When students complain that their school didn't prepare them and designers report they give no special weight to job applicants with a design degree, something has gone wrong. A rigorous liberal arts education combined with ongoing project courses may give students the social and intellectual skills that systems and design courses alone cannot. (---More below)
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Game design degrees are still relatively new, so the question of how to teach them is still being explored. Recently, students who have gone through these programs have had trouble finding jobs, and when they do find jobs, they often find themselves unprepared for the real work of being a designer. On the other side of the equation, designers in charge of hiring have not been impressed with applicants who have degrees. Ultimately, the current education system for game design focuses too much on game skills at the expense of the more broad intellectual capabilities that designers really need. The industry moves so fast that the version of an engine students learn in their freshman year would be obsolete by the time they graduate, and even disciplines like game balance are also tools that the designer is expected to pick up on the job rather than fundamental skills to succeed at it. The ideal skillset, according to many designers, encompasses a broad range of social (communication, collaboration) and intellectual (love of learning, lateral thinking, breadth of knowledge) abilities, plus the ability to harness them (project scope and logical thinking). None of these are game specific skills. Instead, game designers should be put through a rigorous liberal arts program that exposes them to a wide array of disciplines in a challenging, discussion-focused curriculum (with extra emphasis on math). This set of classes should be underlined by ongoing project courses in which students must both work in teams and incorporate elements of other classwork to create games at least once a month. Not only does that help produce more adaptable designers, who can work in teams and bring a wide array of experiences to bear on problem solving, but it also gets them practical experience in building games and a long history of projects to craft their eventual portfolio.
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