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Ask the Experts: Does My School Suck?

Ask the Experts: Does My School Suck?

June 23, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

In the latest "Ask the Experts" column on game education site, a reader asks whether it will hurt him if his school has a negative reputation. Heís already seen some nasty comments online. Should he even be at that school? is also running this exclusive breaking-in advice column about the game industry. For more information about game education and getting your feet wet in game development, visit GameCareerGuide.comís Getting Started section.

Dear Experts,
I recently enrolled in an art school [school name removed]. I have taken a few classes and am doing well. However, I noticed on various forums -- and from my own observations -- that there are some negative comments about the school.

My question is what are some things that you may have heard? I pretty much have only student loans as my primary source of college funding and just want to feel somewhat secure in my decision on attending.
Thank you,

Dear Pedro,
It doesn't matter where you go to school. It matters what you do.

You are not your school, and its reputation, good or bad, is not automatically reflective of you.

I know students hate that response. They always want to know honestly what is their school's reputation. But I'd be lying to you if I told you otherwise. It's really more about you than the school you attend. As far as the game industry is concerned, it's about the work you create and the things that you do while you're in (and outside of) school.

More and more, video game developers are telling me they don't care where a job candidate attended school. Especially for artists, they care first and foremost about portfolios. Your portfolio shows what you can do -- and that speaks louder than any diploma.

The difficult part about being an art student is making sure you're at a school that can best help you create better portfolio pieces. For different students, this will mean different things. It's possible to be gifted in technique but lacking in creativity, and if that were your case, you'd want to be taking courses that challenge you creatively. Or maybe all your portfolio pieces are in one medium or only show one subject matter (don't ever be that artist whose portfolio is filled with nothing but elves and dragons); in that case, you'd want to be in a program that pushes you to somehow broaden your range of work.

The more in tune you are to your own strengths and weaknesses as an artist, the more you will get out of your art school.

Do you feel like the classes are challenging you? Do you see yourself improving as an artist? Do you have a constructive advisor or a professor who acts as a mentor, giving you sound advice? By the time you finish the program, do you think you will have at least eight pieces of work that you are genuinely proud to show others?

If the answers to all these questions are yes, then you're fine. Don't worry too much about your school's reputation. If you answered "no" once or twice, then you might need to be a little more proactive in your education and tweak a few things. If you answered "no" to all those questions, then maybe you're not at the right school, or maybe you're not yet ready to be in an art school at all.

Remember, it doesn't matter where you go; it matters what you do!

Good luck, and keep creating great art! That's what's important.

Jill Duffy is editor of and senior contributing editor of Game Developer magazine. If you have a question you would like her to answer in this bi-weekly column "Ask the Experts," send it to her via email at [email protected]

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