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I'm interested in going to University in the hope of taking programming to a professional level, in particular I would like to go into Game Programming.

Would I benefit more from going to a University and getting a degree in a "Game Programming" type course, or would a more general degree in Computer Sciene be better?

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migrated from Mar 13 '11 at 13:24

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I've always been suspicious against overly specific degrees. – Matteo Italia Mar 13 '11 at 13:20
Learn math and programming and code graphics at home. Schools cannot keep up with game industry techniques. – stefan Mar 13 '11 at 13:21
Let your GF decide for you: – Job Mar 13 '11 at 13:58
Read about life in the gaming industry. Think of yourself when you're 40 with kids. Make the right choice. Lots of game programmers studied CS, not many game programming graduates get to work in non-game companies. – Uri Mar 13 '11 at 20:53
@stefan: Game development is more than math, programming and graphics. Knowledge of platform architecture is necessary to provide the highest-quality product with the best performance. Unless we're talking about web apps here... You should also have a very strong foundation in algorithms, data structure, and optimization. While those can be learned at home, you won't have the benefit of a high-quality CS education, unless you're exceptionally motivated. – aqua Mar 13 '11 at 20:56

7 Answers 7

I'd take a more general degree. What you might want to do now may well invariably change over time, and having a more general degree still gives you options to specialise in the future. Some people / companies (including myself) are more suspicious of very specialised degrees - even when you're going into a specific field it pays to be aware of a more general approach, the specifics you can often learn on the job. If you're particularly interested in going into this field I'd look for universities that allow you to do general computer science but have optional modules available that are relevant, perhaps in graphics / animation and XNA.

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I am currently studying MComp Games Software Development in the UK. I found myself in the same dilemma a few years ago and initially found myself asking the same question. I was interested in software development in general but wanted to specialise in games development. While I agree that specialised degrees can be in some situations be dangerous, here are a few things I would point out given my experiences to date;

  1. In the first and second year, expect to studying some of the same modules as your friends over in the Computer Science camp.
  2. Be ready to spend time outside of your studies researching some of the more advanced computer science topics that are occasionally glossed over in order to concentrate on a specific game related topic.
  3. Be aware that a good games development course will talk a lot about optimisations and hardware architecture. Many of the ideas and approaches taught here will conflict with the theories (OOP/Encapsulation etc) being taught on CS/software development courses.
  4. Be careful not to end up on a games "design" course. In my opinion, these are a waste of time.
  5. Having a games development degree does not prevent you from scoring a a job in a non games related discipline. A good games software development degree can be just as impressive and desirable to employers as a CS/software development degree. Make the most of all the opportunities and industry links provided to you by the university and make friends with people studying computer science! This is a neat way to catch up with CS topics alongside your primary studies.

I hope this helps, it can be a tough decision but I have never regretted my choice to study games software development.

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Definitely agree. If you want to do programming, game development courses will be more intensive. – Filip Dupanović Mar 13 '11 at 14:12

A program in Game Development will focus on what other people are already doing, and that is knowledge that can be gleaned from books. But a CS degree from a good school will give you broad knowledge about AI, algorithms, data structures, programming language theory, and automata... all of which will not only help you understand what techniques are already being used in the industry, but might help you to develop novel ideas of your own.

If you set on game design specifically, I would go for something like a degree in Fine Art with a Game Design focus from a school like the Savannah College of Art and Design. That curriculum focuses on the 'Design' part of game development-drawing, color theory, animation, cognitive concepts, and so on and adds practical experience in developing your own games and creating a strong portfolio.

In other words, go to a school with a very strong core curriculum. The specialized classes are great, but if you are a game developer you'll be drawing storyboards or using basic AI techniques long after the technology you worked with in college is dead and gone.

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As someone who has worked primarily at large companies, I can warn you that game development degrees are really looked down upon, even when the individual is a talented programmer.

I've heard people who go to these programs referred to as "slackers who can't do real school", and things like that. It may be unfair, but you can't get past HR or a hiring manager with a bias.

A bigger problem is that most game programs that I've seen skimp on the core CS, and core CS makes up the core of a lot of programming interviews in major companies.

If you are thinking about your future, you want a more general degree that would give you access to more job options. It may not seem important now, but it will be when you have kids and food to put on the table.

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Where i go i do a lot of programming. Not only that, you focus on different algorithms and languages. I really think a CS degree would benefit more since its more general. It will teach you things outside of programming. Where a gaming degree may not teach you all that stuff. A CS degree can get you a job at a gaming company, but a gaming degree may not get you a job anywhere else.

You may not even like the gaming industry. I hear a lot of employees treating their employees badly in this field. Why not get a CS degree and create your own games and if all else fails you can always find a job with your cs degree.

Even with a gaming degree you may have to intern somewhere to get some experience anyway. Now if you want to do focus more on Game Design instead of the programming aspect of it, then i would recommend going into some kind of fine arts program. Then maybe the Gaming Degree may be better off for you.

Just to put it in perspective, if i wanted to i could: Get a job at a gaming company Get a job in doing computer security Get a job as a network administrator Get a job as a database administrator Work at Intel, Google, AMD, OakRidge Labs - you name it (with a little hardwork of course) or any other computer/science relate field.

I have learned how to program in C,Ruby, Haskell, Prolog, Java from my school. While i am no expert, it gives you the opportunity to find which one you enjoy and help you when you start your career. It's easy to minor in mathematics as well and it so closely related to philosophy, it may even be easy to do that as a minor.

Going back to what i said before, i think if you want to focus on the programming aspects, then go for CS. If you want to focus on the game design, then go for a fine arts degree or gaming degree with art classes.

Heres some other information for you. I've been trying to find a place to take a few classes online to get my degree with little stress since i work full time. I found this place.

With what you want to do, i highly recommend taking the AI courses they offer and all the math you can.

If you do decide to get a CS degree and still feel like you want a gaming degree, then you can always get a masters in it. You can get a job with your CS degree and work on your masters at the same time, its only 2 years for a masters. Something to think about.

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This is a fairly new branch of education in the field of interactive technology and not every college offers this type of specialization. You would definitely need a computer science degree as programming of games involves using computer-specific languages. You need a hands-on environment to learn 3D modeling, game prototyping, software testing, etc. In addition to computer science, look for colleges that offer courses on Interactive Technology. Moreover, a game programming degree will confine your career opportunities. Whereas, a computer science degree will open doors to a plethora of careers in varied Information technology disciplines.

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Games are software. You need to be prepared for software design & development. So first take BSc in general computer science. Once you're fine with the basic, then you can take MSc in "Real-Time Interactive Simulations" or similar (this is basically fancy name for game development).

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