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  • My Game Design Degree: A Postmortem

    - Devon Wiersma
  • After 4 long years, I'm almost graduating with a Bachelors of Game Design degree from Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada.

    Go me!

    Over the last 4 years I've been to MIGS, had my writing published here and there on the internet and even been to GDC twice which is impressive to me since I knew next to nothing about game development when I started all this.

    It's been a long journey, but I thought the best way I could commemorate the event would be to reflect on my past 4 years in this program; what I wish I knew, what I learned and a little bit of philosophy on post-secondary schooling in general.

    Be aware not all of this will be about Game Design programs (or post-secondary education, even!) and can apply to many different fields as well. Additionally, this is all just my personal opinion and everything below can be taken with a grain of salt!

    Learning Is Hard

    Before spending 4 years on Game Design, I spent 1 in a general arts program. My time in general arts mostly taught me I didn't really want to do art for a living - I like it as a hobby, not as work. That helped usher me into Game Design.

    But it wasn't until a year in Game Design did it kick in just how much more work college was than high school; in part because I was in an actual degree program now, but also because I was now doing something that I started to feel like I actually wanted to do with my life. The difference between high school and college to me was that college felt a billion times more relevant to my future. Not to mention that I was paying thousands of dollars for my education I needed to make it really count.

    For my first year in Game Design I struggled with programming, not really understanding what I was doing and riding off the help of others. One day I had a group assignment where I couldn't contribute anything and I realized how poorly prepared I was - and I didn't want to keep that up for 3 more years!

    Over the summer I was working full time, but I dedicated every weekend to programming my own little side projects which helped me build up my skills to where I felt confident enough in a group setting. I don't remember doing anything aside from coding, working fast food and rollerblading that whole summer.

    Before I knew it, I was coding almost every group project I was in for the next two years, mostly because no one else wanted to.

    It was a good kick in the butt and the point where I realized this was the chance I had been waiting for my whole life - the chance to finally do something with my life and dedicate myself to something.

    I'm not saying everyone will have an "a-HA!" moment, but try to remember that college is long, hard and you're in it for the long haul. The industry is competitive - don't hope to just sail through like I did and hope everything will work itself out in the end.

    Don't Procrastinate

    The single most frustrating thing about school was watching my classmates - people who I knew to be very skilled, hardworking and capable - put things off again and again until the last minute and then panic and crunch when their work wasn't finished a few hours before the deadline.

    This happened for almost every single assignment.

    Early on I noticed I have pretty intense mental health troubles when I didn't have something to work on. By necessity I always keep busy and try to get work in as early as possible since it makes me feel more comfortable about the homework process. A bonus was it gave me time to take breaks, work on portfolio pieces and I don't have to crunch!

    Unfortunately, humans have dumb biases which make them think procrastination is preferential to getting things over with early. Time management is one of the more important skills you can wrangle in your time at school - learn it early and apply it hard and you can save yourself a world of stress!


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