Saturday, May 17, 2008

Choosing a School: Faculty

Question: Who are your faculty?

What to look for: Industry experience, doing work that is related to the classes they are teaching. Preferably at least one teacher who did the job that you want to get yourself some day.
What to do: Again, verify. Look up credits on Mobygames for games that were published. If a professor can't explain to you exactly what work they did on each title they worked on, find out yourself if you can, and view with extreme suspicion if you can't. Ditto if the school (or a particular professor) says they worked on "lots of games" but can't tell you which ones.

What to watch out for: There are a lot of "teachers" out there who are supposed to teach you how to make games even though they've never made one themselves. Would you want to learn how to cook from someone who's never been in a kitchen (no matter how many cookbooks they've read)? Would you pay money to take music lessons from someone who's never picked up an instrument? Would you take a skydiving course from someone who has never been in a plane? Someone with no experience can teach you the theory from a textbook, but they won't be able to guide you any further... and with so many bad textbooks out there, how would they know that what they're teaching is even valid?

3 comments:

malcolmr@cse.unsw.edu.au said...

Would you take a skydiving course from someone who has never been in a plane? Someone with no experience can teach you the theory from a textbook, but they won't be able to guide you any further... and with so many bad textbooks out there, how would they know that what they're teaching is even valid?

Where does that leave those of us in academia who want to teach game design but have never worked in industry?

I would love to spend a year or two working as a desginer on a real game, but that's not how the industry works, is it? I'd have to take a considerable pay cut and go get a code-monkey job in a game company, and work my way up over several years to the level at which they'll let me even begin to talk about design. That's just not practical.

I don't just mean to gripe. I acknowledge that some experience would greatly improve my teaching, but I can't see any practical way to gain that experience without totally abandoning my academic career.

Lewis said...

A serious "disease" in this country is universities where the teachers have never done the work they're supposed to be teaching people to do.

I suspect the number of "game development" faculty who have actually made games is a very small percentage of those who (try to) teach it. Yet schools are not meant to be havens for people who want to teach something but don't know how to do the deed. (Unfortunately that phrase "those who cannot do, teach" is sometimes the truth.)

There are ways to get some experience without working full time for a game company. It's possible to freelance design non-electronic games that are published (and when you teach game design, you mostly do it with non-electronic games, electronic ones take far too long to make). Or you can make small electronic games yourself, or as part of a group, to get experience. But if you haven't made games, you don't even know what you don't know, especially when it comes to game design.

Recently a local college ran an online curriculum course--in itself a really Bad Idea--in game design taught by someone who is not even a game *player*. The teacher had absolutely no clue about what she was doing, and it showed.

Ian Schreiber said...

Malcolm gives a great question which deserves a future post of its own.

Short answer: if you're being asked to teach a course outside your subject area, start questioning motives. If you're stuck, start teaching yourself -- start playing games and then making them, and hopefully get a Summer internship with a game developer (or use your sabbatical year to work full-time at a development studio).