Archive for November, 2007

Teaching Takes Time…

November 9, 2007

Last month, I commented that one of the things distracting me from blogging was the Master Class in Video Games I’m teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. It occurs to me I haven’t mentioned that here before and you might not know what I’m talking about. So, let’s talk about that a bit…

It’s probably a bit of an overstatement to say I’m “teaching.” Yes, there’s a course listed in UT’s Radio-TV-Film department catalogue (RTF 343), cross-listed with the Computer Science department (CS 380, if memory serves). And, yes, there are 35 students in the class. But most of the “teaching” is being done by a guy named Arie Stavchansky, a talented digital artist whose website you should check out. He’s handling the weekly, 3-hour lab, where students draft game concept docs and create paper prototypes and so on. He and I talk about the labs each week before he goes and does his thing, but my part of the course happens each Monday evening.

That’s when I get to play James Lipton to the video game business. Each week, I get a gaming luminary to be my guest for a 3-hour, Inside the Actors Studio grilling. So far, my guests have been:

September 10: Myself (I did the introductory lecture, to set the scene for the rest of the semester. I know I’m a wordy bastard but, frankly, I was surprised at how easily I was able to fill three hours!)

September 17: Patricia York (HR Director, Disney Interactive Studios)

September 24: Harvey Smith (Creative Cirector, Midway Austin)

October 1: Hal Barwood (Game Designer, Screenwriter, Film Director)

October 8: Matthew Bellows (General Manager, Floodgate Entertainment)

October 15: Marc LeBlanc (Designer/Programmer, Mind Control Software)

October 22: Mike Morhaime (President, Blizzard)

October 29: Tim Willits (Creative Director, id Software)

November 5: Seamus Blackley (Talent Agent, Creative Artists Agency)

In upcoming weeks, I have Paul Weaver, ace Development Director… Richard Garriott, ace, well, Richard Garriott… and others scheduled to join me. Not a bad lineup!

At some point, I’ll post some choice tidbits from the 3 hour interviews. And UT’s plan is to post video of each session somewhere, some time (I’ll keep you posted). Eventually, the video — edited and raw footage — will go to the Video Game archive as the beginnings of what I hope turns into a for-real oral history project.

For now, I’ll just say, even though many of the guests are friends, I learn a TON each week — about games and about each guest — that I didn’t know before.  (If the students are getting half as much out of this as I am, everyone’s a winner!) But, MAN, is prepping for these interviews a lot of work. My life’s kind of devolved into Studio and Class Prep, with the occasional nap and meal thrown in, strictly for health reasons. I haven’t had a day off in months. It’s been crazy. Like crunching to ship a game…

I’m incredibly grateful to the folks at Disney for allowing me to do this — it would certainly have been within their rights to say, “no” — and to my long-suffering wife (who’s far more used to me being absent and/or preoccupied than a spouse should have to be). Teaching, even the TV-Talk-Show-Host version of teaching I’m doing, really is a full-time job. (All you teachers and professors out there can now chime in with a resounding, “Well, duh!”) You’d think that the decade or so I spent teaching when I was in grad school would have prepared me for this, but I guess I forgot all the hours of prep time I used to put in. And now that I have a full-time job-and-a-half, well, let’s just say I’m a wee bit overcommitted.

Anyway, this is all by way of saying I’ll probably get back to blogging more frequently after the semester ends. For now, it’s office/class/sleep/eat… lather/rinse/repeat…

If you want to know more about the course, everything you could ever want to know is posted online here. Enjoy!

Quick note about the Center for American History Video Game Archive

November 9, 2007

Some folks from KLRU, our local PBS station, posted some video coverage of the Video Game Archive fund-raiser. You can find it at docubloggers and it’s pretty cool.

Response to the news about the archive’s creation has been great. I’ve already met with researchers interested in using the materials the Center is just beginning to collect and the folks at the Center for American History tell me they’re getting lots of interest.

When I first posted this, I wrote that I thought the Center was about to hire someone but, as someone commented, the Center has actually posted a job listing — they’re actually looking to hire someone. How exciting is that?

Wheels are turning!