Denius-Sams Gaming Academy Update #4

17 Jan

Curriculum, Part 1

Sorry I missed a week of updates. Not sure how that happened. Well, I do know – I got distracted preparing for a Development Council meeting. No excuse but that’s the reason. I’m back now with more info about the Gaming Academy.

First, some big news (big to me, anyway): Yesterday (January 16th) we launched a revised and expanded Denius-Sams Gaming Academy website. There’s now plenty more information about the program up there (and, even more exciting, we’re now, finally, taking applications – full instructions on the website, of course).

But here, this week, I want to talk about the curriculum and how it came to be what we think it will be.

I say “think,” because it’s entirely possible – even likely – that elements of the curriculum will change between now and the start of classes. That’s months away and the Development Council, which met for the first time this past Monday, provided a ton of great input that really has me thinking about (and rethinking) some stuff.

But going back to the beginning, my first thought as we were planning the curriculum was to have three core components. We’d start with an hour-long course in the morning about the Art of Games immediately followed by a second hour-long course right after called the Business of Games. Then there’d be a Lab each afternoon in which actual games would be built.

The Lab would be the practical application part and the courses would provide background and theory. The courses would lay out facts about the art and business of games, directly contradicting each other, of course, though both would have been “right” given the unique needs of each approach to the medium. The idea was to expose students to the tension between art and commerce, since that’s where I think the (wait for it…) Commercial Art of video games achieves greatness.

But when we started planning out the courses, the two-course idea didn’t work at all.

For one thing, it had students sitting in class too long each day, instead of working on games. For another, there was a ton of overlap in the material presented in each class. And, finally, neither course was explicitly focused on our leadership mission.

So that idea went out the window. What replaced it?

The Course (Singular)

Instead of two classes, the current plan is to have a single class, broken into modules. The class meets for 60-90 minutes a day (still trying to decide on that…) Each module covers a different aspect of game development and games leadership – topics like the role of “Leadership in Early Phase Development” (concepting, pitching, preproduction, etc.) or “Hiring, Team-Building and Culture” (how you build a cohesive team and all the things that can cause problems in that effort). Other modules include things like “Middle Phase Development” (aka the grind that is Production), “Late Phase Development” (testing, tuning, marketing, burnout, etc.). We’ll talk about everything in this class – from art to business… models of creative collaboration… team structures and development models… tools for project management… metrics and analytics (and appropriate use thereof)… what happens after you ship… and more.

Always, we’ll keep our eye – and student minds – focused on how leadership must and does change over time on a project and in a business.

Each of the modules is already broken down into sub-topics, in some cases all the way down to the level of individual lectures. But for now I’m going to play it close to the vest and keep the sub-topics and lecture-level thinking to myself. There’s just too much of a chance that’ll  change before the school year starts. Maybe we’ll get into it later…

But how will we teach this? Will it be all lectures?

There will be some lecturing from the faculty, and we’re planning on bringing in guest speakers to discuss topics of special interest and/or things that none of the staffers are expert in. That means there’ll be some folks coming in to directly contradict what you hear in class every day. (Remember what I said about there not being One Right Way?…)

But the last thing students in this program are going to want to do is listen to me and the rest of the teaching staff wagging our tongues for an hour or more a day! Instead, the plan is to focus on in-class exercises, case-study analyses and discussions, roleplaying scenarios (no – there won’t be any orcs and elves…. maybe a few demons, of the human variety…), that sort of thing. It’ll be – wait for it… – interactive! If you’re uncomfortable with the Socratic method and intense classroom participation, you probably shouldn’t apply.

So that’s a high-level look at the course. Is that all there is? Of course not. See you next week for an overview of the hands-on part of the course, where theory meets practice.

(Now go check out the website and submit your applications!)


One Response to “Denius-Sams Gaming Academy Update #4”

  1. February 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    Glorious blog post! For many, casino games can be an art and it needs a large amount of effort to practise it.

    What you had written above is excellent and is extremely useful for beginners
    similar to me. Remarkable study and shared on social media with my friends!

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