Denius-Sams Gaming Academy Update #2: Mission and Goals

27 Dec

Last week, I talked about what you’d need to do to apply for admission to the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy. (There’s more information coming about that, but it’ll have to wait for a major update of the Gaming Academy website, coming soon…) This week, I want to start telling you what you’d be applying to. Seems only fair!

Let’s start with the obvious: The Gaming Academy is being built from scratch. As I said last week, the University of Texas already has an undergraduate game development program (, but the Academy is UT’s first foray into the post-baccalaureate realm.

Where to begin planning such a program?

There are already a lot of academic game development programs out there that do an excellent job teaching people the nuts and bolts of making games. There doesn’t seem to be much point in duplicating what others are already doing.

We needed something new, something unique and original. We needed a mission that would offer value to students and to the games industry (whether the traditional PC, Mac and console side of things or the increasingly important mobile, social and independent games scenes).

Coming up with that mission was step one. It didn’t take long for us to realize that Leadership should be our focus. To be frank, leadership training is simply something the industry doesn’t do very well. It’s all learn-on-the-job and count on a lot of luck. We think we can help.

Now, “leadership” can mean a lot of things. It can mean a job as a Producer, Product Manager, Creative Director or Game Director. It can mean being an effective discipline lead. It can mean running a start-up.

There are plenty of people in the trenches of game development, or new to production and management, who want to take the next step in their careers and move into such positions or build studios of their own. We aim to help them develop the skills to do just that. (Having led teams myself, and been part of a few start-ups, I can tell you that, while there are differences in the skills and knowledge required, there’s also significant overlap. I believe we can serve both constituencies.)

But leadership doesn’t come just from a title and it isn’t solely exercised by people specifically charged with managing a studio or a project. There are discipline leads who would benefit from a deeper understanding of what happens in those overtly big picture positions. And even folks doing what I call “the real work” of game development could benefit – those folks in the trenches I mentioned earlier.  Their projects could benefit if more people had an understanding of the big picture of creative and business issues in game development. Here’s the thing to remember: Leadership happens at all levels. That’s a point we plan to hammer home pretty much every day at the Academy.

We can’t promise that you’ll walk out of the Gaming Academy and get a job as Producer or Director of the next triple-A game from Megapublisher X. No one can. But we can help you acquire skills that would qualify you for such a role and help you make other people’s jobs easier, whether above or below you on the totem pole – a critical aspect of leadership in any team environment. We can ensure that you leave with some important skills you probably didn’t have before.

Like what exactly? What will you leave the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy knowing and/or able to do?

  • You’ll have the skills to Produce or Direct a game through each of its key milestones, from initial concept to post-ship support.
  • You’ll be able to make full use of the leadership potential found in any position on a game development team – not just Producer or Director.
  • You’ll be able to deal with the challenges of a big development team – how to manage team communication, stay organized and maintain a creative vision.
  • You’ll know how to handle the inevitable creative, technical and organizational crises that can happen at any stage of development.
  • You’ll understand how games fit into larger culture and how to build a vision for their future as a vital form of entertainment and a meaningful art form.
  • At the very least, you’ll leave with an understanding of what leaders deal with everyday and the ability to make their lives easier.

We believe all of this adds up to a shorter dues-paying period before you, maybe, get a shot at such a position yourself.

So, that’s step one accomplished – we have a mission, one that benefits students and industry.

Next time, I’ll begin outlining how we’re planning on turning that mission into a reality – into a fully-fledged game development program unlike the rest. See you here next week.

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