Experience vs Degree in the Industry: Why Both Matter
This article examines the value of having experience or a college degree when entering the Video Game Industry.
In a world swarmed with creative influencers, content creators, and multi-million dollar business owners, who have all graduated with less than a college degree, many have wondered how important a college degree is these days– especially in the Videogame Industry. The idea of a college degree being superior to an experienced individual in any field has shifted to a phenomenon rather than the standard. While rising tuition costs have directly influenced attendance and graduation rates among university students, there is still value behind a college degree.
I even went through this journey myself recently, as I am 22 years old and recently graduated from The Pennsylvania State University. While I am fortunate to be working straight out of college many of my friends have not been so lucky, some having double majors. I noticed how many job listings in the Videogame industry required 3-5+ years of experience for an entry-level position, and how many of these positions did not require a college degree. Seeking an answer to the age-long debate of what is better? Experience or a degree, I sought out the perspective of various employees from within Beamable with varying backgrounds in and out of the gaming industry.
A Beamable representative located in the United States, who holds a degree in Computer Science explained that “Game dev is an intersection of many fields, each with their own rich depths and knowledge bases….[getting a degree] allowed me to focus my skill set on one of the many required skill sets required to develop a game. All that being said, it is still the case that doing is better than anything else.”
Another Beamable employee, located in the United States, who attended college without receiving a degree explained that “The pros of not attending college are no student debt and having the ability to chart my own path; however the cons of going the experience route is the time it takes to achieve certain milestones is much longer, and it is hard to get an entry-level job without a degree -OR- experience.” They noted that “ One thing I really did like about my time at college, even though I did not receive a degree, was being surrounded by people who were excited about learning.”
A Beamable representative located in Brazil explained that “I haven’t really seen degrees correlating that well with great professionals. In fact, the best designers/engineers/artists I’ve worked with directly here in Brazil—have no degrees or have ‘low-level degrees.’…Most of the people with great degrees fell on the other end of the spectrum as far as technical skill was concerned.’
Taking an excerpt from a Beamable Representative quoting our CEO Jon Radoff they explain, “[For engineers and designers], continuous demonstrable curiosity coupled with critical thinking skills (first-principles thinking, etc…) tends to beat out degrees.” Whether college is a good place to gain these traits/skills is another discussion in itself. When asked directly why both experience and degrees matter in the industry Jon Radoff explained, “ What’s actually important in the industry (assuming you’re talking about getting a job at a game studio) is having a portfolio of work that you’ve done. I find the most valuable part of a degree is that it gives you access to a lot of other people to collaborate with, and the space to develop some ideas. So the most important thing to do before graduating is to use every opportunity to build a portfolio. You should do the same while working inside the industry.”
Derek Struble, Director of Product Marketing at Beamable located in Canada, has a unique experience when it comes to attending university. He explained that “I never imagined going into game dev when I was in school because I didn’t get accepted into computer science…However, I did go get a Business Administration degree and what I found when I started as a QA tester is just the fundamental knowledge of how to manage projects, my time, help others, Excel, and all this other information I picked up in school helped me hit the ground running at first. That ability and my degree as the ‘scaffolding’ on which my career was eventually built allowed me to quickly pick up a running team, managing project finances, and my market research experience, brought me to even further new heights in game dev as it allowed me to build a market research arm at one of the companies I worked at…I feel like my degree is invaluable, not for directly getting a job in games..but instead for giving me all the fundamental tools I needed in order to succeed. I just happened to apply those tools to game development because it’s an industry I love.”
Personally, the direction, connections, and opportunities given to me during my time at Penn State helped direct me to my introduction to working in the game industry. Throughout the past four years, my skills were able be cultivated and refined with school, instead of being lost without structure, taking more time to realize what I truly wanted to do. I believe that school is extremely important for those who feel they need it to determine their sense of direction like myself, and it is not a necessary step for many jobs in the industry. I was able to begin my future at Beamable due to Alumni connections from Penn State which is one of the ways I utilized my time during school and building my network portfolio.
How about you? Has your degree helped you get into the video game industry or did you get in by learning and gaining experience another way? Connect with us on Facebook, or tweet us on Twitter. Join us on our Discord to expand your network and learn more about what we can do for you!