Teaching Takes Time…

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!


15 Responses to “Teaching Takes Time…”

  1. sorenjohnson Says:

    Wow, that’s an incredible line-up of interviews. I would hope you got perfect attendance! Please do update us when the videos come on-line…

  2. Halo3 Chatter Blog » Blog Archive » Teaching Takes Time… Says:

    […] Takes Time… ewgprescottroberta wrote an interesting post today on Teaching Takes Time…Here’s a quick excerptLast month, I […]

  3. gshonk Says:

    O man I wish you would come speak at my school. Harvey Smith was here today with some of his team from Blacksite. Fun guy to listen to talk incredibly smart and he talked a lot about Deus Ex. Thanks for the update sounds like a great opportunity for all of those students and the entire game development community.

  4. ind1an Says:

    wll be waiting for the videos

  5. cyclepromo Says:

    Thats one pretty good interview list. I’m sure the students are tuning into the class.

  6. tcarl Says:

    Wow – this is exactly what I’ve wanted to read/see for a long long time. At one point I was even considering trying to get something organized myself but gave up (for the time being) for the exact amount of effort you describe. I can’t wait to see the videos, please make sure to let us know the moment they’re available!

  7. penguinofdoom Says:

    In what way is a Disney HR director a “gaming luminary”?

  8. jin23 Says:

    It’s an off-topic question Warren but I heard Eidos is developping a new Deus Ex and I’d like to know if you’ll be involved in the process.


  9. tymo Says:

    All the subtlety of a dead dog.
    I think we can assume not. :p

  10. JulianP Says:

    Like jin23 here, I wanted to ask whether you have anything at all to do with the Deus Ex game that’s currently in development at Eidos Montreal… Because frankly, if none of the creators of Deus Ex – especially you- had no input in making this new game, I fear that it’s just an attempt to milk a popular franchise for an easy buck, raping the greatest video game ever in the process. Please Warren, I’m worried! 😦

  11. Necros Says:

    I for one like trailer…

    The devs have spoken to Warren, though they are not telling anything more about it. I think some “fresh blood” might do good to the series and from what I know, the devs working on the game are quite capable making a very good sequel (prequel?). But of course we’ll se what the game’s gonna be like next spring/summer when they’ll have something to show. For now, I’m trying to be optimistic. 🙂

    Warren, if you can and are willing to say anything about Deus Ex 3, please do so. 🙂 And of course I can’t wait to see those videos, thanks for all this work. And please, tell us something about Ninja Gold too! 😀

  12. JulianP Says:

    I’m pretty optimistic about the game after hearing what the developers have said about their approach to the project. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    Damn, I had already forgotten about Ninja Gold! Warren sure likes his secrets, I’m so anxious to hear more about what he’s cooking. 😀

  13. cjovalle Says:

    Preserving an oral history is a great idea. Look forward to seeing the archive host the videos.

  14. chimney Says:

    Warren, I learned about the class halfway through the semester, so I couldn’t register for it, but I have had the chance to drop in for many of the interviews.

    Each one gives me a new perspective on the game dev world, and the hard work that goes into making a game. I had no idea so many games were developed in Austin! I also enjoyed the opportunity to ask a few questions after the interview.

    Thanks for doing this. I hope you get the chance to do another one of these class/interview sessions before I graduate, so I can officially take your class. With luck, the movies will be posted soon so I can see the interviews I missed.


  15. bquintero Says:

    I can certainly agree that teaching takes time. I taught for a while myself at a game school. Many people don’t see the amount of time management required to do your job well as an educator. It definitely has the slack in the rope to allow someone to do their jobs poorly but if you care about your students you’ll find it consuming more time than you might have imagined.

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