Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Taking Advantage of Students

When I first read this article on how some unscrupulous companies will try to bilk students by promising them high-paying summer jobs in the game industry, my thought was that this behavior is abhorrent.

My second thought is that it's unnecessary. Aspiring game developers already go to great lengths to convince themselves that they'll be able to enter the industry in the first place -- something that, sadly, not all of them will ultimately do. These people don't exactly need any extra false hope; most of them already have plenty as it is.

The one thing I make sure to drill into my game design students -- I probably mention this more than anything else in my classes -- is that no one should expect to get an entry-level game design job in the industry fresh out of college. Yes, a few lucky ones do, but it's so rare that no one should be relying on it as their primary career. I want no one to have any illusions about this.

This comes as a surprise to many students. After all, game development programs are sprouting up all over the place, so at first glance one might think that industry demand is increasing at a proportional rate. It's not.

As far as I'm concerned, any university that touts any kind of game development program (and especially anything involving game design) is implicitly telling prospective students that they will be able to get a job in the field that they're studying. This is just as much of a lie as the article I was reading. Compare:
"Get paid $80 per hour in QA for the summer! Just pay us a $39.95 membership fee."
"Get a full-time job as a game designer! Just pay us $100K tuition."

As such, universities should be careful to notify all prospective undergrads that a game-focused major is dangerous: it doesn't guarantee a job in the industry and may make it more difficult to fall back on a job outside the industry. Given the time and expense it takes to earn any degree at all, these disclaimers need to be shouted loud and up front, before a student decides on what school to attend.

Some might protest that trying to talk students out of attending your school would lower enrollment. In my experience, though, the students who ultimately make it into the industry are the types who are well aware of the risks and who are dedicated and persistent enough to go through with it anyway. The students who would have second thoughts are precisely those students who would make your school look bad to the industry and lower the quality of your program anyway. So, in the short term you trade off quantity for quality; in the long term, your higher quality gets industry recognition which feeds back into greater quantity. Therefore, being up front with prospective students could actually raise enrollment in a few years!

Granted, you should have a quality program as well if your school is going to offer one at all. If your classes consist of teaching students how to tighten their graphics, you're not doing anyone any favors.

1 comment:

Darius Kazemi said...

Amen. Agreed 100% here.