Games Programming vs Software Engineering
July 5, 2008 9:51 PM Subscribe
Help me pick a second major for my computer science degree.
posted by hgws to education (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Background: I am a 30 y.o. undergrad Bachelor of Comp Sci student in Western Australia. Everything in my early life pointed to a career in computing; I remember being fascinated the first time I encountered a computer (a BBC Acorn), and although my family was too poor to afford any kind of computer I spent hours on the Mac Plus in the local library & would also borrow books on programming & write out programs & go through them in my head. Naturally I excelled in high school computing, & went straight into a CS degree. However life got in the way & I managed to get kicked out of my degree after second year. (Ironically despite failing most of my units in royal fashion I also scored 86% in my HCI unit.)
In the ten years or so between my first attempt at a CS degree & a second one, I discovered a strong interest in research & academic writing & graduated with a first class honours degree in history. I began a Ph.D. with a view for the traditional teaching/research pathway common to humanities graduates, but left after I got distracted by a full-time job & earning a real wage for the first time in my life. During this time I'd always retained a strong interest in computing, getting into HTML & web design in the late '90s, starting a collection of vintage Macs, spending most of my free time on the net/IFOC etc. The job I left my Ph.D. for also requires I spend 90% of my time IFOC, although it begain as data entry & has since evolved into Excel spreadsheets & if I'm lucky, an Access database. Frankly though it's dull work & it prompted me to think that if I was going to spend my working life IFOC I might as well learn to do it in a way that interested me, so I decided to return to a CS degree.
I'm now just starting my second year of this degree & it is going very well - I have gone part-time at work so I can study full time. So far I have straight HDs (A's) & I love what I am studying. I've become an incredibly anal overachiever, in fact, compared to the CS student I was when I left high school. I began my degree with a fairly vague idea of what I wanted to do at the end - something to score me a job in IT - but my life goals have changed, particularly since I've gone from a FT salary to a PT one & realised that I don't actually want or need much more than enough to get by, financially, and have zero interest in business and "getting ahead." In fact I am now eyeing honours and then PG studies in CS after I graduate.
To get to my question: there is no doubt that I should major in CS. I love programming & I find the theory side nifty too. But my degree requires that I either pick a second major or a bunch of electives. I think that a second major will give me more options and I have narrowed it down to two choices: Software Engineering or Games Programming. I assumed from the start of my degree that software engineering was right for me, admittedly without really knowing the contents of the units or what it exactly entails. (I assumed it was sort of an extension of programming.) I also ruled out games programming as I am not a gamer - I mean, really not a gamer! (For one thing I only own Macs, haha...) Well I have a weakness for Tetris & The Sims, and that's it. I would just rather do other things than play games and so have never payed much attention to the whole gaming area (aside from reading Ctrl-Alt-Delete).
But on futher examination of the units involved in games programming & software engineering, I'm starting to waver. Firstly, I emailed a student advisor for ideas & was advised that given my stated interest in programming, AI and HCI, Games Programming was the better fit. Secondly, I did a closer inspection of software engineering & became somewhat suspiscious that it might entail management and business along with the actual software design. In the gap between CS degrees I took an accounting diploma at vocational college & I've had my fill of management theory & commerce. In fact my least-liked unit so far has been first year systems analysis. However, I do see that most of games programming is mostly programming & not so much games: a lot of units on computer graphics, only 2 really specific to gaming.
Given that in many ways I just want to do a double major in CS, but that's not possible, what is the best choice?
PS. I have to confess that some of my aversion to games programming is that the majority of students are 18-20 y.o. males & stereotypical gamers. Not that it should bother me as I'm doing most of my units online at home.