A recent study conducted by Microsoft Research in tandem with North Carolina State University suggests that contemporary computer science programs may be inefficiently preparing students for the realities of game development, where creativity and the ability to collaborate with non-engineers is more valuable than it might be in traditional software development.
The study surveyed 364 Microsoft developers, of whom 145 made games, 100 worked on Microsoft Office, and 119 worked on various other Microsoft software projects.
“We wanted to evaluate which skills are important to game developers versus other fields of software development,” stated NC State assistant professor computer science Dr. Emerson Murphy-Hill in a press release
issued by the university. “These findings could influence how we teach aspiring game developers.”
The survey that each participant was asked to complete was created by Dr. Emerson Murphy-Hill in conjunction with two Microsoft Research representatives, Thomas Zimmermann and Nachiappan Nagappan, and was based on interviews the trio conducted with 14 developers from within and without Microsoft who had experience in the game industry.
Excerpts of those interviews are published in the paper
, and they make for fascinating reading.
Based on the responses of those surveyed, the study authors concluded that game developers tend to work in more diverse teams that require more creativity and interpersonal communication skills than traditional software developers. They also tend to use development processes they perceive to be "agile" and iterate on their designs more often their compatriots in traditional software development.
"Our results suggest that special skills, beyond those taught to most computer science students, would be beneficial for students thinking about moving into games," reads the paper. "Chief among them is the ability to communicate with non-engineers."