Saturday, May 31, 2008

Choosing a School: Focus on Games

Question: Can I see a syllabus for some of the game classes this school offers?

What to look for: In the syllabus, see if the topics are specific to games, or more generalized to other media. If you want to make games, specifically, then you'll want classes that have readings and homeworks that involve games -- not movies, not literature, and not the World Wide Web. Of course, the reverse is true if you want game development to be only one option of many.

What to do: Look through the syllabi that you receive, paying close attention to the assignments (readings and projects). If there is a textbook, find it at your local library or book store and skim through it. If a syllabus is not available, ask some students who have taken the classes if they might have an old one; at the very least, ask them if the class is about video games or if that's only part of it. Also search the public website; occasionally you'll find that certain parts of a course are unrestricted access.

What to watch out for: A lot of classes (and majors!) have titles that sound like they focus on games, but then you find out that they don't. A few examples (feel free to post others in the comments):
  • Nonlinear Storytelling. This might be a class about interactive stories in video games. Or, it might deal with stories in other media that are told out of order, like the movies Memento and Pulp Fiction.
  • Digital Media Production. Could mean game production, in the sense of actually creating a video game. Or it could be game production in the sense of teaching you how to be a producer (dealing with scheduling and budgets). Or it could be either of those things for other media, like movie production. Or it could be special effects, like audio/video post-production for movies.
  • Introduction to Interactive Multimedia. This might be an obfuscated way to say "intro to video games" or it might be a class in Web page design or Flash programming.

In short, if you know exactly what you want from your program of study, make sure you're going to get it!


Lewis Pulsipher said...

Excellent point. I have seen schools offer "game" classes that are warmed-over standard classes with a week or two relevant to games thrown in at the end. This is usually a case where the school doesn't offer a full degree. There are also lots of schools with game "concentrations" within their programming or art or graphic design departments. Find out whether this is lip-service or "the real deal", which probably depends on the knowledge and experience of the person teaching the class. For example, the game concentration in graphic design at a nearby university is run by a man who used to be art director for several games, then got a masters at the university and was hired to teach graphic design. He knows games.

Gravity Gardener said...

Many universities and other colleges are offering classes in video game design and 3d graphics programming. Companies that are targeting the gaming industry are always looking for talented developers and designers.

As part of that curriculum, it is essential to the school you select offers the latest technology and tools to set yourself apart from others who are vying for the same positions. The list below should be part of the program you are considering.

1. 3d Graphics development – A critical component to designing realistic effects and scenery 3d graphics are essential in bring the realistic content to the screen. You will need to understand how to draw geometric content and the use of lighting and shade effects. Mastering the look of water, glass or distant structures in the far background will be key to your training

2. Understanding Math principles and Physical properties will be important to providing realistic use of characters and their tools. These two areas will allow you to build compelling, believable animation and simulated movement.

3. Artificial Intelligence Programming is used to allow the characters to develop lifelike decision making capabilities and intelligent choices in a variety of situations. AI is crucial to character development and creating realistic scenarios that take the gamer in to various areas and situations as they delve into the many levels of your design.

Gravity Gardener