The Promises and Pitfalls of a Gaming Education

The LA Times had a nice industry-focused series of articles earlier this week, and the one that really caught my eye was on the increasingly common 'game degree' of a variety of stripes — as one person quoted in the article noted, games are 'the ultimate interdisciplinary art.' But one problem of (popular) emerging fields is schools that hop on the bandwagon to lure in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed students without really having adequate support for getting those students jobs (sounds like a lot of PhD programs I know):

The surge in interest has led schools to add games to their menu — but not always to the benefit of its students. Recruiters say they often see "mills" that run around-the-clock sessions to quickly churn out as many students as possible. Other programs teach specific skills but not how games are pulled together.

"It's a very hot academic growth area," said Colleen McCreary, who runs EA's university relations program. "I'm very worried about the number of community colleges and for-profit institutions, as well as four-year programs, that are using game design as a lure for students who are not going to be prepared for the real entry-level positions that the game industry wants."

I was up at USC yesterday for a non-game related workshop and had dinner with a friend who is in USC's Interactive Media MFA program; I continue to be impressed with USC's record of success and the students that go through the program. It's a shame — but not a surprise — that the field is getting cluttered with programs that simply don't have the resources, know-how, or curriculum to help place graduates in the industry. While it often seems like 'academic gaming' and 'real-world gaming' will never quite meet, this is one point that the industry as a whole should have more discussion about. The other two articles of the LA Times series are worth a read, as well.

Majoring in video games [LA Times]


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