back to article UK game-development degrees not up to snuff, claims industry

The UK videogames industry is suffering because UK university courses aren’t equipping students with the right skills needed for the job, a gaming industry campaign group has warned. But it’s also partly the Wii’s fault, apparently. A campaign group called Games Up? – which is backed by several UK gaming firms - claims that only …

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Flame

What, no Introversion?

When I first read this article elsewhere I commented that no one thought of Introversion. It appears here, and once again no one mentions Introversion.

Look them up, English designers, made 3 games, currently making 2 more, very sucessful, small group that make good games.

Just a thought that perhaps The Register, and the creator of the original document, may want to check just a bit better in future before commenting as they are.

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This post has been deleted by its author

but...

erm... game design isnt all about code and comp science. sure you need the game engine but these days 3dmodelling, texturing, story, script writing, character development, sound all need filling too. the coders are usually the ones that just sit writing classes all day while everyone else does the creative stuff (how many code monkeys with any design skills do you see?)

also in this day and age a lot more is focussed on look and feel and there are shit-loads of 3d modellers and artists out there!

if we just relied on coders for games they might run well but would all look like shite

i would also imagine that most positions in gaming are filled by talented people rather than educated people. everyone knows most computing related courses arent worth the paoper they are written on. a lot of computer science people cant even build a pc ffs lol!

and i guess wii is holding everyone back due to the technology (apart from the controllers) being 5 years old. nothing bleeding edge in wii games really

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Flame

Introversion?

Why would anyone mention Introversion though? There are loads of independent game developers in the UK like Introversion (ie. Puppygames, GreyAlien, PomPom, Addictive247, etc. etc. etc.)

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tit-le demanded,

first off, the average age of a gamer before the wii was in their 30's already.

secondly, where is the mention of the brain drain currently going on as canada is giving tax breaks out to anyone in the games industry in attempt to draw them away from the UK - having already usurped our position as 3rd largest producer.

and finally, there is indeed a problem with the games design courses in that the industry is very reluctant to invest time and resources in helping out the universities and students in the first place!

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@robb

don't forget many others such as frontier and zoe mode, who recently won the contract to make konamis rock band alternative title.

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Tis true.

I have a BSc Games Computing (Software Development) from Lincoln University.

It was a typical joke ex-poly 8-hours a week degree, and I cruised a 2:i. There was zero input to any of the courses from the industry, the greatest 'link' was some local fruit machine company.

The vast majority of students graduated with second class honours, still unable to grasp the concept of OO design. The quality of the creative modules was 95% woeful, including my own dreadful, I mean really dreadful 3DS Max work, got marked 2:i standard or higher.

I think one person on my course landed a job in the industry, and he was just one of those gifted programmers. When everyone else was writing console-based fruit machines, he was producing 3D one-arm bandits with shops to spend your winnings. Ho hum.

Still, I got my development skills up to scratch with community development in parallel, and have managed to end up making good money as a business intelligence consultant.

Doesn't help that the games industry has a really terrible reputation for working hours and remuneration.

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Dan
Paris Hilton

shouldn't that be...

...all sectors are “facing a serious decline in the quality of graduates”, which is compounded by the problem that “95 per cent of all degrees are simply not fit any purpose”

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Drought caused by tech-snobbery!!!

As a recent graduate with a 1st class degree (from a so called "Red Brick" university), I find articles such as this make my blood boil! I went to a job fare to talk to some game developers quite recently. They were advertising roles, so i was really excited to speak to them.

After some pleasantries, they asked me "what have you studied" etc, and then asked "What language where you taught?". When I replied JAVA they just laughed at me! No we don't want your CV, bye bye. Mmm. Strange. It didn't matter how good a programmer I was, or what awards I'd won....

And when I do get job interviews, I'm presented with a programming test so obtuse and mathematically complicated, it serves no purpose other than to make me look really stupid. If you want mathematicians don't advertise software roles. If you want dedicated, talent developers who CAN solve mathematical problems outside of a highly stressful interview, then use your brain!! We are taught to use API's to solve complex problems, that why they exist!!

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Stop

National Crisis?

I think not! Maybe students should/are focusing on actual important things... trying perhaps to say, make an actual difference in life? Whoa... thats a problem there eh?

Anon.. because who cares anyway.

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This is news??

Christ ... the quality of graduates has always been shite. I actually quit my degree to enter the "industry". I was told by one of the directors of the company a few years later that I was a good bet as i showed more innate ability than a lot of graduates. To be honest, I wasn't surprised considering some of the graduate interviews i sat in on.

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from all the job adds that I get through.

from all the job adds that I get through one thing is clear, there paying no where near enough for me to want to go an work for them. Maybe they should pay a bit more if they want better people.

e.g. Job in games industry 25k Job in defence writing 3d simulation games 60k

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Pirate

Cash

..pay penuts get ..... people who learned programming from ... one of those computeach type jobbies ><

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Unhappy

We're short of programming skills or game design skills?

Article doesn't make it clear.

Programming skills are a problem. We're not short of people who can script or write C#, Java, Python, etc. We just don't pay enough to attract the good ones. We *are* short of people who laugh at C++ because they realize how poorly a std::list or std::vector performs compared to intrusive lists or fixed-sized arrays. Too much engine code written in a C++ way - try porting that to the Cell.

Of course the problem isn't a lack of British-born people who can do this. The problem is that they pay 2x the money in the USA so they've all gone there.

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Anonymous Coward

Computer science courses are good

I graduated from Imperial College a couple of years ago. The university is currently ranked (not that is really matters) 5th in the world. It definitely has one of the best computer science courses in the world.

The CS course teaches you more than enough to do games programming (which I have done in the past), as well as producing some of the finest programmers around. Some of the people I worked with truly were brilliant. This is my first point: you do not need a computer games degree to make computer games. In fact, I would say a good CS degree is just as valuable (if not more in some cases) to games companies. It creates better programmers in general. So, while 95% of the video game degrees may not be good enough, I would suggest that most of the comp sci ones are

Most people I know from my year (and others) now work in the square mile for various investment banks and hedgefunds, where believe it or not, you do get to do *some* interesting stuff as a programmer.

Starting salary at the bank for me was £45k and others i know got higher. After working 2 years I am on £65. This excludes our yearly bonus, which normally comes in at around 40-50% of our salary (or if you are at a hedge fund, maybe multiples of your salary).

The games companies that offered me jobs were willing to pay £18k/20k. With very little increase, and little-to-no bonus.

Thats why we don't have good programmers going into computer games.

I should add, that from the age of about 15 it was my plan to go into computer game programming. It was something I really did want to do.

This held up until I had nearly finished my masters and was looking for a job.

The salary difference + travel/moving (games companies seem to be based out of london), changed my mind. This was the same for just about everyone else I knew in my 1st year who said they were interested in getting into games.

So, in summary. The games companies can fix this:

- Tell people who are interested to do computer science courses, rather than computer games ones (just make sure you specialise in relevant courses).

- Pay more.

David

This was covered on slashdot the other day also: http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/06/19/1719206

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Flame

Huh?

Robb, what exactly do Introversion have to do with the subject of this article? It might be worth reading the article before responding. This article is about there being a lack of quality game development related degrees in the UK. There are quite a lot of successful UK game development firms, there just isn't a steady stream of well trained new talent.

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Well..

Of course they could take on more trainees and actually skill someone up in the manner that they require but well thats more costly and time consuming than bitching about the education system isn't it??

I somehow doubt a 21 graduate is going to start knocking up a PS3 title right out of uni and I seriously doubt any uni course could properly educate someone to this level given the usual 2-4 hrs lecturing a week on most courses in a couple of years.

Good of the Industry to point out the failings of the University courses though must really inspire all the kids enrolled on them to continue with their studies...

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Alert

Fail to mention an important fact...

Which are the four Universities offering accredited courses?

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Surprise surprise

There's nothing games-industry specific here. Businesses like their costs (eg training) externalised. Eighty percent of employers want somebody who will work 50 hour weeks for under £20K , be 100% up to speed on their second day at the job, show fanatical loyalty for the duration of their project and then bugger off without complaining when they're deemed surplus to requirements. The same companies will offshore to India at the drop of a hat so why exactly should anyone in the UK take any particular notice of what they want?

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Stop

meh

Talking of games development degrees i have a 2.2 from Linc Uni in their Games Computing course, which was quite good only it focussed to heavily on the more academic side of software development than providing us with the practical skills that we would need when we left. As a result many of us ended up getting jobs in the IT Support sector rather than the games sector.

So yeah something needs to be done but I'm wary of anyone that says things like 'The group want centres of excellence for videogame design' as it sounds too much like 'we want to control everything'

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Introversion

Excuse my ignorance, but what have Introversion got to do with games degrees being useless?

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Not just the games industry

University software engineering degrees certainly don't produce good software engineers; indeed, many people manage to obtain a 2:1 or better degree in software engineering without knowing the basics of object oriented design, and with no real experience of programming. I recently interviewed three people with 1sts in software engineering from leading universities, none of whom could tell me how to extract a byte of data from a 32 bit integer.

Having said that, by all accounts the games industry is badly paid, has long hours, and treats its staff like turd, so it's probably for the best if naive graduates don't get suckered into it.

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Paris Hilton

So, to clarify

My tax dollar,er pound, is spent letting a bunch of long haired pot smoking yobs spend 3-4 years in a subsidised pub, do a bit of programming (not difficult, I do it most days) and then sell out to some US company for a few million. And none of it comes back to the tax payer (or specifically me).

81 degrees available to write games. No wonder our education system is completely f^cked up. The should be doing real degreess like being a doctor or something.

Paris - I'm as shocked as she is shocking.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry, what?

@Robb, relevance? Not sure if you're saying "here's an indie uk developer" or what...

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Coat

Hold that thought and extend it.

Gaming degrees not up to scratch? Try Computing degrees in general.

I'll sound like a crusty old grey beard now, but I don't think that Computing qualifications are up to scratch these days at all. Gaming is simply one more industry affected by it.

I see it every day. Where I work we don't hire new starts straight from college as it takes a full year for them the be of any use whatsoever. The need for re-learning and new learngin of fundamental programming technique is amazing.

I saw this process begin as I left my university clutching my degree in my anxious hand years and years ago. Already people with non-numerate degrees were taking post grad diplomas in IT and then claiming that they were suited for jobs in programming. These were the first wave of graduates that went on to become business analysts and consultants. They spent a decade pissing off geeks and techies everywhere.

University/college courses have steadily eroded the basic fundamental programming practice in favor of the latest fashionable language or tool. Courses have become more like training courses in particular development environments. What used to be Computer Science is little more than enhanced vocational training.

How can people come out of university Computing programs and not even know how to do a simple binary sort routine? People interviewing with a couple of years of supposed experience and claiming to be Oracle experts can't explain database normalization, nor do they have a clue about PL/SQL techniques as simple as using a cursor. And it's not about application specific skills like PL/SQL. I'd expect anyone who claimed to be a developer of procedural code in a database environment to at least understand what a cursor is.

In game programming fundamental skills are what is needed. Simulation, Physics, AI, all of these are really classical, pure Computer Science. There used to be degrees on building numerical models to simulate systems and models. Accurately simulating and implementing physics in a game environment requires understanding of that physics and the math involved. Both of these require a good structured approach to the code. AI is a field of science all of it's own, and again requires some very strong fundamental technique. Moving on from this to the programming of the graphics engine, that's not exactly a walk in the park either. Again fundamentals are key.

Yet if you look at many of the degree programs available in Computing and those specifically targeted at game programming. What are they? Superficial education concentrating on tool sets? Accelerated programs designed to bring people through quickly? Hardly the careful, structured approach to fundamentals is it?

But you see, it's the same through the whole field. In real IT in business, it's not about manipulating tools to build a web front end. That's something that any Business analyst can cope with, the tools are there to support it. However, any application still requires some fundamental programming. Any business application build models at least one business process. So the skills needed to analyze and model that process are just as fundamental and important as those used in game programming. However the scale of the application is typically a bit different, as is the tolerance for error and tightness of the deadline.

I'm tired of hearing kids reel off a list of acronyms and names of languages or environments to me at interviews when i know I can stop the cold in their tracks simply by asking them how they would do something without their favorite tool.

I think it's time for universities and colleges to return to a more fundamental and academic basis for their education of engineers, technologists. University and College is supposed to be about education and learning how to research, evaluate and assimilate new knowledge. Fundamental methods, techniques, and facets of the topic of study. University and college should not simply be a training course. Once people graduate they enter the work world and training happens, training in specific tools or methods that the particular place of work uses. University and College is not vocational training school.

There, it's done now. Mine's the 'old crusty BOFH' T-shirt.

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Who?

I've checked out Introversion as you suggest but have no clue as to why you think they're worth mentioning? The articles are about a shortage of properly qualified game designer/programmers because of poor standards in uni courses. Are you suggesting that they could get all their staff from Introversion or that every games company should be that small and not need qualification?

Either that or you're seriously underestimating how many "British" developers there are here as it stands. I highlight that as DMA Design, who became Rockstar North, started in Dundee (where some of the first games-based courses were started some years ago due to a lot of acticity in the area) and moved to Edinburgh. Anyhoo, I just don't see what you're trying to say.

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Stop

Game making degrees

The problem with teaching a subject like games explicitly is that you have to promote fixed models. Arguably one of the UK's strengths in the market has always been unconventional thinking.

Compare the UKs Lemmings, GTA, Elite, Tomb Raider etc with the USA where the-same-sports-game-every-year and another-moody-first-person-shooter have taken over from the film-tie-in-platformer as the commercial game of choice. The Japanese have always been more inventive than the Americans, but new ideas that work in Japan rarely make the crossover successfully (Nintendo being the notable exception), and most of what we see coming from Japan is Final Fantasy type stuff, car sims and flying shooters.

So, after indoctrinating the next generation into how games should work, where are the new ideas going to come from? Or will we become a mere follower of trends, and produce first person shooters that won't sell in America and flying shooters that won't sell in Japan?

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Teaching Game design?

Can it be taught? Surely teaching people the same skills will lead to a raft of identikit games - exactly what we don't need.

Wouldn't it be better to pick individuals with flaire and imagination, then train them up in-house under a mentor scheme, much like the old skool Japanese and British developers?

Just imagine what a games industry full of miyamotos, kojimas, Nakas, and Mizuguchi's could accomplish...

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Camels

Bring Back Jeff Minter - now there was a guy who could write games.

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Hey, if you want the best, you have to pay for it

Just like you do with any other limited talent your business depends on. Like, say, your CEO.

You give him a HUGE pay offer "to get the best" and options "to incentivise". So do the same for these people who do the work you sell.

My brother made very nearly the same wage working in a call centre than he did with his degree for SCI (whose marketing bod [boyfriend of CEO] thought red was a fast colour because his ferrari was red and it was fast).

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Paris Hilton

Well they've changed their tune

Back in the first half of the 1990s I went to an interview at a games company with my shiny new maths & comp sci degree. Not interested they said. We only want bedroom hackers who've already had a game published.

Paris because she knows how to handle a joystick.

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Jobs Horns

David Braben?

Is that the David Braben who co wrote Elite?

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Alert

Degree Shortage and Employee Training

Used to be, in the world where business made sense, that you found capable people and you trained them in the skills they needed to perform the job. This not only resulted in a better product, but (re)enforced employer/employee loyalty. Now a days companies want someone to be able to perform instantly - in return for more job opportunities employees stand a much larger chance of being canned at the first blip in the market. An "Expert in a Box" is a commodity and can be easily replaced - whereas internally trained staff are investments in and of themselves.

Someone said it above that 95% of degrees are crap, and they are correct. School has become it's own end. The school wants to pass out degrees and increase enrollment, not teach people anything useful - so they create "programs" that enhance their internal/government required metrics but destroy any semblance of education.

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@AC

"We *are* short of people who laugh at C++ because they realize how poorly a std::list or std::vector performs compared to intrusive lists or fixed-sized arrays. Too much engine code written in a C++ way - try porting that to the Cell."

Bad example. If the object of your comparison is a fixed size array, then the only thing you might be comparing is the access to an element, and I'm not aware of any compiler that can't make std::vector run as fast as a fixed size array. The compiler generates the same code for the two cases. Try grovelling over a disassembly output some day.

Problems porting to the Cell? Well that might be the switch from a desktop OS with virtual memory to an embedded device with only 256K of directly address memory. I can imagine *many* attitudes that have to change in that case.

However, the Cell's architectural foibles will be ancient history in a couple of years time, just as carefully scheduling instructions for non-OoO processors has been for a decade or so now, and quite definitely *not* doing so for OoO processors might be in a few years time. It is the *duty* of any half-decent programming course to ensure that students *don't* spend the entire time gaining experience with *modern* architectures, because in 10 or 20 years time that experience will be about as useful as my own personal expertise in optimising for 16-bit segmented systems.

Sounds to me like a rather specialised branch of industry doesn't want to pay for itsrather specialised training costs.

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Flame

change the "new" unis back to polys?

Heres a thought....close down all the "new" unis and perhaps the degree quality will go up and perhaps those of us (like me) who struggled through an old uni course and left with a comparitively low mark due to the difficulty of the course...(database normalisation at an advanced level, SQL coding again at an advanced level etc [lack of industry contacts though was a disgrace]) who are stuck in retail might stand a chance without the piles of "new" uni students such as those from a certain dundee university starting with aber.

I say this as prior to the "final" exam I have been they are given a list of 8 questions and told they will be asked 6 of said questions......hmmm trying to ensure a 100% pass rate?

That and the enormous amount of people walking out of there with a 1st who cant even figure out how to assemble a PC or write a program without libraries galore is sad.

Their only reasonable course is their computer games tech course and it is even woeful as its based on tools and *java* and filled with sad old farts and bankrupt ex games 'tycoons'....such as chris van der.....ill stop there.

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Anonymous Coward

Heard this before

A mate of mine working for a reputable games developer told me that as soon as they see they have a 'games' degree they bin the cv. I asked why, and the most important reason is their portfolio of games, each one shows the same 3 or so games that they have been told to make, which are near identical and so show no innovation, talent etc. They far prefer intelligent people, who have by their own interest fired out a load of code to produce some ace games.

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Coat

BRABEN, BRABEN, BRABEN...

... excuse me, just testing if it still works.

A few years back I used to be on a mailing list where we had this superstition that if you said his name three times, he would be summoned. And the funny thing is, it worked. Every time. Let's see if he turns up here to post a comment.

Coat? Ah, thanks, mine's the one with the filthy truth in the pocket...

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extension of dave austin's comment

This brings up an interesting point, in that the problem is more along the lines of industrialising something that specifically does not need to be industrialised, game design is a craft that does not need industrialisation, it needs hedging into exalted communities of geniuses who are entirely free to make precisely what they want, and pass it through great ritual and ceremony to them what pay for them to do so. but of course this will never happen, as that would involve invalidating distribution industries, and we know how thats gone so far.

On a side note, the MDF university what I go to (UWS, formerly Paisley University) is one of the accredited-by-Skillset centres, and i'm pretty sure that Abertay/Dundee is the only other one in Scotland. Having seen this discussion I can understand why. Two comrades from the feeder college I came from gave up less than halfway through their games tech course, simply because they were incapable of keeping up with the literal mountains of physics, hardcore mathematics and similar ardours. I never heard any mention of a single toolset, which they were greatly disheartened on, having spent two pointless years learning Java at college and hoping for more of the same + bells &/ whistles.

Me, I'm happy I jumped onto the net tech bandwagon after years of pining pointlessly for games tech, then realising that its even more hellish (and generally worse paid) than.. well, tech support.

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@heard this before

Interestingly, leeds met uni don't make their students design the same games. They give their students concept briefs and tell them to make a game out of it as long as it incorporates key elements.

They don't say "you will reproduce this game", they make each group or student come up with their own narrative.

They were told that they are banned from making FPS games and focus heavily on the concept document.

At one point they even emulated the teaching staff as publishers by introducing a new game element every week - which lead my GF's team to creating a quest based game set in a bus depot on the moon whilst trying to assemble scuba gear for their dieing teacher >.<

At the end of each project, they have to host a presentation where they pitch their game to the teaching staff and that pitch makes up part of the grading mark.

But as I said waaaay back in the comments, the biggest failing point I can see is that the industry is taking very little interest in helping Uni's with guiding these courses - you whinge about the quality of skills coming out of uni when you make zero damn effort to get involved too.

Tho, I have to admit that leeds met uni have been getting local games studios involved after seeing team 17, sumo digital, rockstar leeds and a few others host lectures there this past year alone!

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Flame

Self-inflicted

Having spent a decade working in games, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is pure bullshit.

The games industry requires the same skills as at least a dozen other fields but is completely unwilling to pay for any training or development of staff. Demanding that universities fill your niche training requirements is arrogant, ineffectual and the cause of the so-called "skills shortage".

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You sir are an ass

"My tax dollar,er pound, is spent letting a bunch of long haired pot smoking yobs spend 3-4 years in a subsidised pub, do a bit of programming (not difficult, I do it most days) and then sell out to some US company for a few million. And none of it comes back to the tax payer (or specifically me)."

Wake up. Students pay their own way. Perhaps you were deliberately trying to sound like a foolish bigot in your post but you should be aware that the government dont subsidise students anymore. We get loans and then have to pay them off with inflated interest thus helping keep you in your over-mortgaged home.

If the games industry wants to attract graduates maybe they should try and support those with academic skills and no industry skills. I retrained from a science degree to a computing degree at the same time as working (and paying tax) achieveing the highest possible grade. Similarly to Rob Lyon I went to the uk game conference last year and was told that I shouldnt even bother with the game industry if I couldnt write low level C++ and a complete game engine.

I'm not that bothered. I dont want to work for another bloated, backward, corporate monster anymore anyway. They wan't new blood because they want to steal their ideas. Make them sign a non-disclosure agreement. (see terms of contract saying all inventions at work belong to the company). My advice to all is, write as much of a game as you can yourself, get help from friends and forum users and ignore the computer game companies. Release it yourself and do it your way.

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not specific to games, software in general

A lot of the comments on here have backed it up too, if the course is games design, then you need to give examples of your design skills in your interviews. The problem isn't coding skills, any monkey can pick up coding skills. Its around full software development, of which coding is only a small part. A game development is made up of a lot of different skillsets, coders being one small, pretty unremarkable, part.

I did a software engineering degree, and i too, focussed on the coding aspect, but now i'm actually a proffessional i've found coding to be a minimal part of the job.

You need to be able to design the software in the first place, spot and resolve problems in an abstract way before it goes anywhere near a graphic designer or a coder. Coding skills help, but are not particularly essential for design, as a good design will be independant of the final language.

If you want to become a games programmer, fair play to you, but again you need far more than just coding skills. Documentation (yes that included knowing how to comment your code properly) design, architecture etc are all essential, or you will end up being nothing more than a coding monkey*. Documentation is particularly important if you expect anyone but youreslf to actually use your code, and thare aren't that many lone game developers out there anymore, doing it proffessionally anyway.

*affectionate name (sort of) for the coders who are given a spec which details step by step exactly what they need to do and the way in which they need to do it, rather than be given a design and expected to emply any sort of thought/creativity in their coding.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Rob Lyon

I agree the company shouldn't turn you down just because your uni only taught Java.

But your complaint about math in interview exams is invalid, if you can't do the math yourself without wasting time trying to figure it out on the fly you can't be sure you're doing it right.

They need people who can do the math off the top of their head and that hence know that they're following the right procedure.

I used to feel like you but experience has taught me that you do need to be able to do math for these types of job. If it's that that's stopping you getting a job may I suggest you consider doing some math courses from the likes of the Open University (www.open.ac.uk) or similar?

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Anonymous Coward

thought

If they want high quality recruits why don't they pool their resources and create a private institution, instead of going cap in hand and begging the state?

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Happy

That's funny..

I finished an HND here in Dundee, and most of the people I knew advised me *not* to take the games course at Abertay, and go instead for Applied Computing at Dundee. I see why now =)

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Pirate

A view from a games degree graduate and industry professional.

I graduated from the BSc(Hons) Computer Games Technology degree at Abertay in 2005 with a 2:2. I've been working in the Games Industry as a Software Engineer since June of 2005.

Getting a Desmond wasn't an ideal way to end my academic career but thanks to me being able to prove my skills I still got an 'in'. Getting a first isn't mandatory if you are able to prove your skills although I'd heartily recommend it as it looks better on your CV!

If you really want to work in the Games Industry in any form of programming position you are going to have to demonstrate your skills with a polished demo. Especially coming into it as a graduate. This could be a complete small game or some form of tech demo if you are applying for a more physics/rendering oriented job. You should also be able to provide the source or code samples that show you understand Software Engineering concepts. It doesn't have to be beautiful but it shouldn't be a mess of hacked together rubbish!

Going back to the subject of education, at a degree level you essentially get out what you put in. The lectures, tutorials and assignments give you a base level of knowledge. It is up to the student to get out there and learn more. Universities recognise this and give a lot of students a ludicrously large amount of free time. This in part gives you a chance to up your academic grade (important!) but leaves a large amount of time where you can make games or learn techniques (e.g. the demo mentioned above). You can also fill in the gaps that the degree doesn't teach; for example project management, software estimation, technical documentation and mathematics.

Selection of degree is also important. There are some really dross Computer Science and Games Development courses available. There are also some really good ones although fewer in the latter category. Apply to the very best institutions that you meet the grade requirements for. If you can't get on to one of the good Games courses or want a more general education then apply to the good CS courses. It won't hold you back in my opinion.

Games development is becoming more and more about being a good communicator as well. As the average team size ramps up this is fast becoming a core skill. The ability to explain problems to people of varying technical expertise is important. A healthy and varied social life is important. The days of the anti-social uber nerd with bad hygiene and no interpersonal skills are numbered.

Universities and educators also need to wake up and supply quality content to their students. They need to be more discriminating about who they take on as a course with decent content will be as challenging as many top CS degrees. Games Development Studios also need to work with the universities to provide information about their requirements and if necessary review course components. This will never be critical to the business but is important if the talent we want is to be found.

The other criticisms regarding poor working practices, low-pay and long hours are all valid reasons the games industry doesn't attract staff. Hopefully these things are being addressed. For the record in the three years I've worked in industry I've perhaps done a total of 6 hours overtime. Pay still isn't great but I've worked at a couple of forward thinking studios with regards working practices.

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It's the professors, not the school

I don't believe that there are good or bad universities, just teachers that are better or worse. Unless you're a classic self-starter (e.g. Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Richard Feynman), the real purpose of universities is to increase the chances that you will bump into someone dedicated to the life of the mind who will by example show how much entertainment and utility hide in the outer convolutions. It is by their interest and enthusiasm that great teachers communicate a love for their subject. Sometimes you take away a shared appreciation of that subject, sometimes you just take away the desire to find something that moves you as deeply. In either case you are fortunate. Many grab the sheepskin and run, never having had the experience which in any case can never be guaranteed.

(Reminds me of an old joke: "You may not know the right answers, but at least you'll learn how to ask the right professors...")

If you go back to the origins of the university, you'll find that they were student associations that paid standout lecturers and standup philosophers to entertain them, much as fanboys gravitated to Plato in the grove of the Academy. Later on came the transformation of the university into the institution of primary importance and of the professor into a mere university employee (with few exceptions). In the origins of the university lie the original reason for and the true utility of university education.

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Joke

UK games = Quality, US games = Quantity

I think I've found the reason why there is such a gulf between the skills and abilities that the industry craves, and what the average student crawls out of tertiary education with... "accredited by the Skillset, the government monitoring body"

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