As a student looking at going into the games industry, I expect the course I am on to get me the job at the end of the road. Otherwise why bother. I realise that job is not going to just be served up to me on a plate, but as long as I follow the curriculum put before me that should lead me in the right direction towards the end goal. But what exactly should that curriculum involve. If all I am going to get out of it is a series of lectures telling me ‘this is how you make this do this’… I can learn that for free by watching video tutorials on the internet. Alternatively it could be 3 years on writing the perfect CV and how to plan your work. Great, they are fundamental life skills but I’m going to be a bit stuck when it actually comes to creating 3D assets, which is what I went on the course to do.
I believe that a good degree course is one that not only facilitates your learning of specific technical skills but also compliments that with the teaching of ‘soft skills’. As a graduate you are not necessarily going to be going directly into your dream role in the games industry, so having that variety in skills means you should be able to fit into any job vacancy with in a similar field. Being able to understand humans as well as computers is vital to all job roles and with the application of humanities in the curriculum this isn’t an issue. 
Some game companies want highly trained graduate artists and programmers. Some claim they really prefer creative individuals with a good Liberal Arts background. Surely these both contradict themselves and if you’re on a course where you might be applying for 2 separate jobs at the end, both asking for different things, how do you what you are learning is the right thing to get you there. The truth is there currently isn’t an answer. The games industry, compared to most others, is still extremely young and the idea of studying a specific course to get into it is even more so. The majority of people teaching these courses now haven’t had the same education you will have coming out of the them, but instead have most likely studied the Arts, English, History etc. Only difference being they’ve probably got some experience in the industry and a lot more in life.
Like I mentioned previously you no longer need lecture or seminar style situations to learn a specific technical skills, but one thing University does have in hand over learning from online resources is that you are learning in an environment that is close to that of an actual studio. Learning as a group and working around others is something that highly benefits everyone involved as you are just as likely to learn new things from each other as you are from a lecturer and it gives you an instant source to help with problem solving as well as getting working critique.
Working in a studio environment also helps in keeping on track with work. Teaching scoping and iteration is also something that is key. With the pressure as well as security of that style of working environment; being around your peers and tutors, you move away from slacking at work and rushing it all last minute and learn to organise and optimise your workflow better and thus take those skills into the workplace as well.
Although it’s difficult to say how education can meet these opposing views and yet provide a valid and fulfilling experience to students. With a well thought out program that incorporates as much Art and Humanities as it does Technical Skills, keeping it in a studio style environment you should, as a student, be able to take as much out of that as you need to get you the job you want in the industry.
I am Elliott Pacel, a Technical Artist at Reflections, Ubisoft.