I chose to study computer science with a focus in game design because I am interested in creating complex, self-contained gaming systems that provide entertaining virtual experiences for players. Because computer science is the study of how computers process information and perform complex calculations and operations, I felt that a degree in computer science, in combination with a focus in game design, would allow me to accomplish my professional goals. In addition, I felt that computer science skills would be very useful in general.
I decided to pursue my degree in computer science from University of California, Santa Cruz because their computer science program is more hands-on compared to the programs offered at other schools. Whereas the programs at many others schools focus on simply creating portfolios and building small parts of systems with minimal explanation, the program at University of California, Santa Cruz concentrates on building unique systems and working with pre-made models.
The curriculum of my 4-year computer science program required me to take a variety of courses. As a computer science major, naturally, I took many core computer science classes. The university also has general requirements for which I was required to take classes in social sciences, natural sciences, multi-ethnic studies and writing. I also took a number of electives including theatre, visual arts, digital media and music.
Of all my classes so far, I consider my classes in art, audio and theme setup, and writing to be the most valuable. My art class taught me the design principles needed to create a visually appealing game, while my audio and theme setup class gave me the skills to build an attractive user experience. My writing class was valuable because as a future game designer, I will need to write concise but detailed notes for fellow team members pertaining to my progress on a gaming system.
When it comes to the actual computer science core classes, students with preexisting knowledge of programming language and logic will find the coursework less difficult than those who are new to the field. It can be challenging to learn the different syntax and rules of multiple programming languages in such a short amount of time.
I feel that among my program’s strengths are a dedicated and enthusiastic student population, as well as a hands-on approach to learning computer science. And the main weakness of my program is the lack of focus on personal projects. Because my program places such a strong emphasis on programming, students are not able to compile a strong portfolio unless they work on personal projects on their own time.
The homework requirements for my computer science program involve mainly group projects and some traditional writing assignments. I spend about 4 hours per day in class. I also spend anywhere from one hour to an entire evening engaged in independent study each day, depending on the class and my familiarity with the course material.
After graduating with a degree in computer science, I hope to secure an entry level position in my field. I have not really thought about the particulars of my ideal position at this point.
Before studying computer science, I believe students should be aware of what they are getting themselves in to. They should be aware that computer science programs have a very technical emphasis. They primarily focus on the technical aspects of how complex systems work. Students in computer science programs are far more focused on the technical side of computer science than on the creative side. Personally, I wish I would have known that before enrolling in my program.
I also feel that prospective computer science students should get a head start by studying principles of logic and programming languages like Java. This will give them a feel for error analysis and data compilation before enrolling in the program.
In addition, I would encourage students to design a game on their own. This will help them better understand the process behind game design. I would suggest that students who know programming languages make a digital game. Students who do not know programming should try making a board or card game. I feel like any understanding of the elements of gaming will help students in a computer science program.