(Way OT) - Programming

Koen O. Loeven wrote:


I won't go into details, as the other responses have done an excellent job of doing so. I will just echo their opinions. Have your son dive into the C/C++ languages. They are relatively easy to learn; and provide a good "launch pad" (Hey!...An On-Topic reference!) to learn other languages.
Also, if you have a spare PC (an old one is *ideal*), or some free hard-drive space...have him install a Linux system. These can be picked up for pennies (or as a cost-free download); and most of the major distributions come equipped with the compilers needed to delve into these languages. It is the ideal way to enter the world of programming, with minimal-to-no monetary expense.
--

Greg Heilers
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Koen O. Loeven wrote:

I agree with the general assessments given here, but more importantly you may want to ask the question if it's really something he SHOULD do. Back in the 80's, everyone was being told to go into Hazardous Waste work -- then SuperFund dried up. In the 90's, computer programming/design was the big thing, with high wages and a great future -- then the software got outsourced to India, and the hardware to China. These days, I hear that biotech is the 'big field', but it seems obvious to me that rising healthcare costs are going to cause that to crash into a wall soon. The cover of one of the industry magazines I get just made the suggestion that the best career move for a hardware engineer these days is to learn Chinese (they weren't joking).
It's sad and unfortunate that this is true, but it IS true. There will be a need for the hands-on guys in IT departments to keep things working for the foreseeable future, but actual software and hardware development is being taken overseas more and more.
Yes, there will be some jobs available -- but the 'bright future' doesn't seem to be there, anymore. I know absolute top-notch engineers who've been out of work (at least in their field) for two-three years or more, because of outsourcing. Those who are still in the industry have had to cut their salary DRAMATICALLY.
Just my two cents worth...
David Erbas-White
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What you say is all too true David.
My next move will not be into an IT job anymore after 24 years of it, and i've been very good at it.
But all that's left is providing project management of India developers and engineers.
4am to 5pm days on conference calls and trips to Cyberabad City is not what I want in my last career days.
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Here's my response from a similar query that showed up on an internal "parents" mailing list here (this was for college suggestions):

he says that he wants to be a "video game developer".
Ok. That's a bit (ok, a LOT) like saying you want to be a musician. Everyone thinks of mega-stars up on a stage, but it includes an awful lot of "support professions" ranging from roadies, backup musicians, and recording engineers to businessmen and lawyers (lots of lawyer.) Not so much glory, and not so many $$$ perhaps, but still in the music business, and perhaps more stable and "rewarding enough."
I don't think that he even knows what is involved in video game development.
Does he have any programming experience? I have noticed that aptitude in other areas, and proficiancy with a computer as a user do not necessarily translate into being able to "think like a programmer." (OTOH, see above about programmers not being the only thing that qualifies as "game developer.")
I have a friend who has worked at a couple of game developers, including his "dream job" at Segasoft Networks. You remember the Sega Dreamcast? It's networking side never really took off, and SN dissolved and my friend was laid off at a particularly bad time... I've invested in a couple of game developers, and the instability at the business level is ... amazing. It's a scary industry, in a lot of ways...
I would worry, as a prospective employer, that a degree in "video game development" would have left out a bunch of the general education that normally makes a BS a sort of "generic" degree. (and especially so if it's not an actual BS degree.) As other people have said, a normal undergraduate education covers a lot of material, and doesn't get into specializations like "3d graphics acceleration" or other gaming necessities. I think I'd worry about that even if I were in the gaming business - at the rate technology moves, you might be learning what will be 4-year old technology by the time you graduate, without the background that would permit you to quickly grasp new technology. (There used to be "computer programming" certficate-type places. Taught people how to code COBOL for typical business situations, or something like that. I wonder how graduates from that are doing now? (I know... they're probably still writing cobol code...))
I would make a deal:
1) make a concerted effort to find a school with a real BS degree that has some classes/focus for video games. They're probably out there. Or some other "real" related degree (art, business...) (I don't really LIKE that an actual college degree is such an "entrance requirement" for employers, but it does seem to be the case.) (Note that engineering degrees tend to be "tougher" to get than some others.)
2) If you can't find anything, agree to do the deVry thing or equivilent after he gets a related degree, or during the summers, or something.
======I also asked John Carmack, the rocketeer (also THE John Carmack of Doom/Quake/etc fame), and got a nice response:
From: John Carmack <xxxxxxxx>
[...quoted text deleted...]
I'm not a huge proponent of the college game development programs.
The type of, or even existence of, a college degree doesn't play a huge role in hiring in the game development business, but it may be a lot more important if he finds out that game development isn't what he thought it would be as a career, and wants to do something else. I would agree that pursuing an EE or CS degree is probably a better choice if he is going to go through college.
The best way to get hired in the game industry is to develop free "game mods" that leverage an existing commercial game to showcase the applicants particular talents without having to develop everything from scratch. The developers of popular game mods can usually get a job pretty easily, and full amateur teams are often "promoted" to real companies with expansion pack development contracts. Of course, the vast majority of amateur mod projects collapse before producing anything worthy of showing to a commercial developer because the process is a lot harder than it looks at first glance.
As with just about anything, the way to be really successful is to make yourself really valuable. College can lay a foundation, but most of the value must be self taught. I didn't go through college, but I do tell people that it can be a very information rich environment to do a lot of your early learning in.
John Carmack
[--------------------]
This essentially matches my feelings WRT other types of SW development. A degree is "good", assures a useful background, and demonstates an ability to focus on unpleasant tasks. But the people you really want to hire are the ones with relevant experience. For entry level positions (people recently out of school), that means people who have had in-school jobs, summer jobs, or at least some school projects directly relevant to the profession. The current open source community (and related things) is an excellant vehicle for demonstating skills beyond your college transcript, if you can't find any related jobs...
(hmm. The "team" list at "id software" is sorta interesting: http://www.idsoftware.com/business/team / Carmack considers himself an "artist" at this point. The number of "programmers" is rather small.)
BillW
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Bill Westfield wrote:

Bingo! Just because you know the syntax doesn't mean you can design a decent application. I've had to support far too much crap code written by people who THOUGHT they were programmers.
Game design and coding is a totally unique animal, just like embedded systems. People who can program a business app don't necessarily have the skills to design or code an embedded system or a video game.

That's because video game creation is as much art as anything else. Conceptualizing the universe and the game play are just as important as the actual coding.
-Kevin
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Oh. As far as I know (I am NOT a game developer), most modern computer games will be developed within a "game development framework" that allows you to do things in ways that aren't necessarily much like programming. (developing the GDF would take "real programming", but it's point is to let people who aren't wizards at getting the last iota of performance out of a modern CPU and graphics card do the creative part of writing games.) If you'd like to do some playing with moderning gaming "primitives" WITHOUT having to learn everything about programming, check out "gamemaker":
http://www.gamemaker.nl /
It's pretty cool, and my 8-y old son was able to do things with it...
BillW
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