MakeGamesWithUs started inviting users of their online curriculum into their living room to test their product in 2012. This evolved into the Summer Academy, a two-month intensive program where students design, code, and ship their own iPhone game. Past students have used their success at MakeGamesWithUS to get into Ivy League universities, land internships and jobs at companies like Facebook and Square, and have built successful games like The Deeps.
Backed by Y-Combinator and 500 Startups, MakeGamesWithUs teaches mobile development, focusing on Objective-C, Cocos2D, Git, product design, user testing, monetization, marketing and analytics. We spoke with founder Ashu Desai about the school’s selectivity, plans for expansion, and if their Summer Academy could really be a replacement for college.
This year’s Summer Academy will be held in three locations- Palo Alto, San Francisco, and New York- and it starts on June 23, so get those last-minute applications in today!
What types of students are you looking for at MakeGamesWithUs?
Last year, we ranged from ages 13-25. The core will be high-school and college students, but we do have some middle-school students who are extremely exceptional and have already started building. We’ll have people who graduated from college or want to change careers, and people who have been in the startup industry, but want to learn about programming.
You do need some programming background to start; we don’t teach students from scratch. You should have a natural interest in programming and have built something on your own. Then we get students to a place where they can actually ship something to the App Store.
Do you expect your graduates to get jobs or promotions after completing the Summer Academy?
It’s definitely helped a lot of our developers. One student got a job at a game studio in Miami. A lot have leveraged their app to get internships at companies like Square and Gameloft.
You and your cofounder, Jeremy Rossmann, both dropped out of college to start MakeGamesWithUs, and you’ve gotten some press about the Summer Academy potentially being a "college alternative?" Is that the goal?
Yes, although we’re still a ways away from that now. We think that having a successful career in software comes down to having three things: skills, credentials, and network. In terms of skills, colleges typically teach very theoretical computer science. This is useful for some jobs, but not necessarily entry-level computer programming jobs where you’re expected to get an app or a website built. The skills you learn with us are very practical. When we talk about credentials, instead of giving you a diploma, we’re saying that the app is your resume. It serves as a better credential than a GPA. Finally, a lot of universities have a very strong alumni network, but we want to do a good job of this ourselves by making sure we have a very high caliber of students in our program and alumni network.
We would like to focus on more computer science theory in the future. Today, I would see ourselves as a supplement, and in the future, an alternative.
One other point I'd like to make: my cofounder and I both dropped out of school, but I would not recommend that path to most people. We had a very unique experience growing up- we both had access to travel, unbelievable math and science curricula in high school, and were taught to speak and communicate. One of the things you go to college for is to spread your horizons and meet new types of people. I see a lot of value in college helping you with these skills.
I can see MakeGamesWithUs evolving into a “Gap Year” program, where students spend part of a year making and shipping an app, then interning at a company.
How many students will be in each cohort in this Summer Academy?
We’ll have about 50 students in each class and 4 instructors per location.
Where do you find your instructors?
First of all, every MakeGamesWithUs employee is also an instructor. As we build products for these students, we want to make sure we have a close relationship with them. The other instructors have come from our personal networks. One of our professors also teaches our MIT course, which runs on our curriculum.
What’s next for MakeGamesWithUs?
One option is to have different tracks, and bring in Web Development as well. We’d also like to expand to more cities and engage more students around the world. And finally, the “Gap Year” program is something we’re fascinated with, and a way we can leave a more lasting impact on our students. We want to provide students with life-changing education as opposed to teaching a lot of students just a little bit about coding.