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GCG Feature: ‘Innovation or Vocation?’

How many game graduates will turn into pioneers and how many will be button-pushers, happy to take employment where they can? Artist and animator Albert T. Ferrer looks at the purpose of game dev education in a
December 26, 2007
How many game graduates will turn out to be true pioneers and how many will be button-pushers, happy to take employment where they can get it? A new article, “Innovation or Vocation? The Purpose of Game Education” on GameCareerGuide.com considers how different institutions approach how they teach game development. Author Albert T. Ferrer wonders whether schools are helping students to become imaginative designers or if they are helping them find employment only. Or should it be up to the students to see past bad marketing campaigns and find an institute that meets their needs, whether they are technical or scholastic? Ferrer considers the issues in this excerpt: “How can we gauge the success of a game development program? On the one hand, there are undergraduate programs, which largely base their success on how many students get jobs in the industry upon graduation. On the other hand, graduate-level students might look at their department’s or university’s success based on how much impact their work has had on the industry. Other success factors can be broad, like curricula, or fine-grained, like class sizes, lab time, and how closely the program mimics the inner workings of the professional industry. While each program has its own challenges, institutions are ultimately faced with the same issues in terms of teaching game education. Connecting with Educators Tracy Fullerton, co-director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab at the Interactive Media Division at University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, says one of the biggest problems in game education is finding professors. ‘There are very few qualified professors of game design,’ Fullerton says. ‘It is not enough to be or have been a professional developer. Teaching at the university level requires experience of a different kind. This weakness will sort itself out naturally, as more people enter the field, but it is a difficulty that a lot of programs are running into.’ Fullerton presents an interesting dilemma: As academia embraces the study of interactive arts, game education comes one step closer to being considered a serious form of study. Yet if professional developers are not truly qualified to teach it, who is? Experienced game developers often have no formal game development training because they were educated before these kinds of programs became widely available. They don’t necessarily know, intuitively at least, the difference between how one might learn game development on the job versus how one might learn it in the classroom. Formalized instruction in the game industry is so new that it has not yet produced a pool of professors to teach it.” To read the full feature article, visit GameCareerGuide.com.

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