The Typical CS Degree

I found this comic on 9GAG. Its entertaining and gets right to the difficult balance we have to find in the Game Programming degree.

40 years ago, university faculty bumped heads against established college divisions in order to justify a degree to teach programming in a college. They found they could justify the education by establishing the major as a “science” and often located that major within a math division. This is the era when you get college dropouts like like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates… they didn’t want to waste time with theory and justification of the degree… they just wanted to make cool stuff.

Twenty years ago, I also faced this type of education and was equally frustrated. I wanted to “code games”, but my instructors didn’t know anything about graphics, game networking, game physics, or even coding audio. Frustrated, I transferred to another major and eventually graduated with a degree in Mathematics.

Of course it took a few years, but later when I was programming on the job, I finally started to see the point of that stuff we covered in class that I had previously thought was pointless. I found that a lot of that computer theory stuff serves as a base that comes back over and over again. As technologies change, the CS theories remain.

It is ironic that now, “Computer Science” is the establishment, and “Game Programming” is the degree that must justify itself in the eyes of the purists. At least you can be sure that we won’t name our program “Game Programming Science” in order to make it sound more “academic”.

A further irony is that now I am part of the group that tries to find a balance between good old fashioned computer science theory and the other fun stuff that will keep students engaged and make them feel like their education is relevant to their chosen profession.

I’m happy to report that here at Champlain College, the result is a fairly intense curriculum with compressed courses (like Matrices, Vectors, and 3D Math) that do a great job of finding that balance.

So, study hard and appreciate the relevance of what you’re learning. If it seems a bit intense, that’s because we’ve got a lot of material to cover… but if you keep up with your homework, you’ll be able to handle it.

-John

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