Succeeding in your online game design program is a lot like succeeding in a successful video game campaign or MMORPG raid. You need to get set up, gear up, make a plan, and stick to it (while adapting to changing conditions when necessary). Don’t be a n00b – take your online game design program seriously and you’ll reap the rewards. Mess around and it’s game over.
Get in Early
So many people overlook the part. If you’ve been thinking about becoming a video game designer, then another few months or so isn’t going to make or break your whole life. Do yourself a favor: Take your time, do your homework, and get all your ducks in a row before you try to start classes. If it’s August now, don’t expect to be in class for September. Remember that he great thing about online game design programs is that they start all the time!
Register for a program that starts in a few months. Give yourself ample time to fill out financial aid paperwork, get old transcripts sent to the school (if necessary) and get all your books and stuff together (more on that below). You’ll be glad you did, and so will the good people who work at the school you’re registering at – new semesters are extremely stressful, and by starting early, you save them and yourself a lot of aggravation.
Get Your Gear
When you sign up for your online game design program you’ll be issued a list of materials to purchase. This includes books, software, and supplemental materials. Don’t wait.
You will not be able to begin classes without these things. The school usually has a bookstore of some kind set up to make it easier on you. You don’t necessarily need to use it (you can sometimes find less expensive options on Amazon.com or ABE.com), but just make sure that the goods you get fit the bill. Use ISBNs to match items for the class. Make sure that books aren’t full of scribbles (pick “New” or “Like New,” when searching).
Pro tip: Don’t pirate software. It’s illegal. Sure you can get cracked versions with key generators that work just as good as the real thing, but if/when you run into problems with the software (updates, errors, etc.), you’ll be up a creek and might have to end up shelling out for the real thing anyway. Students can often get “student” versions of software (Adobe does this) for a discount (though sometimes with some capabilities removed or restricted).
Make a Plan
You have a life: job, friends, family, games to play (select all that apply). When you decide to go to school, take a hard look at all the ways your time is spent every week and how school will be a part of that. Remember that a typical college course requires three hours of study outside of class every week for every week spent in class.
In an online game design program you don’t have the luxury of “in class” time (though more sophisticated content-delivery systems are starting to include things like live video streams, PowerPoint-style slideshow presentations, and interactive chats), so you have to plan out all of your “classwork,” homework, and study time yourself.
If you have a full-time job, then you will probably want to start with one or two courses as you get warmed up. Make sure to tell your friends, family, and boss about the new constraints on your time. Ask for scheduling changes as early as possible. Bosses are much more willing to make changes and concessions in advance, rather than after your performance starts to flag.
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