Learning to be a video game programmer requires proper training and skill development, which students can find at a variety of online programs. Before selecting a program, students should consider how the program will help them develop their personal portfolios, the kind of teachers they will work with, and how the program is delivered.
How to Select an Online Game Programming School
Students considering online game programming schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Online game programming schools are differentiated primarily by the portfolios and quality of work that their graduates produce, as well as the real-world experience and resumes of their teachers. Many different types of programs are available through distance learning, including certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees. These online programs are available at select colleges. Students must then weigh program quality with the faculty.
Quality of Program
When considering enrolling in an online game programming degree or certificate program, prospective students may want to consider the quality of graduates' portfolios. This can be determined by looking through the course descriptions for classes that include portfolio development or program projects. Since portfolios display experience in a variety of software and programming techniques, prospective students can also look for coursework in user interface design, level design, sound production and graphics that can be included in a portfolio.
Teachers with work experience in the game programming industry, particularly those who have been part of teams that designed and created successful games, can provide real world knowledge and tips not found in a class textbook. Online game programming schools may provide brief work histories of their teachers for students to review on their website.
Online Education Program Options for Game Programming
Online Video Game Design and Development Certificate
Applicants are not required to have prior game programming experience, but a background in math and computers is helpful. These online certificate programs typically require students to have access to a computer that runs a Windows-based operating system and obtain specific software programs, such as DirectX; DirectX is available as a free online download. An online game programming certificate program includes basic training in:
- C++ programming
- Game mathematics
- Artificial intelligence
- Graphics with DirectX
Online Associate of Science in Game Programming
An online associate's degree program in game programming may allow students to transfer into a bachelor's degree program in the same field upon graduation. Programs are often presented through the use of an integrated system, which combines forum, e-mail, instant messaging and real-time testing capabilities into an application that students can access online through any Internet connection. Curriculum covers:
- Database management
- Sound and video production
- Game engine coding with Open GL
Online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming
This degree program also includes general education courses and classes in computer science. Game programming bachelor's degree programs are available as either fully online or hybrid programs. Distance learning students are often required to have DirectX and OpenGL programs, a webcam and a graphics card that supports those programs. Coursework includes:
- Game and simulation development
- Physics engine
- Game maintenance
- Artificial intelligence
- Theories of game design
Schools with Online Game Programming Programs
There are several options for students interested in learning how to program video games. For example, the University of North Dakota offers an online Video Game Design and Development Training Program. This program is designed both for aspiring professionals and individuals who just have an interest in learning how to program games. Applicants are expected to be familiar with computers and high school math courses in order to be successful in the program. They also need to have access to a PC or IBM-compatible computer to complete the program, as the majority of modules in the program are designed for these platforms.
Another option is the Online Web Programming Associate's Degree offered by Rasmussen College. This program can be completed in as few as 18 months and also only requires that applicants have a high school diploma, rather than having a minimum GPA requirement or requiring standardized test scores. This program is also specifically designed to prepare students for industry certifications, like Microsoft® Technology Associate (MTA) and Oracle® Java SE 7. Ocean County College offers an online Game Development/Design Associate in Science degree program. This program teaches students the basics of game development and also prepares students to transfer to a 4-year university to pursue a bachelor's degree if they wish.
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online bachelor's degree in Game Programming & Development. Their program teaches students how to use a different software and programming languages. They require that students have access to Unreal Game Engine 4, 3DS Max, and Adobe Creative suite in order to complete the program. SNHU charges $320 per credit hour, of which there are 165 in this degree program.
To summarize, there are a number of online game programming certificates and degrees that students with an interest in the field can choose from. A student's career goals and how much time they can devote to achieving the degree will help them decide on what program is best.