Very recently there has been a release of two games engines that you can use at home.
Epic has released the very latest implementation of the unreal engine which has new features such as global illumination, screen based ambient occlusion, new browser system and many more. The best thing about it that not only will it be is updated, it is also free for non commercial use.
The web address for all the info is : http://www.udk.com/
The great thing about the Games Course here at Escape Studios is that we can adapt our courses to implement new tools such as the unreal engine.
The other engine that is very interesting to the artist in training is Unity. Again its free to use for non commercial so both are perfect for getting your portfolio together and getting a deeper understanding of middle ware and games technology.