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  • Five Common Mistakes In Choosing Masters Programs For Video Games

    - David McClure

  • Mistake 2. Making Insufficient Preparations

    Like any commitment of time and resources, undertaking a Masters degree is, to some extent, a gamble. However, as with all forms of gambling, by preparing properly and making decisions with enough forethought, it is possible to increase the likelihood of success. Before the course begins, you should make certain preparations so that you are more likely to, as it were, win big.

    Consider Costs

    Do you have the required capital available to give yourself a good chance of success? It is important to make sure that you do not place yourself in a difficult financial position that results in lower grades, or an unsuccessful outcome. If you cannot afford to take a course at the current time, it may well be sensible to work for another year and save as much money as you can so that if you take the course the next year, you are likely to achieve a higher level of success.

    When looking at the cost of a course, you need to include not only the fee payable to the university, but also the following: living expenses; the price of any necessary equipment, books and software; transport costs; lost earnings. If possible, it is prudent to include a small contingency fund in your plans, so as to mitigate unforeseen problems. Once your total costs are tallied, you should compare them to the value of the outcome. You should also consider what other options might be possible with this sum of money.

    Read In Advance

    During the period between your signing up to the course and the course commencing, you should read around the course as much as possible. What is important at this point is to focus your reading so that it will strengthen your weaker areas, rather than reinforcing your strong points. Where a reading list for individual classes or general topics is available, you should consider this a starting point. However, such a reading list will, more likely than not, be based in a broad approach to the entire subject matter of the course. If you are entirely new to the study of games, this may well be useful for you.

    If you have already read many of the classic texts on play and games, it probably will not be. Unfortunately, none of your prospective tutors are likely to draw up personalised reading lists for you, so you will have to do it for yourself. By using your knowledge of the course content and the academics involved in teaching it, you should be able to come to some sort of conclusion as to which areas you are weak in. You can then act to prevent these weaknesses from being your downfall, a task that will be much easier at this stage than after the course starts.

    Mistake 3. Failing To Communicate Properly

    Of the problems that occur during the course, many are easily solved by dialogue with academics and classmates. When people work together, few problems are truly insurmountable. However, without a conscious effort on your part to ensure a good level of communication, such cooperation and assistance is unlikely. Maintain good communication links as far as possible.

    Flag-Up Problems Immediately

    At some point during the course, a problem will occur. Regardless of the nature of the problem, you should immediately notify the academic responsible for that area of your work. This may seem a somewhat dramatic approach to problems, but it is actually a sensible and reasonable way to proceed. You should tell your supervisor that a problem has occurred but that you intend to solve it by following a certain path. They may then offer advice, and either way the problem is likely to be solved without any further trouble.

    However, should the problem persist, to the point that the quality of your work is affected, they will be able to take some steps to prevent these problems from getting further out of hand. Suppose you are involved in group work, and one fellow refuses to do any work at all. No doubt, he has his reasons. If you raise this problem with an academic as soon as it appears, then they will be able to help solve it. If, however, you wait until you submit the work, then the academic will be unable to do anything and he will have profited from you working on his behalf. The cost of bringing problems up is negligible, whereas the cost of solving problems that have been left to fester is often made exponentially more severe over time.

    The Problem Of The Ideal Reader

    When writing, it is often considered good practice to aim at the ideal reader. This is often thought of as an intelligent, educated person with a reasonable level of general knowledge and culture. If you explain terms unnecessarily, then this reader will rapidly tire of the patronizing nature of the text. If you leap into jargon filled paragraphs referencing obscure notions, then this reader will be dismayed and confused. This simple concept is extremely useful to bear in mind when writing.

    Unfortunately, in practice, each person's idea of what constitutes the ideal reader is different. There is a real risk that you may take uncommon interests of your own and incorrectly assume that other people share them. What may seem to be common knowledge to you may well not be. One technique that is often incorrectly assumed to be likely to prevent such a problem arising, is to ask your friends to read through your text before you submit it. However, there is a reasonable chance your friends share your interests, and thus this uncommon knowledge. Likewise, a high profile event or exhibition related to the subject is not a sufficient basis to assume knowledge on the part of your audience. If your audience has no interest in the field, then they are unlikely to have come across this information or paid attention to it. So, to some extent, it is better to assume ignorance of knowledge than possession of it.

    There is a solution to this problem, at least for work submitted during your studies, which is to consider the academics involved in the course as the model of your ideal reader. They are, after all, your target audience when submitting work. Such an approach is perhaps the best way to approach a bad situation. If you have properly researched these academics then you may be able to predict to some extent their knowledge on various subjects. Even so, in this case it is probably better to be cautious than to be bold.


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