I have a lot of dreams about what I’d like to see in the future. One of the strongest dreams involves game development education. To put it bluntly, I’ve been unimpressed by what I’ve seen so far. There are a number of courses around but none of them have stood out as being amazingly good. Quite a few are too young to determine how good they are, but suffice to say, looking through resume’s of people, there’s no golden bullet of educational institute that guarantee’s a certain quality of programmer. So what does my dream involve, and how is it going to change the way games are made?
Pie in the Sky
At the most extreme level, the perfect education program would be one attached to a large development studio. Imagine if Valve had “Valve Education” where you could do a 1 year course and learn everything they know about game development. Developers from live teams could take time off to teach for a while, to mix up their lives and to pass on their knowledge to others. While it would make quite a bit of money, the key thing here is that the top x% of students could be hired straight into Valve. Think of it as a 1 year probation period, where the employee PAYS to be there. If there are things you don’t like about game programmers in the world at the moment you have the ability to teach them what you want. Have a subject devoted solely to software practices, and fail any of the kids that aren’t up to it.
Down to earth
So if you’re not Gabe, then the above paragraph may be a little out of reach for you. Don’t lose hope though, because there’s room in my dream for a less restrictive model. The main ingredient for me is to find passionate developer’s who can also teach other programmers. Seniors and leads out there should be doing it all the time, and we just have to get them together to start teaching students. With the average length of service in the games industry being 5 years, there’s a great opportunity here. Firstly, it means that it IS worth training up kids as there are a lot of positions that need to be filled by people that don’t have any real world experience in games. Secondly, it means that there are a lot of developers burning out and wanting to leave. Rather than going off and becoming business programmers, why not give them the opportunity to use their precious game dev skills.
What’s needed here is a bunch of truly experienced developers getting together and teaching kids exactly what they need to know to make games. In 1-3 years, the kids should be able to pump out a handful of little games, and one big collaborative game at the end. Heck, you could even sell the large game at the end and give the students a discount on their fees based on how well it sells.
Bureaucracy and Money
The biggest issue I see with current game dev courses is the amount of bureaucracy that’s involved in setting up the course. It’s obviously going to be better to have the course meet requirements for a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, but try not to let this ruin the course itself. From what I’ve seen in courses there is a lot of irrelevant material taught. If this HAS to be taught then do it quickly, and get it out of the road. The key here is teaching kids how to make games, and make them well. If the course is set up to make money then there’s a good chance it’s not going to work. The main focus here needs to be making good game programmers. Once you start pumping out awesome programmer’s I guarantee you their tuition fees will be the smallest part of your income. You’ll have people wanting to pay top dollar for your students, people will want to start advertising to your students to use their tech and you could even secure a deal with a certain large video card manufacturer to focus your education on their cards.
There is a massive market for game development education at the moment, a vacuum I see filling very quickly. I just hope that at least some of the new courses are better than the ones I’ve already heard about. So there is my dream. I’m a little too poor and busy right now to set this up, so I’m leaving it for anyone else to try. Let me know how you do and we can work out the commission I get later. 🙂