Behind The Digital Curtain #2: Back To School

I passed my first exam! 87% – not bad for the first test of any kind I’ve taken for about ten years.

As I mentioned last time, I am enrolled on the Train2Game QA Tester and Level Design Diploma, a course that is split into three main sections as well as a brief introduction to game designing with GameMaker.

I will be bringing you an updated, “full” review of my experiences learning with Train2Game once I’ve finished the course, but I felt that it was worth introducing them now, since it was enrolling on the aforementioned course that cemented my transition to the games industry.

Train2Game is a “by the people, for the people” organisation dedicated to providing distance learning courses for all main areas of game development: testing, art, design and programming. While my ultimate goal is to become a games designer, listening to various podcasts, reading books and speaking to those “in the know” made me realise that the most common entry point to the industry is within QA.

The QA Tester and Level Design Diploma, therefore, provided a perfect balance between learning about what would likely be my first job, as well as learning to develop the skills necessary to move up the ladder to the next logical step: Level Design.

Obviously I can’t comment on the other courses on offer, but QA is delivered through a mix of online tutorials and a number of physical student handbooks.

The online tutorials often involve getting some practice with testing software, bug databases, software patching tools and more. They are generally quite short, but serve to break up the pace of learning and allow you to get your hands on some nifty little programs.

Progressing through the course is managed by TMAs, SMAs, portfolio projects and three exams.

Tutor-marked assessments consist of multiple choice tests, submitted online and then marked, with feedback, by a tutor within a couple of days. Self-marked assessments are largely optional, although you may be required to submit them to a tutor for review. They range from researching bug life cycles in publicly released games to preparing a mock proof of concept presentation to press/publishers.

Portfolio projects are essentially bits of coursework which are collated as you go and submitted prior to taking the final exam. So far these have included writing a game review, producing a large report on a number of provided titles, and researching the differences between several game genres.

Overall, the course can take up to three years to complete, but as it is very much an “in your own time” learning process it is easy to work through the material much quicker than that. For example, it has taken me little over three months to progress just over half way through the course material, including passing the first online exam and completing three portfolio projects.

The course costs less than a degree, but is still a pretty hefty outlay at around £6,000 (which can be paid for monthly). Ultimately, the worth of any course like this is the difference it makes to your job prospects. As such, I will aim to bring you a full review as soon as I graduate.

Wish me luck! – DJ

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