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Online Game Designers Attend College Online for the First Time

May 31, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Michael Guarini still remembers how excited he was when his parents gave him a Nintendo Entertainment System—complete with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt.  “I spent hours playing those games,” he recalls.  “I’d never been so excited about a birthday present before.”

Michael was a video game addict from an early age.  As he grew older, his parents started to regret giving him that first console.  “My mom and dad thought I should have been playing football or running for student council, but that just wasn’t my thing,” Michael says. 

Still, Michael got good grades and made friends in high school—and when he graduated, he wanted nothing more than to design video games for the next generation of fans.  And when he learned he could get an online degree in game software design from DeVry University, he jumped at the chance.  It turned out he’d been preparing for his career all along. 

Getting Started: Where to Go for an Online Gaming Degree

Video game degrees are the newest trend in higher education.  While parents used to consider gaming a waste of time, today it may just be preparing kids for a lucrative career in the industry. 

Not all online video game programming degrees are created equal.  Some concentrate more on artistic game design or storytelling, while others focus on programming.  There are Associates, Bachelor’s, and even Masters’ degrees available in the subject.  And some schools call their gaming degrees by other names, such as computer programming or multimedia design.

Here’s an overview of some colleges offering online degrees that will prepare you for a career in the video game industry.

Westwood College
Westwood College offers several gaming degrees.  Their Bachelor of Science in Animation focuses on both the technical and artistic side of designing 2D and 3D characters.  Their Art & Video Game Design program focuses on design and cinematography for the gaming industry, plus general courses in management, critical thinking, and more.  They offer a Bachelor’s degree in Game Software Development that concentrates on programming for video games.  There’s also Graphic Design and Multimedia, which is more general but can be applied to the gaming world.

The Art Institute Online
This school offers a Bachelor’s degree in Game Art and Design that focuses on the artistic side of game design. It also includes fundamentals of designing layers and levels, creating characters and game environments, designing game play and character choices, and more.   The Art Institute also offers a degree in Media Arts and Animation, which includes design and design software skills, storyboarding, and special effects.

Anthem College Online
This college offers an Associates degree in Graphic Design & Animation.  The degree teaches both technical and artistic aspects of animation, including programming. 

DeVry University

DeVry offers a Bachelor’s degree in Game & Simulation Programming, which concentrates on the technical side of game design.  It teaches students to use programming languages such as C++ and C#, game engine platforms, artificial intelligence, multiplayer game design, and the basics of visual design for games.  In addition to video game design, this degree prepares students for a career designing training simulators for industries such as the airlines, law enforcement, and the U.S. military.  There are also more general degrees in computer programming and graphic design available.

Getting Hired: What Employers are Looking For

There are two ways to prepare for a degree in the video game industry.  You can get a degree in a specific gaming field, including game and simulation programming, game art and design, or game software development.  Or you can get a degree in something more general, such as computer programming, animation, graphic arts or multimedia.

So which do employers prefer?  It depends.  Some employers love to see a focus on gaming—they like the idea that these graduates will need less time to learn the ropes of their business. 

On the other hand, people with general programming skills are also in high demand. Gaming companies such as EA and Insomniac admit to favoring generalists—programmers who can adapt themselves to whatever their current project requires.  If you have a degree in a specific facet of gaming, you may have to show these companies that your skills are diverse and adaptable.

Many traditional schools are starting to offer degrees in the video game industry as well. While some industries are skeptical of online education, the technology industry is one of the most accepting.  Getting an online degree in gaming is a good bet for a future career.

“I graduate next year, and I’d love to work for Sony or Square Enix,” says Michael.  “Software programmers are in high demand, and I feel pretty confident that I’ll get a good job once I have my degree.”  Chances are, with an online degree in gaming, you’ll have an excellent shot at a career designing the next generation of video games.




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