For anyone who doesn't know what DigiPen Institute of Technology is, it's a game school in Redmond, Washington. Digipen has 3 stories and has about 1100 students. The school is very well known in the game industry for turning students into professional game developers.
When I was applying for schools in my senior year of high school, I had been accepted into the University of Washington and DigiPen. At this point, I had to make the tough choice on which school would provide the best education that suited my interests. After careful consideration, I decided to enroll at DigiPen in September 2011.
At DigiPen these are some of the programs they offer:
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real Time Interactive Simulation(BSCSRTIS)
This is the degree program I enrolled in. Its a computer science degree, but as more of a focus on game programming. In this degree, we get to learn about everything from graphics programming to advanced algorithms.
Bachelor of Science in Game Design(BSGD)
This degree focuses more heavily on design implementations for games. Often times students will make their own games and do prototyping for game projects.
Bachelor of Art in Game Design(BAGD)
Same idea as the game design degree above, except more of an art focus.
Bachelor of Fine Arts(BFA)
This is the main art degree at school. Students get to learn about everything from drawing to digital animations. They even get to make their own short animated films and work on student game projects.
There are many other degree programs I didn't go over, but recently DigiPen made a regular computer science degree (Different from RTIS) and a audio engineering degree.
For anyone who is interested in DigiPen I have the following recommendations:
- Know for sure that you want to be a game developer
- Be prepared to sacrifice free time in order to get assignments done on time
- Learn how to network with your peers and always ask for help when necessary
- Look over the tuition cost of DigiPen and decide if you can afford it
- Take a campus tour if possible to get a sense of the environment
- Make sure to join school clubs and meet new people
My First Year of College
During freshmen orientation I remember our school president talking about the drop out rate of the school. His famous quote was: "Look to your left, look to your right, the people next to you will not be here when you finish DigiPen." This quote was pretty accurate because as time went on, I started to see many of my peers drop out of the school.
The first semester of DigiPen was very scary for me. I didn't really know any of my peers at the time and was very new to computer programming. I remember during our first few programming lectures, there were all these confusing terms like compilers, stacks, and other things I had no idea what they were.(I was a newbie!) All this information was very overwhelming for me and it took me a couple weeks to understand all this terminology. I made it one of my top priorities to network with my other peers and get to know them. This was one of the best decisions I ever made because I made some new friends and we would often work on the programming assignments together. Often times I would tell myself that all of this hard work will be worth it in the end.
During my first semester, I teamed up with another student to work on my first ever game project! I learned a lot about the complexity of making a game. We made a text adventure game and this really helped me improve my programming skills. The thing that made DigiPen different from most colleges was the amount of work students have to do. It is not uncommon to see students at school for 60+ hours a week working on their game and homework assignments. In all honesty, it felt like a full time job. At the time, I had no idea it was just the tip of the iceberg.
Beyond Freshmen Year...
Once I started my sophomore year, things started to get really difficult. I went from doing 20 hours of homework a week to about 50 hours a week. There would often be times when I would become so stressed out with my work that I felt like giving up on my dream of becoming a game programmer. I had to take some time to self reflect on if this was where my true passion was. After doing this, I realized there is nothing more enjoyable for me than making games for other people to enjoy. Seeing the positive feedback from my work in my game project really helped motivate me. To help mitigate the stress, I would ask my peers for help on the homework. This was a huge time saver for me because I could bounce ideas off of them and find a solution to the problem.
One of the other things I learned how to do was make a game engine from scratch. This was a very unique experience for me because I was on a team with 3 other RTIS students for an entire year! I had never been on a team for that long before and was used to small work group assignments from other classes. In that time, I learned how to program 2D graphics with DirectX and solve team problems. Sometimes there would be a dispute between our teammates and I would try to hear both sides of the issue. This helped me come up with a solution to the problem. The school was able to offer team on ones where the team meets with the game professor for 3 hours. These sessions are extremely helpful because we were given a new direction for our game and went over team building exercises.
During my junior year, I would always go to school at 9am and leave around 10pm on most weekdays. The school was my second home at that point and I was always working on the latest homework assignment or our game project. One of the highlights of my junior year was going to the Game Developers Confrence in San Franscisco. I was given the opportunity to network with professional game developers and gain connections to companies I was interested in working for. This was an interesting year for me because I learned how to make a 3D ball racer game from scratch. I worked with 7 other programmers and really enjoyed working on this game.
Our team was very motivated and we wanted to make a game to take to competition. I made it a priority to playtest the game weekly and reiterate on the build when necessary. I also took the initiative to make a prototype of the game over the summer to playtest right when school started in the fall. This was a smart decision because it really helped us iron out the kinks in our game design. Our game was later selected to go to IndieCade and IGF students to compete in the competitions.
My Last Year at DigiPen
After junior year was finished, I started looking around on job boards and networking with different companies. I wanted to get a sense of what game engines companies were using and what would be a good portfolio piece to show to employers. I decided to make a mobile platformer in Unity for my senior project. From prototyping my junior game, I had already experience in Unity and knew this would be a good platform to develop a mobile game. With many hours of hard work, I was able to create a fun mobile game that players would really enjoy.
As of last month, I applied to many game companies over winter break. I had revised my resume several times and went to career services department at DigiPen to practice technical interviews. Few weeks later, I interviewed with a casino game company who gave me an offer to work as a software engineer for casino games! This was a dream come true for me because I will be working on something I am truly passionate about. I will be moving to Minnesota in May and can't wait to learn about developing for casino games. All of my hard work at DigiPen was finally paying off and I knew I had chosen the right career path.
In conclusion, I learned a lot about myself and computer programming during my time at DigiPen. I knew how to better handle stress and push myself to the best of my abilities. I really enjoyed learning about how games are made and am very thankful I discovered a career that I will enjoy for many years to come. I am excited for what the future holds and becoming a valuable member of the game industry.