I Got My Game Design Degree - Now What?

Jake Spencer
10 April 2012

"Earn your Game Design Degree in as little as 18 months and apply to be a pro gamer. Start here now!"
 - A real ad I really saw on the Internet for real

- - -

"So, what do you do outside of here?" a friendly customer asked me at work today. "Are you in school?"

"Well, I have a degree in Game Design," I told her. Another employee interrupted our smalltalk to ask to say he could only give her store credit.

I tapped a few keys on my keyboard and waited for the inventory system to finish its search. My customer turned to her daughter: "Who's your friend... the one who does the art?"

"Oh, yeah, Paul. He's studying to be, like, an animator, or something."

"That's right!" She whipped back to me. "Her friend does animation. That's like what you do, right?"

"Um, sort of. I mean, yeah, I animate, but that's not the main, uh..." The computer was ready now, and it was difficult to set up an order while explaining my hypothetical job description to a stranger. To 95% of the population, I'm either an animator or an IT guy. "Can I see your I.D., please?"

She flipped through an overstuffed wallet. "What kind of degree did you say?"

"It's a Bachelor's of Arts in Game Design. As in video games." I watched as she reached the end of the wallet, paused, and went back to the beginning to see if she'd passed over it.

"Mmm..." The sound was distant and disinterested. Then she looked straight at me, suddenly drawn back into the conversation. "Oh! Can you do Apps?"

"I... sure, I guess I could make Apps." The conversation always winds up here. What is this fascination with Apps, and why am I expected to get excited over every little thing that can run on a telephone?

She found her license and handed it to me. The mention of Apps stirred something in the daughter. "Craig does something like that."

"Oh, right - what's that company...?" the mom mumbled.

"Zyn... Zynga? I think?"

"Zynga," I nodded.

Now my customers had the name of a specific game development company. I began typing my customer's address into the order form, confident that I knew what came next in this conversation. Precedent had taught me that my career woes were over.

Right on cue: "Maybe you could get a job at Zynga."

And as I stood there in my khakis with a name badge on my chest, I kept my gaze on the register and said, "Thanks, but I'd rather stay here than work at Zynga." And I meant it.

This was not what my customer expected. "Oh, they're not good?"

The daughter was less surprised. "Yeah, Craig hates his job."

You and I, both, Craig.

Now what?