Thursday, April 05, 2007

Another Course for Game Design Students

The IGDA Educational SIG at GDC showed me another course that deserves to be part of my proposed curriculum for Game Design majors: Game Appreciation.

Any student who wants to be an artist should take Art Appreciation. Film students take Film Appreciation. Music students take Music Appreciation. Game designers should, therefore, take Game Appreciation.

What would a Game Appreciation course look like? It would involve playing lots of games -- pretty much every game that is widely known in the industry for its gameplay (good or bad). I could offer a list of games, but first I'll welcome all of you to do the same in the comments. At any rate, students would play these games as homework and in class, and then discuss them in class: why the games were important, where the innovations are, what was derivative of what.

Why would this course be useful? First, it's needed as a basis for understanding the art form. Second, it provides the closest thing we have to a critical vocabulary -- "this game is like that other one" -- so it's good to know the right games to compare new ones to. Third, anyone who wants a job in the game industry (especially as a designer) should be familiar with the great works of the past (and present) in order to not appear uneducated. Fourth, it gets your enrollment numbers up because it's an entire course about playing games.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think because the game industry is still so (relatively) young, a game appreciation class would need to make a distinction between games that made precedents by capitalizing on a technology, versus games that made precedents in spite of technology.

For example, Castle Wolfenstein did a lot to establish the first person shooter, but is a boring game by today's standards. The iD programmers found a way to do pseudo-3D, and today's games do 3D much better. Same goes for Myst -- arguably the first game that really took advantage of then-new CD-ROM technology, but not worth much attention now for fun, only for their technical achievements. Same goes for many adventure games, including many of the early installments of Nintendo franchises and PC game series published by Sierra.

A game appreciation class may revisit some neat classics. For students who didn't grow up with these games, I bet the students more often than not would breathe a sigh of relief that games are so much better now.