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A School for Gamers

So you want to get a job in the video game industry; you have the greatest game idea in the history of mankind, and you just know your idea would revolutionize the industry; but you've got just one small problem, you just can't seem to get your foot in the door. Well, my friend, I once found myself in an identical situation, and I believe I have stumbled upon a solution to your problem. One day while surfing the net, I came across Dave Perry's website. For those who don't know, Mr. Perry started Shiney, the company responsible for Earthworm Jim. On his website, I found a link to a school called Full Sail located in Winter Park, Florida. At the time, I had never even heard of the school, though by now I'm sure you've seen a few FS ads in gaming magazines. Anyway, I checked out the Full Sail website {www.fullsail.com) and my life changed dramatically at that moment.

I requested an information packet and here I am, about a year and a half later taking courses at Full Sail. I thought I'd share the experience with you just in case someone out there is interested in doing the same sort of thing, but doesn't know where to start. I highly recommend checking out the Full Sail website to get a general idea of what you'll be getting into. The school is not your typical four-year university. The degree programs at Full Sail are highly accelerated in order to get you out into the job market faster so that you can secure your job while Joe Shmoe still has another 2-3 years of schooling left. The school does offer a "Behind the Scenes" tour which is just a fancy way of saying "open house" so that you can come and check it out before making any commitments. I highly recommend doing this; my parents weren't exactly thrilled when I told them I wanted to go "learn how to make a video game." However, going to the open house helped relieve some of their doubts. In fact, Shift magazine rated Full Sail #3 on their list of the top ten media schools in the country; just for reference, the renowned Digi-Pen Institute in Washington was #9 on that same list.

But enough about all that, let me share some of my personal experiences with you. So far, I've been here a total of two months. New classes start every month, so the good thing is, if you don't like a course, you only have to put up with it for a month. The downside is that things move at lightning pace, and you really need to buckle down to keep up with it. In the first month you take two of what the school considers "gen ed." classes. These are introduction to Media Arts and Behavioral Science. The IMA course I found to be rather interesting. You basically cover the history of technology dating back to the first photograph in the early 1800's. I promise that things get more exciting than that before it's all said and done! In fact, I found myself sitting in a real school learning about video game history. It was hard to believe that I was actually "working" towards a degree when the teacher started talking about the Sega Dreamcast and pointed out how influential Phantasy Star Online was for online console gaming. I was elated to know that I could discuss video games with my friends in the classroom and not be scolded by the teacher. Heck, not only were we not scolded, but discussion was actually encouraged.

The Behavioral Science course, I admit, I could have done without. It was pretty much identical to my previous college psychology course I had taken back home. The cool thing is I'm already done with it. This course got pretty group oriented towards the end, which helped make it a bit more interesting. If you're in to human psychology and behavior, then this course is right up your alley, and you'll definitely have a good time with it. The second month only had one course, Computers Math and the Internet (CMI). CMI teaches you everything you'd ever want to know about computers, and some things you'd rather not. One month ago, I knew absolutely nothing about a computer other than when I push the power button it's supposed to boot up- now I can build a computer from scratch. A lot of the friends I've made here already knew how to do all that, so this course was a breeze for them. If you find yourself in the same category as them, you may be glad to know that you can test out of CMI and go ahead with your next month's classes.

Right now, we've got the holiday weekend, so I'm not real busy, but next month, we begin the C++ programming class and Entertainment Business and Law. Up to this point, things haven't been to rough, but all that's looking to change when those courses start up in September. You see, in addition, to your regular lecture classes, you also have labs to take care of. Now, with CMI, we only had eight labs the entire month, but with C++, there's a lab after every lecture. I also haven't mentioned that lectures are four hours long, and so are the labs. Also, between C++ and Entertainment Business and Law, we'll be going to class six, sometimes seven, days a week. The vast majority of the C++ classes start at 5:00 p.m., so when you figure in the lab afterwards, we'll be going to class from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and/or Sunday. And on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we'll have the Business and Law course--good bye, social life. Just letting you know what you'll be getting into.

Aside from the manic pace of the classes, there is one other drawback to attending Full Sail--you have to move to Florida. You know the "dumb" reputation the state received after the last presidential election? Well, I
think it's safe to say that that reputation is well-deserved. The locals here are the only one's who can't drive. I'm not kidding when I say that they actually stop at green lights, and once in awhile, they decide to go on red ones. Also, the local bank doesn't even issue money orders, the water tastes like Sodium Chloride, and the sun is an obnoxious jerk who makes it his daily duty to completely deep-fry the entire state. Oh, and the rain sucks too, it rains nearly every day. Sorry, just had to get that out of the system...

Well, getting back to the school, if you're interested in getting into the industry, this is a great way to get started. Make sure you're willing to work, and gather some information; check the place out and see if it's what you're looking for. In the meantime, I'll be back with another update in two months assuming I'm still alive.

By Ryan Schaefer - 09/11/03

Screenshots for A School for Gamers

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