Ever wanted to create a game? Ever wanted to be involved in a team that makes games? It seems like fun, doesn’t it?

In my first year at college, I noticed many people in Computer Science (CS) with a lackadaisical understanding that their CS degree would be their window into making video games. From a teenager just coming out of high-school, a career doing what you sit around playing all day anyway seems like a dream job. So students go into the CS program with an understanding that they will come out suddenly aware of how to make games. But this is far from the truth – most CS programs don’t even get into the specifics of game development, and CS – Computer Science – is not even about three-fourths of the development of a game, which also includes art and music, design, and business. In fact, it’s been argued that people can come out with CS degrees that don’t even know how to program! So where the hell do students get the idea that CS equals game development??

Part of it has to do with the substantial lack of good game development courses at universities. But even more of the blame should go on the students themselves, who don’t realize the amount of work involved in making a game.

I’m currently working on a iPhone game, and despite numerous attempts to establish a team, other students end up quitting after they realize game development is not fun and games, but sweat and tears. There is a precedence for this. At the game development club at my university, apparently a year before I came, the club had a team of around twenty people developing a 3D adventure game for the PC. Needless to say, the team was made up of students who, as I’ve previously mentioned, have unrealistic expectations about game development. Their project never got off the ground, and the survivors don’t like to talk about it, disillusioned about game development in general.

Is this really how it has to be? Do innocent CS students just have to experience game development the hard way?

I think the problem here is the general consensus that “video games aren’t a serious medium” somehow spills over into video game development. Say, for a second, we called it “industrial development.” Suddenly seems boring, like a real job, like it requires serious work because “industry” must be serious? Well, the truth is that “video game development” is closer to “industrial development” than most people realize. Long hours, you have to work on things you don’t want to at times you don’t want to, you have a limited amount of creative control (if any at all), and no guarantee that your product will be a success.

So if you’re a student taking CS to get into game development, start now, and start small. Ease yourself into game development making pong and breakout clones: you’ll learn more than you realize. Learn about the hardships of game development firsthand. You’ll save yourself a rude awakening later on.

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