Monday, March 14, 2011

CROSSROADS: What I Learned About Gaming Colleges


First of all, Happy Pi Day.  
EDIT: And remember to set your clocks an hour ahead--Daylight Savings Time.  You lose an hour :(

Also, read the minor update on B***ES Don't Know About My Daytona USA 2 Article.


Well, I just talked about graduate college in the past although I never really visited either college.  That was one of the main purposes of this Florida vacation last week.  So on Friday (EDIT: not Thursday), me and my dad went on a tour of FIEA and Full Sail, both of which happened to be six miles apart.  Here's what I got from both of them:


You can see an online tour here as if to save you the pain of a 9-hour road trip, rofl.

Show up at 10:30 AM.  We're sitting down in this lobby when the same lady in the video above comes to shake my hand.  Because it's Spring Break, there's no students around.  She takes me around these offices and tells me about stuff.  When I passed that student lounge, I saw on the TV some news report about the Japanese quake and thought to myself "WTF is going on...???"  No one really paid attention but me so we kept moving while I was distracted, thus compounding on to my silence.  Of course, I had to put on a smiley face and keep my professionalism intact.

EDIT: Just for fun, it's worth mentioning in the lounge, there's a poster of The Clash's London Calling album and some Rock Band stuff.  And the album was just recently released as Rock Band 3 DLC and I own all those songs.  So I'm up on the "cool music," which is apparently The Clash.  Better than these screamo bands.

We pass by a glass case containing a bunch of games that FIEA alumni have gone to work on.  Stuff like EA Sports, Call of Duty: Black Ops for the DS, Rock Band 2...yeah, that's a very exciting lineup I see.

Then we enter the student desks.  Basically big hexagonal cubicles with five desks each.  So I see a lot of gaming stuff and I want to take a look around.  Posters of Call of Duty, Read Dead Redemption, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Pokemon toys, Mario, et. al.  So I wasn't totally surprised by what I see.  I tried to take a look at all the cubicles to learn more about these people, but I had to keep moving in order to not appear like an idiot.

She did say something fun:

LADY: "No one leaves before 8 p.m."

Cause everyone is working all night and day on projects.  Okay, so this is definitely a rugged place.  Typical of game design.

Blahblahblah, we are done walking around.  Let's sit down in the lady's office.  On the wall is a bunch of company logos that alumni were hired by--Electronic Arts, Zynga, Activision, etc.  Nothing surprising at all, nothing even remotely "Japanese."  She offers me a Coca-Cola with a plastic cup.  So I pour some Coke, prepared to ask some pressing questions.  And in comes the leader of the Programming concentration.  Now I originally signed up for Production, but she mistakenly wrote down Programming so this is all I had to talk to.  Oh well.


I'm going to get into technical details here about the curriculum so if you don't like it then just skip.

FYI, there are three concentrations--Programming, Production, and Art.  Each semester consists of a "class" (cohort) of 20 programmers, 20 producers, and 20 artists.  The Programming guy goes on to say that Production is the most popular concentration plus that they have the lowest odds of finding a job afterwards.  Production has about a 15-20% acceptance rate, programming has a 60% acceptance rate.  I still have to take the GRE, but assuming my 3.922 GPA and my hopefully-stellar application portfolio get me in, then great.  I'm going for Production although I still have some programming knowledge.

It is entirely possible for a Programmer to attend Production classes and therefore become a Producer as well.  A Producer can do the opposite and attend Programming classes although that is generally unheard of.

There are four semester--three in one year (Spring, Summer, Fall) and a fourth for Internship or what have you.  First semester, you work in groups to make small Flash/iPhone-kind of games in a two-week period.  Now this sounds reasonable.  For producers, at the end of first semester you must make a "pitch" for a video game.  The students vote for the Top 5 choices and the ones that get picked become projects for Semesters 2 and 3.

Then you get bigger teams working on these games.  Semester 3, the teams have to pitch their games even further for the staff.  Two projects are then axed by the staff going from 5 to 3 games.  The teams of destroyed projects are assimilated into the others.  Then you finish the game and move on to Semester 4 and whatever it has in store.

Ok, I'm done with the technicals, onto personal details.


So here comes the Programming guy ready to answer my questions.  Unfortunately, he's not the Production guy so his knowledge base was limited.  He answered most of the questions with the information above.  About half-way through the interview, he fired off with the inevitable question:

PROGRAMMER: What's your favorite video game?

ME: *weird ass grin for three seconds* Daytona USA.

PROGRAMMER: Ah, yes, Daytona USA, classic coin-op racer.

ME: I know it's weird because racing games aren't that popular...

I can only imagine what was going through his head at that time.  After going on about the differences between Producer and Programmer, he goes on to say that Producers need more "soft skills," like communication, organizing, and charisma.  Now I know that when I become driven, I can become a real goal-oriented social person, but whether or not that can happen when surrounded by a bunch of Zelda/FF fanboys, I don't know.

Programmer guy goes on to drop this fun line:

PROGRAMMER: I see you like Daytona USA which may be a big problem since you're supposed to be able to adapt with these people...(paraphrasing)

Then we're talking about internships and getting jobs.  It's not as easy as picking a company and eventually working for them.  He's not saying it CANNOT happen, but he's saying you must be flexible.  This I know.  You need money, well you have to do work you don't necessarily want to.  Like a hired mercenary or a prostitute.  One last fun line from the guy which came out of NOWHERE:

PROGRAMMER: Like if you want to work with Sega on the next Daytona USA game, then you should probably not count on it...(paraphrasing)

ME: *completely caught off-guard by this, but I show otherwise, cool and collected*

I wonder if he said that cause he looked in the eyes of my soul and figured out about my dreams.  Not much else about the discussion.  We then learn that because I'm from Louisiana, I get an in-state scholarship because I'm from a state that doesn't offer any sort of FIEA program.  Or something like that.  Shake hands with everyone, say thanks, put on one final good impression, and leave for Full Sail...


Okay, so this is what I got.  And I am aware of most of the things he said.  So this isn't a total wake-up call for me.  You better be flexible for what job you get.  Basically, if you want to get to the point where you get to make games "in your image," then I don't know.  The whole industry is a whirlpool.  You can get an internship with a company, but there's no guarantee that they'll hire you, much less pay you.  This is why I hate how "big" games become--because it's a lot of mainstream stuff like "make a Burnout/Call of Duty/WoW's my way or the highway," which is fantastic.

Another thing is that I need to change my personality NOW.  Basically, say goodbye to your unique gamer "qualities."  So Zelda sucks, Final Fantasy sucks, Halo sucks, Burnout sucks, we know that.  However, MOST EVERY GAMER LIKES THOSE GAMES so you have to do best what servants do best--kiss a lot of ass.  Final Fantasy is God, Zelda is God, Daytona USA sucks ass and is worthless.  Also, you can't shower and you must drink Mountain Dew and Red Bull by the gallons.  That's part of the business and you must conform to get along.  Tough luck.

Not only that, but I must be super-duper outgoing and social at this point to be a producer.  I'm going to tell you something I've never really said online--I think I have Asperger Syndrome.  Basically, this means I'm a bumbling buffoon when it comes to real-life social situations.  And even if I don't, then I still act like I do anyway.  Regardless of whatever problems I may have, I still must act normal.  And I'm not saying this to draw pity, but we must overcome this because the workplace isn't going to stop because my "downfalls."  Like would an NBA team hire a player who is unable to jump?  Yes, that guy may be unfortunate and may have a passion for basketball, but tough luck for him.

And most of this is assuming I get accepted by the school in the first place.  So basically, Daytona dreams are looking very, very slim at this point.  Well, what else is new.

UPDATE: I got accepted as a programmer, not a producer.  So forget about all this producer stuff up until now.


Full Sail:

After visiting FIEA, this place feels a bit more relaxing.  Big fancy campus for many different degrees but it feels cheap.  School curriculum feels somewhat similar to FIEA's--three semesters a year with some classes and projects.  It feels more laid back though which made me feel a bit relaxed though it gave me an impression of laziness and a lack of urgency.  I don't think graduating from Full Sail will make me more prepared than graduating from FIEA.

The reason there's no fourth semester is because there's no internship program.  So this I bring up in an interview with this nice guy:

ME: What about internships?  Can I look at working with the companies that I want to work for?

GUY: Eh...*long assed tirade that confused the crap out of me*  That's a good question; I don't think anyone's ever asked me about internships before.

I think Full Sail is good but I don't know.  I think I have a 99.9999% chance of getting into Full Sail cause their standards are much more lenient.  They don't even need GRE scores.


For now, I'm going to check out a few other colleges and start applying.  Gotta take that GRE first.  I would like to take a shot at FIEA, but there's no guarantee I'll get in or even finish the program.

I think I should be prepared for a roller coaster ride of "epic" proportions in the future so I just gotta see where I end up and pray for the best.  I hope to get a job that I enjoy attending, but if I'm stuck in the loop of making a bunch of crappy MMORPGs for the rest of my life, well...what can you say.  Let's stay cool, check for job openings at Sega constantly, and see if anything pops up.

1 comment:

  1. its tough, but if you want to create games, you can do it! = )