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!