Surely IT is more than just a game?

The first video-gaming degrees have finally received government approval in New Zealand.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

The first video-gaming degrees have finally received government approval in New Zealand.

Auckland's Media Design School will be running two degrees, aimed at supplying New Zealand's emerging games industry.

However, I cannot help being somewhat sceptical. Just how useful are they?

When other countries began offering such courses, a few years back, there was some debate about their effectiveness.

The Australian reported, back in 2007, that there were three main reasons not to get a gaming degree: you would not be gaming 50 hours a week; there is too much competition for the courses; and, the information you would learn would be too specialised for everyday work life.

Reports from the UK gave other reasons, such as that these gaming degrees are not teaching students enough to get a job and claiming that a traditional computer science degree would be much more useful.

Then, we hear from Canada that such courses are simply poor-quality training from 'degree mills' that are keen to make a fast buck.

However, other overseas reports, during the same era, noted that companies were happy to take on recipients of gaming degrees — so, they may be worthwhile after all.

Yet, I remain sceptical. I, too, cannot help but think that a more traditional and wider reaching computer science degree obtained at one of New Zealand's "better" tertiary centres, would be best for employability.

Yes, the New Zealand gaming industry is healthy and expanding. There are jobs available; at least, at the moment.

But, as I blogged last week, Kiwi employers are a picky lot. They, too, might want, or expect, the wider skills of a traditional computer science degree.

And, though I wouldn't cast aspersions upon the Auckland Media Design School, but I certainly wouldn't put it up there with the University of Auckland, University of Otago, Auckland University of Technology, and so on.

The design school says it has looked at what is happening overseas and assessed what local gaming companies seek. The gaming industry, in response, has given its support, noting such gaming degrees are still of use in other IT sectors.

Hopefully, as a late entrant to the scene, it will have learnt from developments overseas and can give its students the best of the best of courses that will lead to good jobs.

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