web development and admining. I didn't finish so much as my first year of college.

      If I were to, in my vast amounts of free time, create a nice-looking portfolio, demo, or open source game, would my resume also be reflexively tossed in the trash?

      I guess what I'm asking is, should I go back to school, or should I keep working and hacking around in my spare time? (I have more spare time now than I did in school.)
  • Games degrees are seen as jokes by a lot of people, it could be given by harvard but they arn't seen as credible sources.

    There's three main benefits of CS degrees.

    A. You have better classes, Development life cycles is VERY underrated by undergrads. Design documentation is underrated at all, you'll hate these classes, people in any business love it because it teaches you a lot. They love the fact that you went through the harder courses, and learned more than just game design. Think game design is just p
    • by kinglink (195330)
      Sorry, hardware that changes every 3 YEARS. However you'll also be programming on 3 different platforms at times if you really get into it, and sometimes SDKs will change monthly as well as the code base.
  • by geekoid (135745)
    CS or Game programming? are you F'n serious?

    CS is usable in far more places, it is far more respected in the industry(important for career), and it is a deeper understanding of what happens in the box.

    OTOH, maybe you want to be working 100 hours a week, for little pay, and crappy workking conditions, go for the Game programming 'Degree'.

  • It appears to me that most of you missed the point of what the that the poster was asking about. He was asking about OUTSIDE the game industry. The fact of the matter is, Game Programming has many applications outside the video game industry. There is a whole group of problems called Serious Games, which use things like AI development and graphics which have been perfected in video games to model real world situations.

    I work with Scientists who specialize in visualization. Thus far, I haven't seen a rea
  • if you want to make games, start your own company.

    My many many years in the corporate grind have taught me that I would rather my children start there own business then go to college.

    If they where dedicated to what they were doing I would gladly support them. I would suggest the go to college part time, because there is a lot of great contacts.

    Not that college is bad, but if you know what you want to do, think about the pros and cons.

    If they weren't sure what they wanted to do, then I would want them to col
  • If you are some serious kind of hot shit, and already have at least some connection to one or more development houses (you have interned, gametested, something ...) then you might consider game development a serious career possibility. Otherwise, assuming that you can get into game development with a specialized degree is like assuming you can become an NBA basketball player by playing college b-ball. The jobs aren't out there, and the competition for the jobs that do exist is often from young people who ar
  • I know a few game programmers. All of them say it's a feast-or-famine industry. One is a children's camp counselor to put food on the table between programming jobs.

    It would be much better to take the more conservative degree path. This isn't the 1950's anymore, people change careers all the time. Unless you're the extremely rare exception, you're not going to be a professional game developer all your life. You could end up writing realtime embedded software for a space probe. So get the more general degree
  • ... and not just because of the re-release of all the SW episodes this past week on cable.

    Good insights on both "sides", but ultimately, I think you need to decide where your passions are, while also remembering that your degree is only one factor (sometimes a big one) in determining your career options. It's a factor that diminishes with each career move you'll make, too.

    I'm definitely old school in my philosophy: follow the path that gives you the most depth in the tools you think you really want
  • Aside from the applying-to-a-game-company issues of prestige, academics, and worth-something-ness...

    What if you end up hating game programming? What if the very atmosphere makes you crazy? What if you want to try something different? Given that "game programming degrees" are given questionable respect by quite a few people (see 90% of above posts) *IN* the industry, what kind of clout, let alone background, do you think it will give you in making a non-game career change? There's a lot of long hours a
    • Impressing people with independent work is even better, IMO, because eventually you get some rather influential people (in a particular company or even the entire field) vouching for you.
  • I don't know why everyone is so afraid of the math - the majority of it is linear algebra, and some calc. helps to figure out the physics. Geometry helps, but isn't essential. This is not terribly advanced math, and can easily be completed in the course of a math minor.

    Furthermore, doing a math minor will probably help you with your graduate coursework: I'm in the first year of a Ph. D. program in CS right now and I have far more mathematical experience than my classmates, some of whom have been in the pr

  • ... and program your games for the love of it.

    THEN sellout for millions. :-)
  • Here's a controversial suggestion: computing is a dead-end field.

    Not today, not tomorrow, and maybe not for a decade or even two, but I honestly think that computing as a career will drop to the same level as janitor.
    First, computers will become more-or-less self-administering, eliminating one sector.
    Later, code will become too complex to write for people (already people can only write small subsets of a program), so computers will take over generating code. Exuent programmers.
    Creative expression requires u
  • by threaded (89367) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @01:34AM (#16893950) Homepage
    Study Law or Accountancy these skills are truely what shape the games industry.
  • Every so often I see a story on slashdot about what degree to go after. Usually they are asking for some trick or some inside knowledge to give them a leg up. Like what programming language to choose (Roll your own make a hybrid between Ruby and Java that'll run on Amigas. It'll be the next killer machine/app). If you really want to know the value of a masters or doctorate you should study very carefully Philip Greenspuns Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists [greenspun.com]. Unless you are very good the avera
  • no one cares about a plain old CS degree except bitter old dudes. these days what you need is a CS:S degree...
  • by j1mmy (43634)
    Go to a better school. Can't you get into CU Boulder?

    Also, go with the CS degree. A gaming degree pigeonholes you and won't serve you well if you want to work outside the industry. The practical difference between the two degrees probably won't be more than a few classes, some of which I'm sure you can take as electives anyway.

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