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  • Five Common Mistakes In Choosing Masters Programs For Video Games

    [07.06.10]
    - David McClure
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    Mistake 4. Misunderstanding What Is Expected Of You

    It is quite easy at times to misunderstand what is expected of you, given the terse nature of the briefs that are given for various projects. Of course, as recommended in the previous section, you should contact an academic should you wish for a point to be clarified. A misunderstanding of what is expected of you may well extend beyond individual projects, leading to a catalogue of errors, and so it is important at all times to not lose sight of what you are supposed to be doing and how you are expected to do it.

    Briefs Are Relative

    Although a brief does lay down a minimum set of rules, it should be interpreted in terms of your own strengths and weaknesses. Take, for example, a 6,000 word self-devised essay. If you know that you tend to verbosity when writing, then it is not a very good idea to set yourself briefs that will require you to cover large scale topics with broad strokes. Likewise, if you always struggle to make up the word count when writing an essay, you should probably set yourself a fairly large topic so that the amount of exposition required reduces the amount of space you have to fill with your own ideas.

    There is no shame in sticking to what you are good at. If you want to experiment you can always do so in a risk-free manner outside of your course. Meanwhile, you can stick to techniques you already understand and free up time. This allows you to either polish your work and increase your grade or to use the time on another project, perhaps one with which you are less experienced. Of course, you must also stick to the brief. If you have been asked to submit a general design document then there is little point in submitting a technical design document, as your work will not be rewarded commensurately to your efforts.

    "Only" A Masters

    Although the program is likely to involve a lot of effort and expenditure on your part, you must remember that it is only a Masters level program. You are not expected to revolutionize the field, nor to add to the body of human knowledge. In many respects, if you attempt to do something special that goes beyond the level the course is aimed at, then you will be setting yourself up for imminent failure. The rewards of proceeding in such a manner may well be outweighed by the risks.

    In terms of effort-to-reward ratios, it is probably more productive to go over old terrain than to break new new ground. There is no sense in stretching yourself further than necessary when there is no reward for it. For example, imagine you are basing a piece of work on a survey. You may think that a survey of twenty people is meaningless. In terms of what is considered good practice in experimentation, you would be correct to think this. However, should your supervisor propose this number of subjects, then there is no point in going to extra effort to secure a larger sample, as your rewards will not increase proportionately to your efforts.

    Particular notice should be given to the concept of originality. Many students on Masters courses incorrectly assume that originality is important. In fact, originality only becomes a necessary component of university work at doctorate level. It is certainly a nicety for a piece of work to be original, but it is not necessity. It is generally a better idea to submit a well rounded, polished and unoriginal idea than an original idea that is flawed or is not fully realized.

    Mistake 5. Losing Sight Of The Bigger Picture

    It is incredibly easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, to lose sight of the outcome you are aiming for and to place too much importance on the course in the grand scheme of things. Most Masters degrees last for one year, after which you will want to achieve your intended outcome. However, the Masters program is likely to be only one step on the path to this outcome. It is up to you to take the rest of the steps required to reach your goal.

    Take On Other Projects

    If all you do during the course of your Masters is to work on the projects set for you by your tutors, then ultimately you will have wasted a good part of the year. It is important to motivate yourself to take on projects and to set goals to achieve outside of the course. If you do not, how will you stand out in a competitive job market? You should use the time that you are at university as productively as possible, learning technical skills that you lack and completing portfolio projects that you can show to potential employers.

    Collaborate With Others

    In many respects, the most valuable part of your Masters is the exposure and introduction to other students who are likely to be motivated by similar goals. In most workplaces, you will be expected to work with others and to be able to collaborate effectively. If you take the opportunity to get to know other students and to work with them then you can mutually benefit from improving your experience of working in groups.

    Such collaborations are also likely to prove much more productive than those that form an official section of the course, as you are able to avoid working with anyone who is lazy or incompetent. You can also band with other students to good effect in order to collectively bargain for reductions in the price of software. If there is one thing to ensure that you do during your Masters program, it is to voluntarily collaborate with your fellow students.

    To conclude, although there are a number of mistakes that are commonly made during the course of a Masters program, they are all able to be avoided by the application of a little common sense. Hopefully this guide will smooth your progress and prevent you from becoming ensnared by easily avoidable errors.

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