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I'm in graduate school for computer science and the department is offering a game design class. This is the only class that is offered by the cs department that has anything to do with games.

I have been focusing on software engineering and computer graphics in my studies so far and have to choose between this game design course and a course that focuses on GPUs and Visualization in a virtual reality environment.

I think both would be fun, but in the long run I want to make games. Either as a hobby or professionally. I feel that I will eventually work for a software company and do game development on the side, after hours, until I was able to support myself doing it.

I've never actually created a game yet. I've just been studying software engineering, graphics, and have read a couple books on game design.

The class is project based. We are put into teams and told to make a prototype with development times of like 2 weeks( first project ), 4 weeks( second project ), and 6 weeks( final project ). I do feel like the class is basically learn on your own with the pressure of a deadline to get you motivated.

Does this sound like a class that would be helpful? Everything I would learn in the other class, which I feel would be advancing my graphics skills, I also want to learn either on my own or in class.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Byte56 Dec 27 '13 at 15:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I think you need to define your goals better. This is a bit like asking whether you should buy a black couch or white one. –  stephelton Jan 5 '12 at 19:59
    
So basically, you are hoping to take this game dev course in the name of interest, not career, at this point in time. (?) –  Cardin Jan 6 '12 at 0:43

5 Answers 5

The experience of making a game will be beneficial to your education. However, the class itself isn't necessary to get this experience and will not likely factor much into your hiring potential upon graduation.

Since you've never made a game before, this can be a great learning process, but you don't actually need the classroom context to do it unless you feel you won't be motivated enough otherwise (in which case you may need to seriously rethink your choice of career). In fact, because of your relative inexperience with that process you may find yourself at a disadvantage to your peers, resulting in your struggling in the class.

My advice is to take the non-project course and start trying to make a simple game or two on your own as an extra-curricular activity. This will get you some experience with the task of actually building and completing games, which will make you feel more comfortable when you eventually work in a team environment to do so (either later as part of a different class, or as another independent study type of project). It will also be something you can refer to upon graduation, while you're looking for jobs, and say "I did this on my own because it interested me," and that's usually a interesting point for employers.

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I think the only thing you can possibly get from this question is personal opinions, so bear in mind that the choice is entirely up to you. With that said, I'll speak for myself, and from my own experience, because I've been through both types of classes before, although there's no guarantee that the rewards you'll get from your classes were the same I got from mine.

My opinion is that, if your game design class is just going to be a "learn on your own with a deadline to motivate you" class, then you might as well just do that on your own and take the course on graphics programming instead, since that one should at least teach you some concrete techniques. It depends on how much you think you're capable of motivating yourself at home.

I've learnt a lot from working on projects for university courses, but now that I'm about finished with my degree, I look back and can't help but feel that the projects I did for those courses, I might as well have done them at home for my own personal gain. On the other hand, the most technical courses, like the one I had on graphics programming, were probably the most useful of the bunch.

So, if you aren't usually capable of motivating and challenging yourself with personal projects, you might want to take the game design course to force you into working on something. Otherwise, I'd go with the graphical programming course, which should increase your personal "toolbox".

The bottom line is, to learn how to make a game, you'll need to get your hands dirty and actually start working on one. But if you really enjoy game development, then you shouldn't need to take a course just to force you to work on one. In that perspective, you should probably invest on the course that actually gives you new knowledge, as opposed to the one that just "forces you to work".

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First, it is best to talk to the teacher and see what would be involved in the curriculum. One good thing you mentioned is that it will have group projects- these are more beneficial to filling your games portfolio as 1. You can contribute to a larger project with a grander scope when there are several people involved, especially if you are new to game programming, and 2. It will show that you can work collaboratively with other people.

As you are inexperienced with making games, it will really help that you practice on your own time. What worries me is that while working with a team is rewarding, your relative lack of experience may be perceived as a bottleneck to your peers. Basically, you don't want to look like the "lazy one" of the team if you truly are interested in taking this path.

It would be helpful to know how long have you been involved in software engineering (either as a hobby or professionally). Have you finished any software projects in the past? I don't know what your undergraduate degree is and if it relates to software development. But if you understand basic algorithms and data structures, and have finished other programming projects, you should be okay.

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I generally agree with the sentiment of "just make a project on your own time," and the GPU/viz class sounds awesome and useful.

However, another factor to consider is: would it be beneficial to essentially get credit for working on your own thing? You are paying for an education, so it makes sense to get the most bang for your buck out of it, but at the same time that GPU/viz class is going to require a certain amount of hours (days?) out of your week for reading, assignments, projects, etc.

Would it be valuable to you to pass on the class in order to have more time to work on a project?

You also didn't talk much about the GPU/viz class. Have you talked to anyone who has taken that class before? Will you learn things that you couldn't also learn on your own? This past semester I had a similar choice: a project-oriented game class or a DSP class geared toward music majors.

Ultimately the DSP class was the way to go, since I could just study as needed for that class and crap out a final project while I worked on my senior project (which actually needs to be good since it's a graduation requirement). However, because it was geared toward music majors (read: slower pace) I felt at the end that I could've gotten away with reading the notes of someone who had taken the class in a previous semester and learned about as much as I did.

So learn as much about both classes as possible, talk to people who took them. But, also evaluate the people you're talking to about the class. Someone may recommend a class saying "It changed my life, gave me otherwise unobtainable foundational knowledge for the work I'm doing now," but how much did this person know going in? You may already be ahead of the curve if you've been pursuing these interests independently.

And remember with these classes, they will both be just the start of your education in their specific areas. You'll learn a lot about game production taking the game project class, but it will be game production knowledge specific to the environment created. You'll learn a lot about graphics programming and creating visualizations in the GPU/viz class, but it will be in the scope of the syllabus which is designed to reasonably accomodate getting as many people in the class educated about the material up to a certain point as it can.

Bottom line: Throughout your life you'll take on other projects and learn infinitely more things about both of these subjects. The classes are a mere introduction. Pick the one you suck at.

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In my opinion it seems easier to just spend your free time on developing games to get a feel for it. Once you start working on a game you will quickly find out where the gaps in your knowlegde about all the aspects of game development lie. From there you can focus on getting this specific information. Save's a lot of time avoiding to learn all kinds of general stuff.

It seems like you have some programming knowlegde and skills, the usefullness of taking several classes is the fact you may find people you can work with that have different skills.

Developing games is not just about being a programmer or for that matter designer, you will need to have some skill in a lot of specialities.

If you are looking for decent tools / tutorials etc google really is your friend.

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