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I have no idea what Major to pick in college, how are careers in Computer Science

TearlachTearlach Registered User new member
edited September 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
Working in the video game industry has always been sort of a dream of mine, just to be a part of the whole thing in some way, but the only realistic way I can see of doing so would be to get a degree in CS and become a programmer. And I've heard that the jobs are sort of boring and tedious for video game programmers. And I also heard that when you start programming them, you sort of lose the enjoyment of playing them(but I've had a few people say different things where that's concerned).

And what are other good ways to work in the industry(and what college majors are associated with those jobs), as working in video games is, until I can think of something I'd like better, very high on the 'what I'd like to do' list of careers.

Tearlach on

Posts

  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Most jobs in the videogames industry are that of code-monkeys. Don't expect to do creative work any time soon.

    I don't have an idea on what you're good at, but "the industry" also needs people doing the sales etc.

    Aldo on
  • PhilodoxPhilodox Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    A better question: do you enjoy programming?

    Philodox on
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  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Lewisham on
  • TearlachTearlach Registered User new member
    edited September 2007
    I'm not entirely sure how much I like programming, as I have little experience going into my first year here at college, but I'm taking a C# programming class that will count as a Gen ed if I decide to switch from Computer Science.

    That thread Lewisham linked to says that for every programmer there's 2-3 artists. Does that mean it's easier to become an artist? because it seems to me that between the two artist would be the preferable job anyway.

    Tearlach on
  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Tearlach wrote: »
    That thread Lewisham linked to says that for every programmer there's 2-3 artists. Does that mean it's easier to become an artist? because it seems to me that between the two artist would be the preferable job anyway.

    No, it just means that there are twice as many artists. If you are equally unsuited for both, your chance of getting either job remains 0%.

    I would expect if you hadn't realised your artistic streak by now, you have very much missed that boat.

    Lewisham on
  • TearlachTearlach Registered User new member
    edited September 2007
    Yeah, you're probably right on that. I've always been good at art, but I certainly doubt I've practiced enough at it to compete at a college or higher level.

    Tearlach on
  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Try and think about jobs you want to do that don't involve games, like PR, marketing, graphical design, sales, that sort of thing. Try and do these. If you like your job, it won't matter that you aren't in the games industry.

    Then when you have a career, try and head towards businesses in the game industry and do the job you like there.

    Games is not the destination, the job is. It took me a long time to realise this.

    Lewisham on
  • zilozilo Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    I should probably put together a post on what I did to get into the game industry as a programmer. We've got enough of these threads that a semipermanent one-stop resource might be a good idea.

    Anyway, yeah, I just took a job in the industry last week. Being a programmer in the game industry is kind of a different beast from working in other fields (I used to be a web application developer). It's certainly more creative than your "normal" programming job, but it's still programming. There's fun work and there's crappy tedious work; if you're lucky you'll end up at a place that spreads the boring stuff around rather than dumping it all on the most junior programmer.

    If I could go back and do it again I'd still major in computer engineering or computer science but I'd take it farther and spend a lot more time on linear algebra and the like. I'd write a lot more code outside class and I'd make a much stronger effort to create a full game demo my senior year. I kind of screwed around a lot playing Everquest and drinking; those two "hobbies" are directly responsible for me not getting the job I wanted out of college. I went back to grad school 2 years later and did much better but if I'd had my shit together back then I might not have needed that extra degree to make myself marketable.

    One thing you should probably accept right off the bat: jobs in the game industry are extremely competitive. Any entry level job gets more applications than you can possibly imagine. Consider this: Microsoft gets 60,000 applications per year for the entire company. Blizzard gets 6,000. That's right, the largest software company in the world gets a mere ten times as many applications as a game company that staffs maybe 500 people.

    More fun facts: 90% of applications get thrown out immediately for being completely unqualified to work in the game industry. Every 22 year old with a fresh CS degree thinks they can cut it. They can't. Nobody cares what your degree says, they care about what you've done. Coasting through your degree program will not get you a job in this industry.

    If I could offer once piece of advice to someone starting college with the intent of getting into game programming, it would be this: ace your intro to programming classes and then work twice as hard on demo code until you graduate.

    zilo on
  • TearlachTearlach Registered User new member
    edited September 2007
    Those are helpful and interesting points zilo. If I decide I like programming and that it's what I'm going for, I'll keep them in mind. I still don't really know what I'm going to do though.

    Tearlach on
  • MuridenMuriden Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    If I could offer once piece of advice to someone starting college with the intent of getting into game programming, it would be this: ace your intro to programming classes and then work twice as hard on demo code until you graduate.

    This is exactly what I've heard from the majority of my professors.
    A degree means you're familiar with accepted coding styles and know a good deal about what to do with them. But it all counts for nothing unless you can show them what you know.

    Getting a foot in the door with the industry means making a demo, making a mod to an existing game or something along those lines. Think about it like this you make a flash game that is simple yet extremely fun and intuitive you host it and it gains lots of attention. Now that this is associated with you you have a bit of a name. Canidate A fresh from school has never done anything other than acedemia. You have a degree as well and have already made something that people love and enjoy. You have a considerable advantage over Canidate A.

    Muriden on
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  • zilozilo Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Tearlach wrote: »
    Those are helpful and interesting points zilo. If I decide I like programming and that it's what I'm going for, I'll keep them in mind. I still don't really know what I'm going to do though.

    When I started out as a freshman I had no idea what I was going to do either. I actually started in mechanical engineering, thinking I'd work on engine design or something at a car manufacturer. I switched to computer engineering after my first semester and to be honest, kinda hated that too. I had no particular talent at programming when I started out and I didn't particularly enjoy it either, but I stuck with it because I liked working with computers and solving complex problems. Now I love it and I can't imagine doing anything else.

    Nobody expects you to know what you want to do with your life at 18, so don't sweat it. Try a few different things and when you find something you enjoy, throw yourself into it 100% and you'll be fine.

    zilo on
  • HalberdBlueHalberdBlue Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    I recently changed my mind on wanting to work in the game industry after doing a whole lot of reading about it. I did collect a few links that might be helpful. I recommend reading everything.

    General Links:
    Gamasutra

    GameDev.net

    GamesIndustry.biz

    Getting In:
    IGDA Forums (probably the most important link among these)

    Sloperama (dozens of articles ALL about getting into the Game Industry

    Tiny Subversions - Blog mainly about getting into the Game Industry


    I read pretty much all of these pages several hours a day for a couple months. If I had to condense it into a small list of what it takes if you are dead set on getting into the industry:

    -Do projects on your own time: flash games, mods, etc.
    -Network with people in the industry by going to IGDA meetings, conferences, etc.
    -Most people say that where you got your degree doesn't matter (however, that doesn't mean that where you get your degree doesn't affect your networking opportunities) but you DO need a college degree

    If it helps, the part that convinced me that the game industry wasn't for me was doing projects on my own time. I used to do this. I used to do this ALL THE TIME. When I was like 8-15 (yes 8, not a typo) about 95% of my free time was spent programming my own games, making mods, making maps etc. I eventually lost interest and I can hardly even force myself to do it anymore. In hindsight it seems obvious that the game industry wasn't for me, but after spending almost my entire life (not including when I was too young to remember anything) doing things that a game programmer/designer would do it was very difficult to convince myself that it wasn't what I wanted to do.

    Of course what you want out of a career might be different than me. Personally, I want a career that when I wake up in the morning I look forward to going to work, and it pays the bills, and there is job security. If its not something I'd do as a hobby then I don't think I'd want to make a career out of it. If you're looking for something different then my advice probably isn't very useful :P

    HalberdBlue on
  • noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Don't worry about what major to pick just yet. Take a bunch of different classes and see what you like. Me and three other friends all started as computer science majors, mainly because like you we thought it would be cool to work on videogames. I think only one of us continue down that path. Myself, I realize how much I enjoyed writing, and started to take more writing/lit classes. Now I'm trying to finish an English degree while at the same time working on a novel. I'm happy with my choice.

    So take classes, look at the ones that you do good at. Because chances are that if you're doing good, you're probably paying attention, which means the subject itself is interesting enough to hold your attention.

    noir_blood on
  • aesiraesir __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2007
    Do you want to spend the next few decades spending 60 hours a week in front a computer looking at letters and numbers?

    aesir on
  • DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Lewisham wrote: »

    Hehe, thanks there, good buddy :)

    For the OP, since you're not hell-bent on designing the next Elder Scrolls game right out of college, your expectations are a little bit more realistic than the usual posts of this kind. Actually, being a programmer or an artist is still quite a hard job to get (and do). The reason there are more artists now than programmers is generally because a lot of game content is simply artistic in nature - 3D art, textures, menus, fonts, you name it. Most of this is created anew for each game, whereas programming content is often reused.

    You'll find, for example, that the same game engines or libraries are reused in vastly different games, simply because rendering a 3D world and physics that roughly correspond to real-world physics is the same whether you're fighting space zombies or RPGing among Dark Elves. As a small example, there's a company that makes its money sellling a software component called SpeedTree that is used in Oblivion, Saints Row, and many, many other games that require realistic and quickly-rendered foliage. So, this company employs a bunch of programmers who spend all day thinking about how to render more realistic bushes faster. This is because trees, bushes, and grass look pretty much the same no matter what game they're in, and it's sort of pointless for 50 different games to develop 50 different tree-rendering algorithms.

    Custom game-specific programming often consists of writing the "glue" that binds all these off-the-shelf components together, and then scripts that implement the actual game logic.

    So it's not easier to be an artist in some way (I think being a good artist requires more natural aptitude than most other professions), it's just that there's a greater need for artists than programmers in game development these days. Now if you just want to be involved in the industry and don't mind being in a more peripheral role, there are lots of support positions available. A guy I know, for example, is in the gaming industry and does localization support. That means he's part of the team responsible for making sure that all the text in some game gets translated from English to German or Polish or Chinese or whatever. People like him also make sure that all kinds of different national standards are adhered to so games can get released internationally. Did you know that in Fallout 1, they had to make the bad guys bleed green blood in some international versions because you weren't allowed to depict realistic human violence (and get an acceptable rating for the sales people)? Another localized version of Fallout 1 had to change all references to "drugs" to "chems" for similar reasons. People have to negotiate and think about all these things, and these people are neither designers, nor programmers, nor artists. But they're still necessary.

    Plus, of course, game companies need everything that other companies do. They need IT departments and HR people to do hiring and firing and benefits management, and office managers and secretaries and translators and general counsel (lawyers) and people to write documentation, and everything else under the sun. If you're willing to deal with being "on the periphery" as it were, you have a host of ways of being in and around the gaming industry. This is what budding actors in Hollywood have been doing for years. Many of your favorite actors got their start as production assistants (gofers) on other productions.

    As for programming specifically (since you asked), programming can be a rewarding, fun, and challenging job (or part of your job). I would not characterize it, as 'aesir' suggests, as "spending 60 hours a week in front a computer looking at letters and numbers." Fred Brooks, Jr., who wrote The Mythical Man Month and later won the Turing Award (the Nobel Prize-equivalent in computer science), wrote the best description of what programming is like.
    The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be. ... The computer resembles the magic of legend in this respect, too. If one character, one pause, of the incantation is not strictly in proper form, the magic doesn't work. Human beings are not accustomed to being perfect, and few areas of human activity demand it. Adjusting to the requirement for perfection is, I think, the most difficult part of learning to program.

    In a very real way, programming is like living in the world of Harry Potter. You have to study and go to school to learn the arcane arts. Complex creations require intense effort and concentration. You can create anything you can imagine, but you have to intone and wave your wand perfectly or else the spell blows up in your face. And there are as many Neville Longbottoms as Hermione Grangers.

    The second smartest thing about programming was said by Richard Gere in the movie Pretty Woman, although I have to paraphrase a bit:
    People's reactions to (programming) the first time they (do) it is very dramatic. They either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.

    Try it out. Many people I know love computers and make a very successful living in computer jobs, but they don't understand or enjoy programming one whit. These guys could set up a secure MySQL instance running on Apache with the latest Debian distribution and every conf file customized up to a gnat's ass faster than I can say "rackmount server," but if you whisper something about compilers to them, they run in terror. My point is that programming isn't a job you should do because you don't have a better idea, and it may not be possible for you to learn to love it. If you find you hate programming after giving it a fair shake, find something else to do. There are many places in the world to go.

    DrFrylock on
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