August 23, 2011
This post isn't going to be about the latest engine, coolest game, tricky megatexture topics or molecular modeling... it's about commitment. In life, at work, in school, what are YOU willing to give to get it all?
As finals week kicks off here on the North Shore of Boston, I expect to see a variety of projects, animations, models and papers come streaming into my inbox and land on my lap(top). As I prepare to start the grading process on the student's work I think about the scary fact that I too will be a student again soon. I have to think about the idea and pause...I reflect for a moment at what I would like from my eventual professors as I embark on my next leg of educational journey. What kind of dis-service would I be doing to myself if I passed in the bare minimums and never tried to push the limits? Will i be making the most of my education, and setting myself up for a future in the gaming industry? The short answer is Hell no. How then, do I turn this thinking around and present it to my students?
Over the last handful of years teaching a variety of topics focused around digital art and the creation thereof, I have come across some stellar projects. However, for every one to two kick as examples I have had to wade through a sea of mediocrity. It kills me that students would devote only a portion of the time given to them to completing a project to actually working on the project, yet nearly 3/4 of the allotted time on YouTube or a playing 3DS and "talking" about what an awesome project they are going to create.
I understand not everyone can create incredible art. It is a talent...and a hard talent to master. I'm not looking for "talent" per se though. I'm usually grading on effort. It really amazes me that people would turn in some of the stuff that they do. Example... (No this hasn't happened, thankfully, but it is an example of what I am speaking of)
If I were to ask you to create a list of 5-7 game-play challenges and write a few paragraphs about the challenges and how they work, citing examples of different solutions. What would I be looking for?
An under achiever sees 5 challenges, one to two short (4-5 lines) paragraphs each that provide an overview of the hurdle listed.
(...Insert noise of a raspberry here)
For those that are less inclined to scrape by at bare minimums, you might be the type to pass in 6-7 challenges with decent descriptions of them all. Some would have shorter descriptions than others, based solely on the limited context needed to set the challenge up, but thorough enough to deliver a nice, clear and concise description. Alright... getting better..
Now... What am I looking for? Since I'm trying to prep you for the "real world" of an industry of giants that will not hesitate to scarf you down like last nights leftovers on an early morning ravenous binge... I want nothing short of brilliance.
Give me diagrams, sketches, descriptions and game play examples. Challenge me with new ideas and crazy twists on an outdated and tired theme. Don't pass in a timed maze... Make it fresh. Make it whimsical. Give me some sort of pattern recognition challenge with a logic twist. Surprise me with a moral challenge based purely on an economic standpoint. However, don't break my suspension of disbelief or the harmony that exists within your game's framework. If your game is a futuristic shooter set in a world similar to star trek... DON'T be foolish and reference Star Trek! Stay original. Maintain the harmony of the game and keep the "real world's" fiction realms out of your fiction realm.
Obviously, I understand the students are just that...Students. They are learning. The fact is though, if I don't try and push you further, you are going to fall into a sea of hopefuls and never be discovered. Unless you, as the student, take the time to push the limits of your own creativity, press the boundaries of your imagination and avoid what has already been done 1000 times over... you are never going to go anywhere but to the counter of your local Game Stop and purchase the games that your fellow students helped to produce.
Chad is an Adjunct Faculty member teaching video game design in Boston, MA. His school web site is http://www.phlume.com/EDU. He can be reached for comment there.