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Why Do a Game Development Study?
Twelve years ago, it was hard to find any 'Game Related' study. There were not even full game development studies yet. Some of them were part of larger studies such as 'media & entertainment' or 'technical information studies'.
August 20, 2013
7 Min Read
Twelve years ago, it was hard to find any 'Game Related' study. There were not even full game development studies yet. Some of them were part of larger studies such as 'media & entertainment' or 'technical information studies'. Years later universities started to adapt to this growing industry and developed full time courses for students to graduate with. Four years ago I decided to take on an adventure like this in Amsterdam. This university started with a technical game development course, and I with many others were very interested. Nowadays there are a few solid game development studies around. In this article I will try to explain why you 'should' or 'shouldn't' do a study like this.
Players are not always Developers
The first rule of all that goes beyond doing a school or not; if you like to 'play' games, doesn't exactly mean you can also 'create' them. You should have affinity with games and at least like to play them in some way, but a lot of beginning students think, because they like to play games, they can make them. Game Development studies are technical oriented. There are different 'types' of game studies. In nearly each one of them you will need to study a technical aspect, because we are of course creating software. As game developers we are trying to simulate parts of this world into digital environments. Therefore it's needed to sometimes bend the laws of physics and mathematics. If you want to do this, you need to understand your 'maths' and 'physics'. So if you decide to do a game development study, keep in mind, if you like to play games does not immediately mean you can develop them. It's part of it.
The Lone Ranger
Some would argue it is not needed to do a game development study. You can get this information on your own, or you would not be challenged at a school like this. I think some of you like to think this, but it tells more about you, than the 'general'. I have met student drop-outs, people that made succesful companies without even taking a single course. I think only people with a strong willpower are able to survive without having a solid background consisting of degrees. It is possible, but only if your heart lies with something you can go for 200%, you will be able to succeed. Sometimes, schools do not challenge the smartest people anymore. I think schools need to find a way to do this. Not by giving them more and more work, but give them complex but meaningful assignments. Like we all try to create meaningful games, universities need to create meaningful courses. Don't just say your courses are meaningful but give solid proof to your students why this is so important.
The Right Direction
It is more likely universities will point students in the right direction. Purely because more people are researching the game development business. It may sometimes lead to a poor choice, but usually schools are driving on the right track. If you need to find this on your own, it just takes you a lot more time, and you will be slower than the 'official' students. For example; My university picked up game development tool 'Unity3D' really quickly before it was used by the mass.
The Right Place
Besides directions, schools have the best environments for sharing knowledge. If you have a problem, or want to find something, there are a lot of other students and teachers who could have the answer or the ability to help you. Every day there are hundreds of students at the same place. Schools also encourage you to work with others on assignments, therefore it is the ideal place to find and get a fast answer.
Universities tend to throw a lot of different long term projects yearly. This is great, because it will help you get used to 'work' environments and teach you working on a project basis. Before you enter the corporate world, you already have some experience working in teams, setting a jointly goal, and finish a product together. This way teached me a lot about teams and helped me 'be' a better (junior) producer in the industry.
Everybody is always hammering on the study program itself and how you could also do this at home. There is however one thing you cannot simmulate easily. That is the skills you get by just working with other people. These are called 'soft skills'. For example: In projects you have to reflect on eachother. Giving feedback is really important in game development. Experiencing this before your 'business life' is essential. You can of course ask you mother or your cat to give feedback on your work, but I doubt it to be very constructive ;). There are possibilities to post work on websites such as, reddit, gamasutra, or use forums. I think it's great for quantitative feedback, not for quality feedback. Sometimes you need to notice or experience someone's real emotion to get the right feedback.
When you are connected to a university, it's easier to get a certain amount of personal exposure. When doing this alone, you have to create hype around yourself. At school it's easier to participate in gatherings, meetings and activities. Another important thing; I was once told some wise words when I wanted to file a complaint on a package delivery. I wanted to complain at the 'delivery company'. This was not recommended because it will be 1 customer complaining about 1 delivery. So I was told to complain at the webshop, because if they complain at their delivery partners it is a complete 'company' that is showing their voice. Much more powerful that just a single customer. So why do I tell you this? If I translate this to a positive note. Universities are much more encountered by companies than you as an individual. Therefore it's easier to come in contact with a lot of potential jobs and contacts. Besides, you are an official registered student, so you can get a lot of discounts on products, festivals and gatherings.
If you are planning to work in a (large) game development company. I think it is wise to educate yourself through study. The 'degree' does not completely help you get the job, but the fact you have 4 years of experience that comes with the degree does. If you have plans to start your own company, doing school can still come in handy. For example; Internships give a great insight in how companies do business and help you understand to prevent certain mistakes. If you ask me if it is a 100% needed? No, I think you can manage your business without a degree. The only thing is, you do not have an easy fallback plan if your company fails to succeed.
What do you think about game development studies? Are you doing one? What are your experiences?
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