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Old 06-04-2008, 06:33 AM   #1
Boxface
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Default Self-taught... Career Suicide?

Hey everybody, I am a complete newbie at programming, but I'm interested in entering the games industry and it may very well be one of the only options for me.

I'd like to start my saying a few words about myself, whether you should choose to read them or not is fine, but perhaps will give you a better picture of my dilemma. I am 17 years old and currently within the last few days of high school. At the beginning of my final year, I had originally decided to pursue a career in cooking, but midway through the year I did some self-discovering and am now a vegetarian. Due to the fact that it'd be hard to land a vegetarian cooking position, I decided to pursue another career. At this point, I had already begun to let my grades slip, because I am one who finds conventional schooling very tedious, so when I had thought I'd be a chef I figured I'd only need to get out of high school and be done with it.

Anyway, so here I am ... a few days before graduating, with poor marks and no real idea of what to pursue. Games have always been a hobby of mine, so I was thinking that it'd be a good start. I had toyed with the thought of making games like any teenager, but now I think I'm finally getting serious with it. However, I am not a very artistic person and although I like to believe I am very creative in some senses, I don't know how that would transition to the games industry. Therefore I feel as if I'm left with programming, which is not a bad thing. I have a fascination with computers, as I love to put them together, and learning how to make programs would only be more fun for me.

My question is though, would a self-taught programmer be a stupid idea in this generation of the games industry? I find myself having trouble concentrating in conventional schooling as I'm more concerned with chatting with my classmates than focusing on my studies/subjects. So I considered buying some books and studying by myself at home, scheduling my day similar to my friends who are going into cegep. But as I have no real knowledge about programming, I don't know if a self-taught course will allow me to learn everything that a college course would teach me, or would I be lacking some useful techniques in the ways of programming.

I'm aware that a self-taught approach could potentially knock some money off my salary as opposed to a college-taught programmer, but I'd rather do it my own way and not risk struggling. I am a very down to earth individual aswell, so money isn't my concern ... I want to do something I love, and am willing to risk having a big house and many cars to do it. I don't exactly have a huge standard of living, so as long as I'm not living by the paycheck, I'll be content.

Also, if I were to take the self-taught approach, what's a good language to start with? Should I do an easy one, or jump right to C++/C#.
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Old 06-04-2008, 07:08 AM   #2
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There is a lot more to game development than just art and programming. There's another thread here where several of us have contributed to a list of all the available jobs in the industry. Look it over and see what fits you best. Don't just settle for programming, because you'll grow to hate it if it's not what you really want to do.

As for your question, no it's not career suicide. In fact a lot of people in the games industry do not hold a degree. While that is changing, a good portfolio/demo will still hold more weight than a piece of paper.

But not going to school means you'll have no help in creating said portfolio/demo. If you want to be a programmer you'll need to develop sample code and your own game demo, and put it on a site. Once you get comfortable with everything I recommend joining a mod team. Check out the forums at ModDB.com; there are always teams looking for members, especially programmers.
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Old 06-04-2008, 10:04 AM   #3
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Quote:
As for your question, no it's not career suicide. In fact a lot of people in the games industry do not hold a degree. While that is changing, a good portfolio/demo will still hold more weight than a piece of paper.
I disagree to an extent. Without a degree, it is highly unlikely you get past the HR filter unless you have prior industry/commercial experience regardless of the portfolio quality. The quality of the portfolio only matters after the HR filter and/or when you are directly dealing with the developers that are going to interview you.

It isn't impossible to get a job without a degree and no previous experience but without the degree, breaking into the industry is MUCH harder especially without personal contacts.

Quote:
My question is though, would a self-taught programmer be a stupid idea in this generation of the games industry?
If you have a choice and not restricted by any other factors then personally, I think it is a stupid idea not to get a degree.

Last edited by yaustar : 06-04-2008 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 06-04-2008, 12:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yaustar View Post
I disagree to an extent. Without a degree, it is highly unlikely you get past the HR filter unless you have prior industry/commercial experience regardless of the portfolio quality.
Well, I had intended to apply to a Games Studio this summer as a QA tester to get a taste of the industry. There's a large Ubisoft studio here in Montreal, so there's a fair chance of getting a spot there.

Would game-testing experience be a good point to add onto a resume with/without a degree?
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Old 06-04-2008, 12:51 PM   #5
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I might have to roll my eyes, and maybe even snort at the next person thatsuggests "falling back on programming", because of their lack of artistic talent. To me is sounds far too much like "I wanted to be a rockstar, but I'm not musical enough, so I'm willing to fall back on brain surgery - that could be fun". Programming is complex and as CKeene said, if you don't truly love it (and even sometimes if you do) you'll go crazy and despise your job.

On that front no, having no degree does not automatically mean you wont get a job. You may well get filtered out by HR as yaustar said, but I've worked in companies that do not have a dedicated HR department filtering all applications for certain criteria (mobile games companies are good for this), the job applications go to various department heads who will look it over, and make up their minds (or pass it on to someone else to check). Just remember that even if you find some of these companies, as a no-degree & no-experience applicant, you will be at the very bottom of the list.
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Old 06-04-2008, 01:47 PM   #6
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Career suicide for programmers! Ha.

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Old 06-04-2008, 01:49 PM   #7
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Have you considered taking an online course? Granted, you'll still have to motivate yourself to pay attention to grades and complete their assignments, but it might give you a want to get past HR.

But yeah, programming is not something you can just take a swing at. From what you said about your preference to talk to people rather than conventional schooling, have you considered going after a producer role?
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Old 06-04-2008, 04:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxface View Post
Would game-testing experience be a good point to add onto a resume with/without a degree?
Any relevant industry experience is good to add to a resume regardless.
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Old 06-04-2008, 05:05 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by EvilLlama View Post
Have you considered taking an online course? Granted, you'll still have to motivate yourself to pay attention to grades and complete their assignments, but it might give you a want to get past HR.

But yeah, programming is not something you can just take a swing at. From what you said about your preference to talk to people rather than conventional schooling, have you considered going after a producer role?
Well, I haven't really considered producers because I have a very limited knowledge of what jobs are available, and what they do in particular. I've tried to do some research, but with finals coming up, I don't have all the time in the world to do so, and have yet to find a very informative site.

I was unaware that there are online courses. It's not the actual schoolwork that turns me off, it's the environment. It's not that I'm socially awkward or an outcast and whatnot, it's that I tend to prioritize socializing in school as opposed to focusing on my schoolwork, which is why I had considered getting some books and learning myself.

Also to both you and Claxon, programming isn't exactly my "fall back" position in the games industry, as I feel like I have an interest in it, whether or not I'm cut out for it I've yet to find out, but that's really the point of learning. I'm fairly good at math, although my distraction problems have been distracting me, and my grades have sort of went down, but I was pulling an 80 average in advanced math with little focus (The little focus is not something I'm proud of, but everybody makes mistakes, mine just happens to be my later years in high school)
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Old 06-04-2008, 05:58 PM   #10
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Math required for game programming thread:
http://www.gamecareerguide.com/forum...ead.php?t=1295

Info on what a producer does:
http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...on_basics_.php

More info about being a producer/breaking in:
http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...the_other_.php

Big article giving a general overview of game industry jobs (including production and programming)
http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...me_.php?page=1

^Read those links. They should help you.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxface View Post
Well, I haven't really considered producers because I have a very limited knowledge of what jobs are available, and what they do in particular. I've tried to do some research, but with finals coming up, I don't have all the time in the world to do so, and have yet to find a very informative site.

I was unaware that there are online courses. It's not the actual schoolwork that turns me off, it's the environment. It's not that I'm socially awkward or an outcast and whatnot, it's that I tend to prioritize socializing in school as opposed to focusing on my schoolwork, which is why I had considered getting some books and learning myself.

Also to both you and Claxon, programming isn't exactly my "fall back" position in the games industry, as I feel like I have an interest in it, whether or not I'm cut out for it I've yet to find out, but that's really the point of learning. I'm fairly good at math, although my distraction problems have been distracting me, and my grades have sort of went down, but I was pulling an 80 average in advanced math with little focus (The little focus is not something I'm proud of, but everybody makes mistakes, mine just happens to be my later years in high school)
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