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Faculty Day in the Life: Austin Community College's Todd Bailey

In this Gamasutra educational feature, Austin Community College faculty member and NCSoft designer Todd Bailey describes a typical day as an experienced designer teaching evening design courses.

Introduction

My name is Todd Bailey, and I'm a video game designer, currently working for NCsoft in Austin, Texas. I’m also faculty at Austin Community College. I've worked on various Massively Multiplayer games including Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. I'm doing mission design work for Tabula Rasa, right now, and loving every minute of it.

7:00 AM
My alarm goes off at 7 am every day. I don't get up. I just like to hit the snooze button, so I make sure I get to do it once or twice before I actually get up.

7:09 AM
Snooze button.

7:18 AM
Snooze button.

7:27 AM
I really should get up, but the cats are sleeping on my feet and they look so comfortable.

7:42 AM
Okay, I'm up, I'm up. After scraping two or three cats off my bed, I manage to get my day started.

7:44 AM
I lay back down.

7:53 AM
Okay, this time I'm really getting up.


Tabula Rasa

7:55 AM
Cats must be fed or I can get nothing done. They will hurt me. Of this I'm sure.

8:30 AM
Start driving to work. Austin traffic really is its own thing. It's not that people in Austin are bad drivers (well, some of us are), it's just that we're all so eager to get to work in the morning. Yeah, that must be it.

9:00 AM
By 9, I'm pulling into the parking lot at the NCsoft Austin Studio. I'll have some coffee, read some email, and try to get a jump on what's going on for the rest of the day.

9:15 AM
I'm working now. No, really. Look at me. I'm not reading funny stories on the internet. I'm working. Really.

11:30 AM
Lunch time! Usually a bunch of us designers get together to have a delicious lunch at one of Austin's many fine eating establishments. I prefer barbecue or Chinese food. If it's just folks from the office we talk about work. If we happen to have lunch with some friends from one of the other local game studios, we talk about World of Warcraft. Or Everquest II. Or Oblivion. Anything anybody's playing is fair game.

1:00 PM
Back to the office, and back to the mission design. This is the best part of my day. Full of delicious fried rice, I can get some real work done. On days when I teach a class, I leave the office a little earlier, so I try to work extra hard. Yeah, that's what I do.

5:00 PM
Since class starts at 6, I have to get moving. Austin traffic is like the NBA. It's fan-tastic.

5:30 PM
Since my course schedule is laid out ahead of time, and since I've gone over the chapters in the textbook already, I know what I'm going to be talking about during class, but I like to glance through the book and try to catch if there's anything particular I want to bring up during discussion.

The Design I course is really just an introductory class to being a designer at Austin Community College. We'll do some mock-ups of design documents, and talk a lot about specific projects and how things get done. The best part to me is doing a sort of roundtable discussion, and I like to have a topic before class starts.

6:00 PM
Students start to arrive. It's really very strange to me, sometimes, that I'm teaching a class. It's something I like to do, and feel I might have a knack for. If there's anything I'm good at, it's talking uninterrupted for three straight hours while people sit quietly, nod their heads, and laugh in all the right places.

I like to start off with a little speech to let the class know what we're going to be talking about tonight. If I assigned any homework the week before I check to make sure everyone's done it, and then put it in my bag to read later. Usually this will be something small, since I'm not a big fan of homework. But I like to get the class to do things like, “come up with five pitches for games that you'd like to play.” Or “make a list of all the video game characters that you can identify with.” Something like that. Nothing big, no right or wrong answers necessarily, just something to get the class thinking.

6:20 PM
Have I really been talking for twenty straight minutes? Yeah. Yeah, I have.

6:25 PM
I like to make everyone get involved so I'll start a discussion by asking some questions, or letting a student ask a question about what we've already talked about. I try to bring some of my own experience to the class, let them know things that actually happened to me or someone I know in the game industry. Being a game designer is really like nothing else in the world. Some of the stuff that happens is hard to believe, but it's true. Every word of it. No one's making any of it up. It all really happened.

7:00 PM
Teaching. Now comes the part where I get to write on the white board. This is always one of my favorite parts. I make lists, or draw diagrams, something to show how what we're talking about actually works in the game industry. I like to let the students know, for example, how designers work with artists, or programmers, or marketing, to get everything in the game just right.

8:00 PM
We usually take a smoke break around here somewhere.

8:15 PM
Did everyone come back to class yet? No, there's a few stragglers.

8:20 PM
Now everyone's back. It's time for a recap of the night's discussion, and some more Q & A. Answering questions from students is really the best part. It's interesting because you can tell sometimes just from the questions who's getting it and who isn't. I try to make sure everyone stays involved.

9:00 PM
Another successful day, capped off by another successful class. Go me.

9:30 PM
Dinner. Late dinners on class nights.

10:00 PM
Time for two or three good hours of gaming.

12:00 AM
I should really go to bed. But I'm almost through this level. I'll play for ten more minutes.

1:00 AM
Ok, I'm going to bed now. Good night.

_____________________________________________________

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