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The Parents Discussion

Originally appeared in "The Games Game" column on The IGDA website was massively redesigned in 2013, making old columns unavailable, so select columns are now being reposted here on an as-needed basis.

The Parents Discussion (November 2009)

Dear Tom,
I want so bad to be a game designer, but my parents won't allow me to study game design. They say game design is a frivolous thing, and I should be doing something with a better future, like engineering or business or law or medicine or science. They don't understand that they're stifling my dream! What can I do?
Dreamer In Chains


Dear Dreamer,
You have several options:

Let's examine each of those.

a. If you want control over your education, you have to assume control over every aspect of your life. I assume you're 18 or older (I don't recommend this path if you haven't yet had your 18th birthday). You can get a job and start saving money towards your desired education. It'll take time, and you'll need to find a school that offers financial assistance, but others have done it and so can you.

b. If they're willing to put you through a CS degree or a business degree or whatever, take the opportunity. If you were thinking you needed to get a game design degree because that's the only way to become a game designer, stop thinking that. It's not the only way. Of the different choices your parents are offering you, which one do you hate the least? Maybe you'd enjoy studying science or law, for instance. As long as you enjoy it, then there's nothing wrong with going that way. Then after graduation, you can start building your portfolio and work your way towards getting into the game industry one way or another. Nobody will care what your degree is in, as long as you're a good candidate for some sort of game job. Then once you're in the industry, you can work your way towards that coveted design position. I've written lots of columns on this.

c. You can try to convince them, but it's going to be difficult. You can't convince them with words, though. The way to convince someone of your passions is by your actions. That's how you get a job, too -- not with words on the resume but with actions on the resume. You get the job by doing the job. You convince someone of your passion by doing the thing you say you're passionate about. But if you choose this option C, as opposed to A or B, be prepared to have to go with A or B in the end, if C doesn't work out.

My recommendation is B. Their desires for your well-being translate into this "we're doing this for your own good" approach to controlling your education. But at some point, they'll have to accept that it's your life and that you have to have the control. All three options are going to entail conflict between you and your parents at some point. The point of B isn't to simply delay the inevitable conflict, and it isn't to subvert their desires, and it isn't to play a dirty trick on them. The point of B is that they're giving you some choices, and although you think those choices are not in line with your desires, you're wrong. You can achieve your desired end while still acting within the choices they've offered you.

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