DSGA year one recap, part 2

8 Jun

Last time, I described the challenges we faced in creating the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy. Today I want to focus on one of them – focus… as in the finding of ours.

The clear focus was relatively simple to define. Thinking back on the 31 years I’d been making games I saw a pretty obvious training gap that needed to be filled.

Simply put, the video game industry has always done a terrible job training its leaders and managers. It’s definitely a sink or swim business! There’s very little systematic thinking that goes into the creation and communication of a clear, compelling vision… the conditions conducive to the creation of a positive, effective team culture… and there’s virtually no training in how individuals who aren’t yet in titled positions of leadership contribute to culture creation or how they can function as maximally effective team members within the constraints imposed by that culture.

I’m the last guy who’d say on-the-job experience isn’t valuable. Clearly, it is – heck, it’s not like I got any training except what I got from folks like Richard Garriott and Steve Jackson when I worked for them. But it takes time – time that experienced in-house mentors could spend on, you know, games. On top of that, the ad hoc nature of our non-training approach to leadership development does little to ensure that anyone will succeed. And, finally, assuming people will learn on the job all but ensures that a lot of the wrong lessons will be learned (or, at least, that lessons learned at one company, may not be applicable at another).

Now, before you go telling me that leaders are born, not made, think about where we’d be if, say, the military decided to let leaders simply emerge entirely by virtue of time spent in uniform. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? So the military trains its leaders through the application of time-tested processes.

Ditto for many major corporations. In fact, lots of game developers and publishers are beginning to look for certified Project Managers to keep game developers on track, acknowledging the value of training, at least on the management side of things.

If you do a little digging, you’ll discover that there’s a lot that can be learned about management and, perhaps more surprising, there’s a lot of systematic thought on the making of great leaders and the creation of great teams for those leaders to lead.

With that in mind, a focus on leadership, management and team creation/participation seemed like something that would differentiate the DSGA from most, if not all, game development programs out there. And consulting with the members of our Development Council, we determined that it would even benefit existing developers and publishers, as well as newly-minted development studios on the indie side of things.

So we had our focus on leadership and management training. This was a gap that needed to be filled, and we were determined to fill it. Now all we needed to do was find the right people to teach the ways of leadership and management. (And I do mean “ways” – there’s no one right way, something I kept very much in mind when looking for faculty members and something of critical importance to the DSGA program…)

Next time, I’ll dive into the challenge of finding faculty members.

And, in the meantime, remember that we’re looking for candidates for our second year of leadership and management training. More information about the Academy is available at http://moody.utexas.edu/gaming-academy. More information can also be found in some of my blog posts from last year, starting in December 2013 and continuing until April of 2014 – https://warrenspector.wordpress.com/2013/12/. And if you’re already sold, to apply go to http://moody.utexas.edu/gaming-academy/apply.

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