If we didn’t love gaming none of us would spend a couple of hours each day here, checking out what’s new at Tap-Repeatedly.com. The fact is, we love not only the process of playing the games, but are equally mystified and fascinated by the process of game design, development as well as production. For years we kind of hid in the dark, listening to our parents’ criticisms about our seemingly insatiable desire to play our computer or console games. We listened quietly as parents, teachers, lawyers and even senators, criticized and demeaned the gaming industry, but none of that diminished our love for it because we knew they were wrong.
Clearly many of Tap’s reader’s are fascinated by the process of game development. Tap’s readers are not only fascinated by the play, their minds probe deeper and they seem enthralled by the process that ultimately leads to a tremendous game. Some are thirty or forty (or fifty, sixty, or seventy) somethings looking for something to add a little excitement to their lives, some are college students who want to get into the game development business, but haven’t the vaguest idea how to develop a career in gaming and they want to know…where do game developers go to learn to do what they do? How do they gather the skills that allowed them to develop the magic that is a really good computer game? And, the truth be told, until the last decade or so, there was no avenue short of self-teaching, or mentoring. Well, that day is gone, so brother, look at us now! Gaming and game education has hit the big time.
Suck it up dudes, we are now respectable and able to silence our critics (as well as our parents). As unbelievable as it may seem, game design and development as a career discipline has at long last been accepted as a worthwhile career as a number of noteworthy schools add gaming to their curricula. Not only that, many of those schools, some of which are famous, and some barely known but reputable, have developed a complete curriculum of courses up to and including advanced degrees. As a matter of fact, gaming has been so well accepted as an academic area of study that some of the nation’s largest and best known colleges have jumped on the bandwagon.
And, by the way, graduates can look forward to careers beyond gaming if that is their choice once they complete their studies. The curricula can open doors to other areas of the entertainment industry once skills are mastered. So, whether a student chooses to emphasize programming, design, digital animation, art, production, or even bean counting, gaming is not the only option open to graduates. As little as five years ago, game schools were almost universally ignored and considered a waste of time and money. Today, they are regarded by students, educators, and hiring managers in the game industry with much more respect. Now be careful here, some still suck, but if you are judicious in your choice of institution, your degree will be met with a good deal of respect by the hiring managers in the industry.
To select the right school, you really need to start by laying out your goals and objectives, because each school will have different strengths. There are two things that are extremely important: (1) Your goals (what you hope to accomplish when you enter the system, i.e. design, program, visual art, production, write scripts, etc. etc.) and (2) your learning style (online vs. classroom, small group seminar vs. large group lecture). Generally speaking, the best advice is to check out schools of interest to you, get the names of a couple of students currently enrolled, and bleed their brains.
There is a list of 195 schools that offer programs in game development, and they exist in virtually every state. The list includes some well known universities such as Carnegie Mellon, California State, Cal Poly, Cornell, DePaul, Duke, Indiana University, Purdue and Michigan State as well as virtual unknowns such as Lake Washington Technical College and Tomball College in, believe it or not, Tomball, Texas. While it was tempting to list all 195 of the institutions offering this type of education, it seemed a terrible waste of space. You can look at the complete list of colleges here.
The source for all of the schools listed is the International Game Developer’s Association, and presumably, they are members of the IGDA. If nothing else, that is a sure sign of how far the gaming profession has come. There was a time when games were developed in dark rooms, basements, or ratty garages by two or three guys with an idea (think DOOM); it was strictly for errant young lads who ate pizza, slugged down Cokes, and sat in the dark with only the light of their monitor to effect the size of their pupils. Today, it has evolved from big fun to big business while still being fun…I think jeans and T-shirts are still okay as the dress code though.