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  • FAQs for High School Students

    [10.01.07]
    - GameCareerGuide.com staff
  • FAQs for high school students

     Q: What's the best school or university to go to if I want to make video games for a living?

    A: We at GameCareerGuide.com don't think there is one perfect school that fits everyone's needs. One of the services we provide our readers is a database of schools, which has quick facts about more than 500 institutions.

    Additionally, we do know what kinds of questions you can ask yourself to narrow down your search, and based on your answers, we can help you jumpstart the college researching process.

    Here are some questions we recommend you ask yourself:

    • Is it my goal to earn a degree?
    • What kind of degree am I ready to work toward -- associate's, bachelor's, master's, PhD? If I'm not looking to get a degree, what is my educational goal -- to learn a specific piece of software, to learn a programming language, to add to or update my existing skill set?
    • What is my ultimate goal? Is it specifically to get a job in video game development? Am I looking to develop skills that I can use in multiple jobs, including game development, in the future? Do I want a well-rounded education where I am encouraged to explore many different fields of study? Am I in need of an on-campus college experience in addition to an education?
    • What kind of learning environment suits me best? Am I an independent learner? Am I a group learner? Do I need to be in a physical classroom with other people? Would I be able to handle taking classes online?
    • Where am I willing to live?
    • What are my financial boundaries?

    After you answer these basic questions, or at least begin thinking about them, you can start to narrow down your search. The first way to do that is to consider what kind of school fits you best. There are three different kinds of educational institutions that offer different kinds of learning experiences and environments for game development students:

    • Traditional schools, which include four-year colleges and universities, and community colleges: These schools generally offer the most comprehensive learning experience. While many do not teach game development, students can major in anything from computer science to fine arts to women's studies and still have a viable career path in the game industry. The strength of a traditional university education is that it typically encourages or requires students to study across a variety of academic fields, which engenders a broader outlook on the world, which some say helps to develop problem-solving skills as well as analytical or critical thinking. Traditional universities come with a wide array of price tags, from less than a hundred dollars a year to several tens of thousands, but they also offer the most options for financial assistance.
    • Game-specific schools, which include private institutions or specific programs affiliated with larger universities that offer specific courses in video games and game development: These schools cater to people who want to get in, learn specific skills, and exit the school with a job offer making games. The strengths of game-specific schools are that they are very tuned into the cutting technologies and practices of the game development sector. Similar to their trade schools brethren, game-specific schools often have resources available to students to help them put together job application materials that are specific to the video game industry, such as a demo reel. In most game schools, group projects account for a significant portion of the graded material because the game development industry thrives on the team approach.
    • Art schools: More and more art schools are offering courses, certificates, or degrees in game-relevant subjects. Art schools often now teach animation as well as 3D art and design, and more and more have hired staff that have knowledge of or have worked in video game development. Generally, art schools will appeal most to artists, though future game designers who have more of a knack for drawing than programming shouldn't necessarily discount them.

    Visit our schools page to pull up quick facts about more than 500 educational institutions.

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     Q: How do I "break into" the video game industry?

    A: First off, what is meant by "breaking in"? Most people who get into the career of their dreams have a moment where things went right. Whatever that moment was, it was followed by a series of events that eventually led them into their dream job. Who knows? Your turning moment might be today, when you became a member of the GameCareerGuide.com community.

    Sometimes the moment is well planned, like the first time you attend an industry conference and network with game company representatives. Other times it happens in a stroke of luck. But very often for game developers, it happens through other individuals. The game industry is small -- and tightly knit! Who you know still goes a long way in this industry, so one thing we preach repeatedly at GameCareerGuide.com is "Go out and talk to people." Chat with people in our forums. Attend Game Career Seminars. Go to major industry conferences or at least volunteer at them. Find your local IGDA chapter.

    If you're still asking, "But how do I break in?" I would encourage you to set aside some time to look around this site and read articles that sound interesting to you. Flip through this Getting Started section some more. Hit up the forums. We even have a series of articles about different people's "breaking in" stories (see the Related Articles below).

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     Q: What can I do right now to better my chances of working in video game development?

    A: Game developers are the kind of people who learn to help themselves. So some of the things you can do now to better your chances of getting into game development later is take on projects that show you are a self-starter. When you pu these experiences on your resume later, it will show that you've been someone has been ready to become a game developer for some time.

    For one -- and although this may sound painfully obvious, it really doesn't occur to everybody -- if you think you want to make games for a living, you ought to make a game. If you wanted to be an artist, you wouldn't sit around waiting for someone to give you a job before you started sketching and painting; you'd be doing those things all along. If you wanted to be a writer, you would write. It's one of those things that's easier said than done, and truly, the task of creating a video game with no experience is a bit intimidating. But if you want to someone to one day pay you to make video games, you have to start making games now.

    There are ways -- thank goodness -- of making this task way less intimidating than it seems.

    First, you can make a game that isn't a video game. Create a game that uses cards or billiards or pen and paper. Then, write down all the rules and instructions for playing it. That's all it takes to start out.

    You could also do this with a live game. For example, you could organize and host a live game in a public space, such as a neighborhood-wide or campus-wide round robin of hide-and-seek or lawn bowling or man-hunt for charity.

    If you're a little more ambitious, and especially if you want to be a video game programmer, you can have your first video game be a mod. Search around the web for some info and teach yourself how to mod. Alternatively, program a small game, such as a Tetris clone or a Flash-player casino slot machine.

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