GDC ’08, follow-up, part 1 (a little late…)

Once again, work got the better of me and I didn’t get a chance to go into more detail on my GDC experience. Now, enough time has passed I’ve forgotten most of what I hoped to say, but I’ll give it a go anyway.

The IGDA Education Summit

The show got off to a good start, for me, with the summit and, particularly Ernest Adams terrific opening keynote entitled, “Ten Commandments for Game Development Education.” He’s posted the script for the talk at his website, so I won’t go into too much detail, but for those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing (and you should read the whole thing, btw…), I’ll just list the commandments, as I thumbtyped them on my phone, in reverse order as God and Ernest intended:

10. Thou shalt not give tests in game development courses, nor be dogmatic in thy doctrine, for even thou knowest not all.

9. Thou shalt reward precision and punish hand-waving, for the Lord loveth it not.

8. Except ye teach a master’s level course in experimental interaction design, thou shalt not emphasize aesthetics or story at the expense of interaction, i.e. gameplay.

7. Thou shalt teach not only game development, but also the history of games, the analysis of games, and the sociology of gaming.

6. With industry shalt thou build relationships; yet also shalt thou remember that “industry” explodeth in all directions, and meaneth more than PC and console games for the West.

5. Thou shalt require teamwork. Thou shalt teach project management, and gently discourage over-ambitious projects.

4. Thou shalt permit failure in thy students’ first-year projects, and encourage them to learn from it.

3. In their final projects, thou shalt encourage thinking outside the box.

2. Thou shalt require thy pupils to study other arts and sciences besides the craft of game development, for the ignorant developer createth only the derivative game.

1. Thou shalt integrate all the disciplines of game development unto the utmost of thy institution’s capacity.

Yeah, the pseudo-King James language is a little goofy but at too-early-o’clock on Monday morning, it struck the right chord with me and, while I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Ernest, in this case, I think he was pretty much right on the money. I hope the assembled educators got the message. Go read the full text and then come back here and let’s talk.

The next day, Tuesday, Ian Bogost, from Georgia Tech gave a talk on (are you sitting down?) “interdisciplinarity.” And love.

I’m not so sure about the “love” part (though you can decide for yourself by reading Ian’s text on his website). Frankly, I’m not even so sure about the “interdisciplinarity” part. But I really enjoyed what Ian had to say about ideas, and about designers (well, Will Wright, at least), exploring in their work ideas from outside the world of gaming. The need to find for designers to find inspiration outside the world of games and to be broadly enough interested, educated and read, is critical to our future. That’s been one of my hobbyhorses for a while now.

One of my great fears is that the next generation of developers will come to the medium with nothing but gaming experiences to draw from – and that educators, focused too narrowly on preparing people for Jobs In The Game Business, will focus only on directly game relevant courses, ignoring all those pesky liberal arts courses that teach us, oh, you know, what it means to be human and all… And that will lead to imitation and stagnation in a medium that already settles far too often for the former and can ill-afford the latter, if we hope to reach our true potential.

Ian kinda got at that in his talk and I’ll even forgive him for using the word “interdisciplinarity” if it’s in the service of ideas I agree with so strongly!

Tuesday also saw my only GDC speaking gig this year — I participated in a panel about what happens when pro developers get into teaching. I whined pretty dramatically about how hard teaching is, but since I already blogged about that some months ago, I’ll spare all of you and post thoughts on the rest of the show soon as I can jog my memory a bit and get my hands back on a keyboard.

3 Responses to “GDC ’08, follow-up, part 1 (a little late…)”

  1. larington Says:

    Yeah, the moment I saw Ernest Adams Commandments on Gamasutra I decided to be cheeky and point them out to the course program director where I’m studying creative game design. Which reminds me, I’m supposed to be e-mailing him (The program director) a reminder to try and contact Ernest in the hopes of getting him to visit us at some point…

  2. gshonk Says:

    I had a good time working the Monday session and Ernest made me laugh quite a bit. “Thou shalt permit failure in thy students’ first-year projects, and encourage them to learn from it.” Is probably my favorite because it is so true. You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.

  3. Samuel Dane Says:

    2. and 7. are the most important ones in my opinion. Sure enough, most of the people who I know who either want to work in the industry or are well on their way to getting there, aren’t interested in the least in any other fields and are severely lacking in common knowledge. I find that rather sad and foreboding.

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