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devon0330 06-19-2012 02:15 AM

Need Help!! A critical decision in my life
I'm not a native English Speaker, so forgive me for my language proficiency.

I'm currently enrolled in Simon Fraser University majoring in Interactive Arts and Technology. I will be a 3rd year student after summer. The name "IAT" sounds vague and seems to be game industry related, but no, it is not. There are only 3 to 5 courses related to game in a 4 year curriculum.

The school intends to let us expose to different kinds of media and design field so that we can become designers with flexible thinking and not ground to specific theory and medium. The idea is great, but I would say it turns out to be disastrous as we will graduate without any specialized skills and focus.

Since my first year, I learned graphic design, filming, experience (interface) design, 3D animation (from modeling to animation in 1 term), software hardware interaction, information design, game design, architecture and urban planning study, and interactive art forms. All included in the first two years of curriculum.

Since if I want to pursuit a game industry related career, I will definitely need to attend a career training school after graduation, I started to think about an alternative path. As it will still take me roughly another 3 or 4 years, why not I just transfer/apply a game design dedicated program?

And so I did some research and looking for schools that has a game design focus program.

My first pick is Digipen, Bachelor of Art in Game Design.
As this seems to be one of the few program that really focus on the design aspect of making a game while also providing some fundamentals about arts.

I understand that, though the quality of the portfolio is still the most important, some employers also treat 4 years regular education as a big plus. Yet, I'm not quite sure if that includes 4 year BA from schools alike Digipen.

My question is:
Is this the right choice for me to give up a much widely accepted Degree at this point, and go for schools like Digipen?
Or should I just finish my current Degree and think about additional training afterwards?

If school accreditation and Degree is not really that important, but hard work and good quality portfolio. Are there any other schools that offers Game Design focus program while covering some art fundamentals and 3D animations, similar to BAGD in Digipen?

It will be a big help if anyone can give me some suggestion as I am currently applying for Digipen, but hesitate if this is right for me.

tsloper 06-19-2012 06:19 AM

Re: Need Help!! A critical decision in my life
You're trying to decide between 2 schools.
a. Stay at SFU and finish your IAT degree, or
b. Transfer to Digipen, maybe not all your credits will transfer, maybe start over again? Or maybe some or all of them transfer, but anyway: obtain a Digipen degree.

I recommend you make a decision grid. In doing that, read these:

Also, you wrote: "Since if I want to pursuit a game industry related career, I will definitely need to attend a career training school after graduation"
Where did you ever get that idea? What makes you think that?

devon0330 06-19-2012 07:11 PM

Re: Need Help!! A critical decision in my life
hi, tsloper,

Thank you for providing those valuable links. I will be going over them shortly.

The reason why I consider taking a career training or vocational school after graduation as a must is due to the curriculum of my current school.

As I've mentioned, the school is trying to cover too many topics and many courses are poorly designed. It makes me feels like having Art 11 back in highschool; you spent 2 to 3 weeks on drawing, 2 to 3 weeks on painting, 2 to 3 weeks on sculpture. You won't get anything deep about each medium, but you get to feel what they are like. Furthermore, every single course in SFU-IAT is heavy team project focus; not even one class focuses on individual work. This results in huge gap of performance difference between quality student and slackers. lLogistic issues and all these meetings happen in weird time simply doesn't allow you to do self-cultivated projects while taking full time credit hours.

Not saying that the school is totally bad though. Since I have to work with at least 3 to 4 different teams a term, and maybe even switch teams on a monthly basis, I will say most of the IAT students are pretty comfortable working with team projects under time pressure. Many courses also demand doing presentation on a weekly basis, so people also benefit from that experience too. (how to make beautiful slides, how to BS your way through, and how to cover up stuff you didn't even have time to study)

However, we still have to learn 3D animation starting from polygon model to texture, rigging, lighting until animation and rendering in 4 months.

devon0330 06-23-2012 12:06 AM

Re: Need Help!! A critical decision in my life
Hi, Tom,

I have finished the links you posted, and I have to say a BIG THANK YOU for providing those information for us aspiring game industry workers. After reading through your columns and FAQ, I am now much more familiar about game designer as a job, and what kind of education I should be looking into. Furthermore, after doing some self exploration and grid chart analysis, I'm also much certain about my own passion and interest.

That being said, I will still apply for Digipen- BAGD, but for a much different reason than before.

I have to say, I'm not a very social person. I am very easy going, but just being very passive in making friends. Thus I do believe its one of the big plus to attend school like Digipen, as I get to build networks among people with same interests.

I hold equal interest in game design and 3D animation. One of my biggest interest besides thinking about unique battle system or strategy gameplay, is finding the design related visual cues or visual representation of game mechanics in video games. As I go through the course sequence in BAGD, it seems that Digipen manage to hold a good balance for the two disciplines, while also providing some basic number of general studies like composition, math, history and philosophy.

I totally understand and agree that a 4 year post secondary education is necessary to better prepare my self for a job. Furthermore, though Im still in my early 3rd year, I do feel the benefits of taking electives from many non-gaming related courses. I constantly notice theories from economy, urban planning, discrete mathematics, and knowledge of many other disciplines being used in games.

That being said, the most valuable gift I receive from a regular university education is being able to do research/analysis on my own, good problem solving skills, understanding the importance of seeking solution in other disciplines, and being able to work under multidisciplinary context.

With such mindset I learned from my years in SFU, I believe I'm ready to pursuit what I'm really passionate about: 3D animation and game mechanic/system design. Combine with the years I spent in SFU, I think this will be a much better path for me.

Thank you for your help Tom, as your valuable information really help me make up my mind and help me understand what I am really looking for.

tsloper 06-23-2012 06:16 AM

Re: Need Help!! A critical decision in my life

Originally Posted by devon0330 (Post 28474)
Hi, Tom,

I have finished the links you posted, and I have to say a BIG THANK YOU

as your valuable information really help me make up my mind and help me understand what I am really looking for.


ZackRibbe 07-02-2012 10:47 AM

Re: Need Help!! A critical decision in my life
One thing I will add about the school you currently go to is find out what you like and pursue that. I went to a school that was similar to yours; it wasn't a specialist school, we learned all areas of game design. And what I did there was find out which area of game design I liked most and really pushed my portfolio towards that area (Level Design). Even though we only had 2 or 3 classes on level design, my portfolio is geared towards Level Design, and I was able to learn a lot on my own outside of class.

That being said, going to DigiPen is not a bad decision and that's good that you are further pursuing your game design passion! Keep up the hard work and it will pay off in the end.

devon0330 07-07-2012 12:40 AM

Re: Need Help!! A critical decision in my life
Thanks you Zack!

I think there are many people who just like me, just want to know everything about game design! But after attending a couple workshops made by professionals, people always say that specialization is very important in this field. Just like you say, I will certainly look for that specific area I am most passionate about, and build my portfolio around it. Thanks for your reminder :)

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