Game Industry?

Hello, I’m strongly considering to get my bachelors degree - but I’m uncertain of what area in design to study that will lead to my desired career path.

I’m in my early 30s. I’ve always been drawn to entertainment and gaming. I’m currently a photographer and designer in interactive media and web. A friend of mine who is a product designer suggested that I study Industrial Design and that my artistic, drawing and 3D skills would be an asset.

My question is, can a degree in Industrial Design lead to careers in the entertainment and gaming industry? I considered pursing studies in Game Design but after some research found that the design foundation in such courses were somewhat lacking in comparison with Industrial Design. Also, I’ve always found ID in and of itself quite fascinating and would like to have the option to work in the ID field if I chose too.

The best choice for this would probably be Art Center in Pasadena. It is very expensive, but has the most ties to entertainment design. Typically the skill sets are a little different. You will have to specialize and work hard at that specialization to land work in entertainment, which tends to be on a project by project contract basis (ie per film)

Another option is Feng Zhu’s School of Design in Singapore, although both Art Center and FZD will require a portfolio.

I appreciate the suggestions but schools like Gnomon or the Art Centre are well over my budget. FZD has a focus on concept art for entertainment and while that’s fine it isn’t exactly what I had in mind. RISD seemed like a good choice, but again, the expense isn’t realistic for me.

First and foremost I want to be a designer. Although I started out late, I have learned a lot on my own - but if I return to school for a bachelors I want an education that will equip me for a lasting career as a designer. I’d like to be able to branch out in areas of interest like the gaming industry, but I also want the foundation to be a successful designer; how to analyze a problem, present innovative solutions for those problems. I’m not sure if institutes like FZD would be an adequate choice for me.

I’m located in Ontario, Canada and there are less than a handful of ID programs here. But if I study ID would I be able to branch out in the gaming industry if I choose to?

What aspect of game design interests you the most? There tend to be two different “worlds” of game design, the big time corporate world where your focus is typically very narrow and deep, eg level design, texture artists, animators, but usually not much in the way of cross discipline work. Or the indie field where you’re focusing much broader and really want to know everything from the coding side to the engine and artwork development side.

I have a number of friends in the industry and they have everything from degrees in transportation design, fine arts, computer science, to digital animation. Most of them are on the art side of the fence and most have very niche roles. Ex one focuses almost specifically on vehicle models and will move to whatever project needs a new set of cars.

There are also a lot of people in the industry who do not have formal degrees, they just have a hacked copy of 3D Studio and ZBrush and turn out insane quality work, and get hired.

I do think ID is a better “general” education than game design, but I do not think it will prepare you with a portfolio that makes you capable of landing a great game design job. IMO the best way to get into game design is to pick up a couple books, buy a copy of Unity, 3D Studio, and Creative Suite and start teaching yourself the ropes. Once you find an area that interests you the most in the process, start looking at what other people in the business are doing and see where you want to point yourself.

I’m not going to say stick with ID instead of getting into the gaming industry since being an IDer makes me slightly biased. But…

I have a few friends in the gaming industry (Rockstar Games, Riot, 2K, EA, Ubisoft) as animators, mo-cap, vignette animator, cinematics, etc. It’s a tough industry that requires 60-80hr work weeks and its all-hands-on-deck for testing/QA just before the game is released. Also a lot of studios are closing down for some reason.

I have a couple of friends working at Rockstar Games San Diego who have been working on GTA 5 and are burning 80hr weeks as we speak (GTA 5 is due to release next month). They both want out but can’t find other companies since it’s pretty competitive with new grads will work work long hours.

This is the question. It sounds like you’re more interested in the art & design aspect of game development, or, entertainment design. In the industry, “Game Designer” typically means something quite different. Game designers focus on developing gameplay, story, mechanics, environments, themes, moods, and provide some aesthetic direction. Game designers spend more time writing, scripting, testing, and coding. In short, they set the stage for what makes a game fun, addictive, or theatrical. Game Designer positions, by this definition, are highly competitive and challenging to break into, they typically require applicants to have a very deep understanding of game mechanics, genres, and player demographics as well as having developed games either personal projects, indie games, or shipped titles. This was a position that I was very interested in while in college and for a few years after, and while my ID degree helped get my foot in the door with a few interviews I just didn’t have the chops and educational background. Being an avid gamer I had done some level design for fun, worked as a voluntary CSR for a hot MMO, and designed and developed a module for Neverwinter Nights just because a job I wanted required it. Just for giggles, I also developed a 3 level map pack for EA’s Battlefield 2, it took about 6 weeks to learn the tools/scripting, develop, test, and publish.

Anyways, if this type of game development interests you there’s tons of free tools, SDK’s, and open platforms that you can get your hands on, Valve has a great modding community.

While I still play games, I’ve fallen out of following the professional side of the industry for a few years, but here’s a good site for reference:

And as far as schools are concerned you might want to look at Full Sail, though I don’t know how relevant it is to the industry these days:

I was big into the Doom/Quake modding community when I was a kid (thus the alias) and there’s a lot you can learn just by trying out mods.

But as I learned more about the profession it is a very tough gig. You really have to love what you’re doing because you’ll be doing a lot of it. Now there are some ID guys who work 60-80 hours a week (I’m one of them at times) but it generally tends to be more stable since there’s a lot of interdependency.

In the entertainment/game world you’re usually at the mercy of a director, and you might spend 2 years working on 3D modelling soda machines and trash bins for the background of some game. I use the same analogy for the auto industry, somebody has to design the cup holders in the back seat of a minivan, most people don’t get the sports cars.

With gaming I think the Indie scene has made it different these days though. You can do a lot more yourself, publish the game yourself via the app market, and then grow yourself that way. With engines like Unity, Source, XNA, UDK the suite of pro tools is available to you, you just need to decide what to do with it. You can also get into coding through sites like which give you a decent understanding of all the things you’ll need to start learning if you actually want to breathe life into something.

So it really comes down to what do you want to do, and are you willing to spend 80 hrs a week doing something you don’t really want to be doing for several years to move up the ladder at a big game company.

As you mentioned that you’re from Canada you might want to look into Emily Carr.

Vancouver has a pretty strong game and app development industry and the school is fairly well connected.(although it has been shrinking recently)
Vancouver Film School probably has a game specific program - although I’m not sure.

The ID department at ECU is a bit on the warm and fuzzy side relative to the gaming industry but can give you a solid understanding of design principals and process. You may also be able to take some User Experience or Interactive related courses.
They have a full mo-cap studio and other toys due to their relationship with the local film and gaming industries.

It is not uncommon for ECU graduates to find work in the Game industry (in fact- locally, there are probably more ID graduates working in the film and gaming industries than in actual physical product development jobs)

All the best! :slight_smile:

Thanks, I really appreciate the input. I guess what interests me the most is the storytelling, cinematography, art and design aspect of game design. Given my background I’m considering to study IxD. There aren’t many programs in my province but one of the top schools here to attend for design, art & media recently launched an Interaction Design program. I’ve been speaking with a few of the program heads and it seems like a good choice for me. My only concern is that it’s a brand new program and I would be among their very first batch of students. Although, the school in and of itself has always been reputable in this area and I’d be comfortable attending it otherwise. Wondering if I could get opinions on this IxD program? 404 Page Not Found | Errors | Sheridan College

Are you aware of hours and work situations in the industry? Probably depends where you are, but my understanding is that it’s common to work nonstop insane overtime (like all you do is sleep 4-5 hours a day and work). Big studios are frequently given ridiculous launch schedules and are extorted into uncompensated overtime in a backhanded way.

Then again, seems like the indie game scene these days is blossoming and easier to get into than ever.