Last updated Mar 05 '12 at 11:59
I'm not entirely sure you should go to college to become a game designer. It's not a bad idea, it just might not be the best. I work as a Technical Animator on an upcoming MMO game, and I can say that college is not the only way into this industry.
Most companies are going to have tools that only they use, that are made by their employees, and colleges aren't going to be able to teach you that stuff. They'll be able to teach you the basics of level design, probably an editor or 2 like Unreal Editor, maybe a 3D modeling program like Maya, but they aren't going to be able to teach you about any of the proprietary tools that each individual company uses. However, if you are into games, have modded games at all, or just played them a lot, you probably already know what makes a good level in a game, and the editors/mod tools are available when you purchase games that use them. (Unreal at least comes with UT3, and an older version with UT2K4.)
Also, you need to decide what 'designing' your own games means to you. Are you going to design quests/missions, levels, props, etc? Each field is going to have it's own path of getting to the end result. If you want to design levels or quests for a game, then get really good at the Unreal Editor, Cryengine, Far Cry editor, etc. at making not only levels, but also objectives.
Lastly, you can get into the games industry just by getting your foot in the door with a job like Customer Service, Game Master, or Quality Assurance. Each of those fields requires little more than a passion for gaming, and some dedication. Plus, you won't be $100,000 in debt due to student loans. Each company is going to differ on how you are treated as one of those positions, but stick with it long enough and you'll end up just where you want to be without having to throw money into a college program. Hope this helps!
Last updated Mar 05 '12 at 11:54
I sort of agree with the answer above. I did go to school. Two of them actually. I currently hold a BFA in writing and directing and a BS in computer science. But when entering the field, despite my length of experience in creative fields I still ended up being in QA for a year before moving into design. The reality is, times seem to be changing and where you went to school is far less important than what you have done or worked on. Anyone can graduate, the reality is that it isn't really hard to find a degree. Just because you graduated doesn't mean that you are going to be a hard worker who meets his deadlines.
My mother was an educator for 32 years so it is hard for me to tell anyone not to go to school. But the truth is if you really have interest in getting into the industry you will need some experience working in one. And the best way to do that is to become a tester. But make it clear in the interview that you have interest in moving up in the company to a position in design. Some places may bock at that, others will see a motivated employee.
If you happen to land a QA position then do anything you can to go above and beyond. I spent my time, off the clock, tracking people down who were willing to show me how the companies tool sets work. That way when I went to make a case about getting moved over I was able to say to my bosses that it would take less time to promote me than it would to bring in someone new because I already new some of the design pipeline.
Hope that helps and good luck to all of you.