Professional game designers need some pretty hardcore skills. They need computer programming, digital animation, physics and math skills. This is to enter what was in 2005 a 31 billion-dollar-a-year industry worldwide. The road is not easy to land that prized job at the major game making companies such as Electronic Arts and Sony. There are four ways to get the knowledge necessary to make video games depending on if you want to compete for an elite job at one of the big companies or if you just want to tinker around on weekends. Also, you have to take into consideration your age. There are different options available for adults as compared to minors. You could spend four years at a traditional university. You could spend two or more years at a specialty school. There are summer camps available for teens, usually two week programs. And finally there are online tutorials. If you’re like me, you’re an adult who has some creative ideas but who doesn’t want to devote a lot of time to creating video games. I’m going to run down the options available in this article and then I will tell you what worked for me at the end.
First there are traditional college game design courses. Many fall under the title of digital media degrees. The advantage of a traditional design course is that some students get immediate job offers from the big corporations. When these corporations recruit they usually go to these schools. The major disadvantage of these schools is the cost. A degree can cost close to $100,000 for an out of state student. Then you have to add in the cost of the extra years spent on courses unrelated to video game creation but required by the school for a degree. I’m talking about the foreign languages, English and some sciences. This time could be spent earning money creating games. Another drawback is that they are limited to high school graduates only. Also due to their inflexibility in schedule, a working adult with a family would find it impossible to participate. The most popular traditional schools for video game making are Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon and USC.
Next, there are the specialty colleges. These colleges are created specifically to train people on the vocation they choose. They differ in that some were created only to train game makers like Digipen and Fullsail. Others have a variety of offerings like Devry and ITT tech. Either way, once you start, you immediately get into game design courses. Some of these schools get immediate job offers for their graduates. They range in length from 18 month programs to 3 year programs with accelerated training paths. They tend to not be as expensive as traditional schools; however, you will be shelling out quite a bit of money. The schools that specialize only in game making have schedules that are just as inflexible as traditional colleges. The multi offering institutions usually have more flexibility. Some offer evening classes or even online classes. Again, like traditional colleges most are limited to high school graduates, but the multi offering schools do offer more options to working adults.
Next on the list are summer camps. These camps are starting to pop up with more frequency ever summer. They teach minors under the age of 19. This give focused training on game creation for either a full or half a day. Most programs are from one to two weeks long. This is great for that period of time when there is not much to do. It also gives kids a chance to make friends with other kids who share the same interest. However, these pluses come with a cost and usually a pretty substantial one. They can run two to three times more expensive than traditional summer camps and day care. And while their schedules fit the lives of many kids they do not fit the schedule of kids with other commitments like sports. Many of them run their program for one or two week periods during the summer. Then there is the fact that summer vacation has to be planned around camp instead of the other way around. This can be a pain. A couple of the more popular camps are Emagination and iD Tech Camps. Both of these camps are sponsored by colleges.
The final options are online tutorials that teach video game creation. Most are low cost or free. They are downloadable so the access is immediate. Suitable for any age and will give you the ultimate in flexibility as far as scheduling. Heck, you use it when you’re good and ready, be it 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning. So what are the drawbacks? Well, some can be hard to follow, especially the all text tutorials. There are plenty of multimedia tutorials out there that are easier to follow; however, there is almost always a part where the tutorial doesn’t match up with what’s on your screen. At that point, there is no one to call and you either figure it out or get frustrated and quit. A couple of sites with tutorials are juniorgamemaker.com and yoyo games.
Now for my decision. Because I am a working man and I do not want game making to be a profession, the college option was ruled out. Even going to an online college would be a hassle due to the time it would take and the cost is prohibitive. I’ve got three kids lined up for college in the not to distant future so I have to watch my spending. Of course at my age, I can’t do a summer camp, however, I find it hard to schedule one for my kids because of softball, football, vacations and other things that pop up over the summer. For me my best option is the downloadable video tutorials.