Video gaming degrees mean little to nothing, says Epic Games president

Mike Capps (right), president of Epic Games, industry guru, and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, with Zee Salahuddin, TVGB, at Comic Con on 4/20. And yes, the V-symbol is for Gears of War 2 baby!

Mike Capps, the man who brought us groundbreaking titles like America’s Army and Gears of War, says when it comes to the video gaming industry, professional game developing degrees mean little to nothing.

Capps was part of a panel titled “How to Get a Job in the Video Gaming Industry” at the New York Comic Con this past Sunday, joined by Jason Schreiber, founder and president Powerhead Games, Julianne Greer, executive editor The Escapist, and Joshua Ortega, writer for Gears of War 2. During a Q&A session, Capps was asked: “How important is a professional game developing degree when it comes to applying for a job in the industry?”

Capps said it meant little to nothing. “I would prefer someone who was classically trained in the arts from a four-year college or university,” he said. He went on to explain how it makes sense to hire a graphics artist who understands the most intricate and intimate aspects of 3D-modeling, shader and lighting effects and how to bring a character or scenery to life, instead of someone who received a video gaming degree and has nothing concrete to show for it.

Moving on to programming positions, Capps explained that he also spearheads the recruitment efforts at Epic Games. Capps stated he would “rather hire a programmer who has spent four years in a college or university, has a solid background in mathematics or a related discipline, and understands complex concepts like matrix algebra,” than someone who holds a cool little two-year degree in video gaming.

“You have to show passion, you have to show drive,” stated Capps. “If you come up to me and say I don’t have a portfolio, but I am applying because I have a burning passion for video games, that only tells me you couldn’t be bothered to create even a simple mod for any one of the games you are so passionate about.” Driving the point home, he said it was not enough to have a gaming degree, you have to have something to show for it. Show that you can draw breathtaking concepts, or render photo-realistic characters or craft mind-blowing code. Show that you are driven, passionate and serious about your career in the industry, and you are much more likely to be noticed than someone who has an “awesome” degree in video gaming.

Capps commentary was echoed by Schreiber, a 20-year industry veteran, as well as Greer. Greer, a History Major herself, went on to say in another panel that the degree mattered little when it came to writing for video games. What mattered was one’s ability to write prolifically and to write well.

Capps is the President of Epic Games, which, his other laurels notwithstanding, should be more than enough of a jaw-dropping introduction. That is unless you have lived under a rock in the remote Tibetan mountains for the past 20 years. Aside from creating record-breaking, multiple-award-winning titles, the folks at Epic are also responsible for the ever-popular Unreal Engine.

On a final note, Epic Games is hiring. As is Powerhead Games. If I were you, I would take Capps’ advice very, very seriously!