2013 Workgroup Topic Proposals

Endorsement of game design & game development courses at Universities

An ever-growing number of schools offer courses or entire programs dedicated to game design, development, engineering, etc.  But there are no clearly recognized standards in place for such programs, and no official body which can provide reviews of such programs.  Most students in such programs complete 1 finished game at best, so there is very little data available from which any such official body could draw.

Compared to established fields of study such as English, Art, or the Sciences Game Development courses suffer from a lack of industry credibility.

How could this situation be improved?  What steps could be recommended to University programs?  What steps could be taken within the game industry?  What existing models best fit Game Development as a field of study?

4 thoughts on “Endorsement of game design & game development courses at Universities

  1. Great and important topic. I would add:
    * There is the IGDA Framework. It’s very generic (and due for an update) but you’re not starting from square one here. Anyone who wants to contribute, join the IGDA game_edu list, get in touch with the leaders of the Edu SIG, and volunteer 🙂
    * I don’t think it’s true anymore that students in game dev programs only complete one game. My “game design 101” students typically do about one game per week for the first half of the course, then one larger project during the second half. Doing at least one major (portfolio-worthy) game per course, so probably at least 5 to 10 projects by the time they graduate, if not more. And that’s just from classwork, not counting games they work on with friends (or solo) in their spare time, or from game jams, etc.
    * Industry credibility is a problem for some schools, not others. For top-ranked schools (USC, Digipen, Full Sail, CMU-ETC, etc.) this isn’t an issue. One potential topic for discussion: how are these rankings made? Are they accurate? Is there a way to do it better?
    * The question of how to review these programs comes up every now and then in the Edu SIG (usually in the form of “accreditation”: that is, some independent outside body looks at what your program teaches and gives a thumbs-up/down to whether they are or aren’t teaching what they say they are at some minimum bar). The problem is that accreditation is time-consuming and expensive to implement, and the IGDA doesn’t have the resources. This is, so far, an unsolved problem. If you can figure out how to do it, that’d be great.

  2. @Ian – Just had a broad-strokes idea about solving the accreditation problem.

    The difficulty is that it’s hard to have one qualified person review curriculum for every university program, and compare/approve. It’s a long, ugly process and anyone qualified to do it probably wouldn’t do it for free. And even if such a person could be found, there would quickly be the “who watches the watchmen” problem.

    So how do we turn these problems into strengths? Make the review process public, and crowd-sourced.

    Maybe at GDC each year (or every 3 years, whatever) all university game development programs send summaries of their teaching requirements for evaluation. We have a bit meeting for anyone who wants to show up, then break up the reviews right there, and get a half-decent ranking on schools right there with whoever’s in the room. Then we publish the one or two best curriculum plans online as a guide for what the IGDA likes to see – which should help schools raise their overall rankings next year, as well as provide a baseline for assesment within the group.

    I’m assuming of course that we’re talking about ~75 schools and that we’d have ~100 people show up initial for this process. It could be a non starter if we’re talking about 1000 schools and 6 people show for the process! But it might be a good staring point.

  3. I’m more interested in how to design curriculum that effectively educates would-be game developers. Perhaps if we publish an updated whitepaper of “standards” of game curriculum, we would immediately improve quality of delivery and quality of graduates. Not only do all us educators employ different methods, schedules, and assignments (and get different outcomes) – but working game designers would certainly have awesome insight into how to assemble curriculum AND what’s missing from graduates.

  4. I have several educators in my family, which has helped me to be acutely aware of the difference between understanding a subject and teaching others to understand that subject. Being a math whiz is a fundamentally different skill from being a teacher who inspires students to love math, for example.

    I think I know at least 3 different ways that someone can be an excellent game developer, and I think I have a good understanding of how those concepts could be taught. But I don’t really have a good concept for how such skills could be tested in an educational environment. That’s another missing piece, for me.

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