Last week I began teaching a game production course at The Los Angeles Film School. I've been a member of the school's Game Program Advisory Committee for the past couple of years and gotten to know the staff, and when a position opened up for a new Course Director (as they call their instructors), they offered me the job. Since I had given a number of talks about game design and production in recent months and enjoyed the experience, I accepted, provided that I could fit the hours in around my full-time job.
And so on Tuesday I began teaching a 60-hour course entitled Survey of the Video Game Industry, an introductory course covering game design, game history, business of games, games and society, and quality assurance (many of the students' first-time job in the industry will be as a tester). With only a little over a week to prepare my materials, I put together some powerpoints and organized the course around a 3-hour lecture and a 3-hour lab that I would present every other day. (The term lasts one month, so the class a total of 10 days, each with 6-hour sessions.)
My first class went well, but I had previously committed to attending an educational technology conference with my wife, a high school art teacher, that Thursday, and so a substitute teacher took over my second day of class.
The conference, called Education in a Changing World, was held at Monte Vista Christian School, which I learned was the first school in the country to base their entire curriculum around an iPad. This was the third educational technology event I attended this year, but it was still an eye-opener in terms of how education is changing in this country.
A hot topic among educators is flipping the classroom. In a traditional classroom, the teacher would spend time in class lecturing about a topic and then assign the students work to do at home. However, educators are now advocating reversing this teaching model so that teachers deliver instruction at home through interactive, teacher-created videos and moves “homework” to the classroom. Some of the advantages of this approach are that it:
- Gives teachers more time to spend 1:1 helping students
- Builds stronger student/teacher relationships
- Produces the ability for students to “rewind” lessons
- Creates a collaborative learning environment in the classroom
- Allows more advanced students to mentor less advanced students
Another trend is project-based learning. This is a learning approach that is, as the name implies, based around the students doing projects, especially group projects. That advantages to these activities are that they are more engaging for the students and provides them with opportunities to develop such skills as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and communication.
Now I am eager to try out both approaches in my own class: I have lots of experience in creating Powerpoints and videos, so flipping my class by putting my lectures online is no problem for me, and game production is inherently project-based. However, my students are too inexperienced to do actual game development, and so I would like your help in coming up with ideas for projects they can do during the few hours we have together in each class session.
Here are the topics that I am covering in my class:
- Communication and professionalism
- How a game is different from an activity
- Game design: terms, principles, prototyping, playtesting
- History of computer and mobile games
- History of console and handheld games
- Game development: prepoduction, production and postproduction
- Game publishing: the greenlight process
- Quality assurance
- Politics, race, sex and violence in games
- The impact of games on society
- Managing your career
Here are some of examples of the activities I've already planned:
- Write a game review of your favorite game. You may do it as a blog, paper, powerpoint, rap or video.
- Look up the twitter accounts of four well-known game designers. Compile a list of four other game people in the industry that they follow, and write a reason for why you think they are worth following.
- Play one of the simple games I've brought into class with two other students. Suggest a rule change and write down your prediction of how it will affect the gameplay. Observe the other students as they play the game with the rule change and write down their reactions. Do the same with two other rule changes.
What are some of your ideas for other activities that introduce students to the topics I need to cover? Write them down in the comments below.