Why, Where and How Should I Study Game Design?
Does it bug you that, even in the greatest of games, there can be moments that literally suck? What happens when you’re faced with a scene that doesn’t quite fit with the gameplay, or when a design decision completely ruins your gaming experience?
Do you stick with the game? Do you sell it? Do you think about what’s gone wrong and how you could put it right? Do you know you could do better? How about studying game design?
In its latest survey, Priming the Pump, the Higher Education Video Game Alliance reported that 91.3% of alumni of games-based college programs were in gainfulafter a single year on the market. They also earned a higher than average salary. Alumni of games-based programs earned an estimated average salary of $76,200 in 2015, which was $24,000 more than the US national average for college graduates with full-time jobs. Games program graduates also reported high levels of job satisfaction, with almost 83% of graduates reporting that they were “thriving at work.”
Why should I get a degree?
At the moment, if you want to work in games design for the industry’s leading companies, it’s more than likely that you’ll need a Bachelors degree. Even if you don’t see yourself at one of the big gaming companies and think that the indie studios will be more your scene, a degree from a highly regarded institution will be an advantage. A degree will also help you if you want to go it alone and launch your own games. Not only will you end up with a formally recognized qualification, but the practical elements of a program, such as course work, should give you the skills you need to develop your own game. Institutions offering degree programs may also have links to the game's industry, which can provide valuable hands-on experience by way of internships or student programs.
Games design degree programs
There are many colleges and universities all around the world that offer degrees tailored towards video game design. The Entertainment Software Association lists over 400 colleges in the US across all 50 states that offer degree programs. A degree from one of the best video games design schools in the United States could significantly improve your chances of success in either landing a job with a games design studio, or successfully launching a game of your own. Institutions like NEIT are offering degree programs which can provide valuable hands-on experience by way of internships or student programs.
What will I study?
Degree programs vary in their content depending on the institution, but they will contain the core elements of computer science, game design, programming, mathematics and logic. Usually, degree programs will be established in computer and information sciences, engineering, or visual arts departments. The programs offered in different departments will have some common elements, but they will focus on different aspects of games design. For example, at the top-placed University of Southern California, the School of Cinematic Arts offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment, and the School of Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science whichin games. The program at the School of Cinematic Arts would suit those who are interested in games design and production, whereas the computer science degree would work better for those students who want to focus on the technical side of games development. If you take some time to think about the aspects of games design that appeal to you the most, you can apply for programs that concentrate on these elements.
Where and how should I study?
There are a variety of types of college that offer degrees in game design. Traditional universities offering 4 year degree programs, smaller, more specialist schools, colleges with flexible learning schedules, and online degree courses. Even if you’re not a typical student, you should be able to find a course that works for you. For example, Full Sail University, offers Bachelors degrees in game art and games design which are highly regarded and can be studied online. Online course can be a lifeline for those students who need to fit their education around their other commitments such as a family, or those who are studying because they want a career change. If attending a full-time, campus-based course is impossible for you, an online option may work.
However and wherever you choose to study games design, the reputation of the course provider is key and can help you to develop your career. Established institutions will often have more links to the industry, networking opportunities, and could help in setting up internships. Remember, your choice of study program is one of the first, and one of the most important, choices in your career in games design.