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I'm in the last year of my college and going to university next year. Could you tell me what the difference between Software Engineering and Computer Games Technology is?

I know a bit of both but don't know the actual difference. I'm kind off in a dilemma between these two. I want to be a programmer, I'd love to go into gaming but I heard getting a job within a computer games company is really hard.

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What makes you think these are different things? Is that two different courses that you can take? To me the former is a part of the latter. –  Laurent Couvidou Nov 29 '12 at 12:31
    
When you say you're '... in the last year of your college and going to university...', do you mean you're taking up a Masters degree or a Bachelors degree? 'College' in different places could mean different. For example, in India, college is usually where one gets their Bachelors degree, while in US college is like the next step to high-school and Universities are where they go for Bachelors degree. –  Vite Falcon Nov 29 '12 at 16:31
    
@ViteFalcon It have a feeling it's an area where you go from high school into college for ~2 years(?) then move on to university for ~2 years(?) to get the degree. In this case the college serves as prep classes (gen. eds. in America and intro courses to get a better idea of what degree they want to get before jumping in). –  Orin MacGregor Nov 29 '12 at 17:28
    
what school, is the course catalog online? Would love to read both and then give an answer. –  nycynik Nov 29 '12 at 18:25
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3 Answers

At my school we have both a Software Engineering (SE) programme and Games Development(GD) programme(which focuses on game programming & technology). Both are 4 year bachelor degrees(B.Sc).

Both programmes have a lot in common, stuff that every programmer should know

  • programming
  • s/w engineering
  • computer architecture-
  • data structures
  • some DB
  • some networking
  • some general math

The SE programme then has modules which are applicable for general purpose software development

  • Operating systems
  • systems analysis
  • more networking
  • computer science
  • software quality
  • databases
  • more software engineering

The GD programme focus more on topics of particular interest to game programmers;

  • graphics programming
  • some AI for games
  • physics & simulations
  • maths for graphics
  • animation
  • on-line gaming
  • HCI
  • internships with game companies

These aren't exhaustive lists, they just show the intent of both programmes.

The technologies used over the 4 years also reflect the direction of the two programmes

SE= java, c++, c#, .NET, prolog, linux

GD= XNA, c++, opengl, havok, ogre3d, a little python & javascript.

The GD graduates have enough programming and s/w engineering skills to get work as general software engineers and developers, and they regularly do. A GD degree is no guarantee that you will get a coding job in a games company, a good portfolio is also required and the development of a portfolio is supported and encouraged in the structure of the GD programme.

A lot of people sign up for the GD program thinking (without reading the prospectus carefully) that the course is about gameplay, art work, game mechanics, level design, story telling, you know, all the 'fun' stuff. The get a reality check in the first week, when they have lectures in c#, linear algebra & line drawing algorithms (this is fun stuff for me!).

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Having done both courses, Bachelors in Information Technology (more like SE) and Masters in Computer Games Technology, I find the difference in curriculum is profound. Just like what Ken had mentioned, SE covered topics that were close to designing software and how the systems worked, while CGT was geared more towards SE for Games. If you're looking for a career in games, CGT would be the way to go as you get to learn (in a concentrated manner) the stuff required for games. It would also give you a better chance at getting a job in the games industry. I say better because it's not necessarily the degree that decides if you get the job or not. But when it comes to game development basics, you'd already be well-versed at how things fit together in game, while a SE student will have to go through the extra learning curve and learn graphics/AI/physics for games on his/her own to prove their worth to game companies.

I should warn you about the downside though. As good as the game industry sounds, it doesn't always provide a lucrative career. For those who've settled themselves in a well-paid job in games industry, two words, WELL DONE! You're living the dream! But it's not an easy task. You've to work your mind off to prove your worth before they even consider to keep you in the company. And typically, you'd first end up working in a start-up (or self-found) game company, which doesn't provide you any form of job security and with basic salary. Trying for a big-shot company usually ends up with them telling you that you don't have enough experience. Not only that, if you do manage to get through to a big-shot company, they usually don't pay you as much as what you'd earn as a Software Engineer.

With that warning, if it's your dream to be working for a game company, GO FOR IT! But beware of what is to come and be prepared for it. In the end, when all your hardwork pays off, it's the sweetest achievement of your life.

If however, you're not sure if you'd like a lifelong career in games industry but still like to dabble on the idea of working with one, I would suggest first taking up an SE Bachelors degree, try to get internship in a games company based on your degree and progress your career from there. Failing to find any, you could go for Masters in CGT and try for a game company after that. If all fails, you'd still be able to get into software companies based on your Bachelors degree and the fact that you've got a Masters degree related to CS (they don't usually care if it's CGT or not) as long as you can prove your worth.

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I dont know the real diffrence between them as i never did any of thos. But i do know that you will be employeed as an Software Engineer at game companys. Or some similar title.

And it´s not hard to get a job, not if you are good at what you do. But you are going to spend alot of time trying to learn stuff, and i mean alot of time. Game development is like an game itself, you try to compete with the other companys at making better tech, beter games and to outsell them, and to do that you need to stay ahead of everything. And That is going to force you to work huge amounts of time. Since every one else dose that.

So my best advice, go with what you want to do. And see how it works out.

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