Thoughts of a former game professional, now professor on the higher education system and learning game development.
Being through an undergrad and now in the midst of a master's program there is no doubt in my mind that the education system is lacking. But was it always? My mother-in-law has two masters degrees, and was an educator for 30 years. She was educated at a bachelors and a masters level more than 40 years ago, and yet I have never heard anything but praise about her experience in college and grad school which set her up for her long career. Why is this? Why is it that the game students today have more learning resources than any generation, yet they're going through school only to find out that most are not ready for what the industry is looking for? My hypothesis on this is three fold:
1. Work Ethic-learning to create games is a lot of work, perhaps even as much work as creating a game itself. Many students are too busy playing games and not busy enough creating content, researching and pushing the limits of their knowledge.
2. Aptitude- students must show some aptitude in one of the three major jobs on a game team; Programmer, Artist, or Designer (Producer's are important too, but they don't have hands on in creating the game). What can I say, not everyone is cut out for being in the professional field of game development, just like I am not cutout to be an NBA star. At the end of the day the old adage; you can be anything you want if you put your mind to it is not true...but you never know if you can make it until you put all your effort into it (see #1, work ethic).
3. Good Instruction- there are many approaches to creating content for games; Many are efficient and right, many are not. Sifting through this is challenging to say the least; it takes time, testing and a good instructors can really help. Finding instructors who can really help direct students is very important, but even without them, a diligent student who has characteristics of 1 & 2 will figure out a lot on their own.
Parents, if your kid tells you they want to make games for a living, please explain to them that the skills that it takes to create games at a professional level do not come by easily, study your Math, Science, Literature, Art, Music and learn to talk to people, politely and face to face; remembering it is a team effort that makes a great game. Working in the game industry is not a bunch of people playing games all the time. It is hard work, long hours, frustrating at times, but also very rewarding. Getting good enough at a craft to actually work in games is as hard if not harder than the actual job, it should not be taken lightly. Putting it all together, with a strong foundation, a good work ethic, some talent, and the right teachers, they may just be the next kid living the dream!