Educating Game Designers – Too Much “Game” at Game Schools – Extra Credits

Educating Game Designers – Too Much “Game” at Game Schools – Extra Credits


James has a very strange supposition
about how to teach game design to somebody who’s never done it before. And I don’t mean teach in the casual sense, I mean like teaching in a formal setting at the university level, because as many schools as we have out there
offering game design programs, most of them are still trying to figure out this problem:
how do you properly teach game design? ♫ [Intro Music] ♫ James had so many students
come up to him and say “My schooling didn’t really prepare me
for the life I wanted. It didn’t really
prepare me to be a game designer” and it’s led him to wonder if perhaps we need to take a whole new approach to how we do this. More than this though, it’s also the fact that
he’s had more and more professionals come up to him lately saying that
when hiring for junior positions, they don’t put any special emphasis on people
who have a game design degree because many of the people they’ve
hired from game design programs haven’t proven to be better
candidates. In fact, they’ve often proven to be less adaptable than those with
other educational backgrounds. Overall, it’s really made him question how we go
about educating designers, and after putting a lot of thought into it,
the strange hypothesis he’s come up with is that we are perhaps teaching too much
game at game schools. I know that sounds odd, but hear me out. We learned long ago that we shouldn’t
just teach designers tools and software, game engines and 3d
software; a game designer should be able to pick those up on the job. Every
company I’ve ever worked for has had its own unique scripting language, or at
least its own crazy additions and modifications to the tools they use, so
simply learning a piece of software isn’t enough, because tools change
constantly and they’re not universally applicable. If you’ve learned Maya, but
then you find yourself working on a 2d mobile game, well, Maya’s not gonna do you
much good. If you learned Unreal 3 a mere half decade ago, that knowledge is
practically worthless today. So much of the industry has moved on to other
engines and even those using Unreal now are working with such a radically
different version that what one might have actually learned in classes on
Unreal 3 doesn’t have a lot of application today. And most schools have realized this.
They stopped just teaching tools long ago. Instead, they went on to teach courses like
level design and game balancing. But here’s the thing: level design and
game balancing are actually just tools as well. They aren’t fundamentals. They aren’t the key skills
that a designer needs to be a good designer. James talked about this at GDC, and in
preparing to do so, he asked many of the professional designers he knew what they
really look for in a fellow designer, and it basically boiled down to these things:
First: communication. You need the ability to express the design to members of
all the different departments clearly and concisely. Second: collaboration. You
need to be able to work with people from many different fields and with many
different mindsets. The ability to take feedback and to really incorporate it in your design.
Third: a love of learning. You need the ability to be able to pick new
things up quickly because different projects will require developing an
in-depth knowledge of different things. You might have to learn about the
flowers of the English countryside or the weapons of World War II, not to mention
figuring out the scripting engine and the pipeline and the peculiar quirks of
whatever team and studio you’re working with. And a designer needs to love doing it
to really do the kind of deep dives that allow them to add the little touches
that really make a project special. Fourth: scope. You need to be capable of
creating realistic design plans and the willingness to cut even the parts you personally love the most
in service of the project as a whole. Fifth: logical thinking. You need to be able to
build and work with logical systems, as that’s the foundation of most game
systems and scripting languages. Sixth: lateral thinking. You need to be able to
see problems from a new perspective, and find answers outside of those that are
traditionally used. Seventh: a breadth of knowledge. This is the only one
on this list that I think is debatable, but most designers I know like to see potential
applicants have knowledge of things other than just games, as this gives them
a greater field to draw from when solving design problems, which in turn
leads to better solutions. And if you look at this list you’ll see one
commonality: none of those things are really game specific skills. It doesn’t
matter if you’re coming in as a level designer or a system designer, I’d rather
see that you have good communication and collaboration skills, a sense of scope,
and the ability to learn quickly, than to have a level design or system design
course on your resume. So as utterly batty as it might sound, in a world where we
only have a very limited number of courses to prepare you to be an effective
designer, I would rather see us cut the game specific courses from game design
degrees if it meant us being able to provide a better grounding in the rest
of those skills. If James had to make a guess he would wager that a well formulated game design course would actually look a lot like this: First: a hardcore focus on the liberal
arts. And when I say hardcore, I mean challenging to the point where failure
is not uncommon. It would include a grounding in the philosophy and
literature that makes up the Western tradition along with a
focus on Psychology and Mathematics. The variety and volume of the material here would
hammer in the ability to rapidly assimilate new materials, and the courses
would be taught in a discussion format with regular papers to train up
communication skills in both the verbal and written medium. All rote tests and
quizzes would be abandoned, as this education is far more concerned with how
the students are using and playing with the ideas they are exposed to than with
their absolute retention of the details therein. Additionally, the pillar of
mathematics in the course would be strong with at least one math class per
semester. This encourages logical thinking and give students the one
almost universally applicable design skill. Next, one to two courses in
formalized logic would also be a possibility as this also reinforces the
logic training and makes the jump to scripting easier for designers who don’t
have much experience with scripting languages. And then, anchoring the program,
each semester would have an underlying mega course project course that all
students must take where they actually make games. Every semester, month in
and month out, every month they’re there. The best way to learn to make games is to make them. This course would be given
at least twice the credit hours of most courses, and students would be
expected to spend a fair amount of time outside the class on this course. In this
course, the students would work in teams, preferably interdisciplinary teams if
the school can support that, to create a game that integrates an idea or topic
from the other courses. This would build collaboration skills, teach scope, and
build lateral thinking muscles as the constraint of having to incorporate
elements from their core liberal arts courses will force them to rethink
traditional game genres, or force them out of established genres entirely. Such
a degree would probably preclude large class sizes and would require someone
with a fair amount of development experience to mentor the students in the project course,
but if that could be achieved, it would produce far more
adaptable designers that are far better prepared for the industry and far more
desirable as potential employees. Way more so than those that simply have a
smattering of game balancing courses to their name.
♫ [Outro Music Begins] ♫ Anyway, I hope that sparked some ideas.
♫ [Outro Music Continues] ♫ Thank you for watching, and I’ll see you next week.
♫ [Outro Music Continues] ♫ ♫ [Outro Music] ♫


100 thoughts on “Educating Game Designers – Too Much “Game” at Game Schools – Extra Credits

  1. At least one maths class for every programmer or game designer should be the norm. Studying maths is a fantastic way of improving the way you approach problems and make you thinking more logical. Definitely the most useful "useless" classes I took at university.

  2. It makes total sence, I have been to so many interviews where the actual "technical" part of the interview was only a tiny fraction. Most employers are looking for someone that is a good fit for the team, self motivated ect…. since technical skills can be learnt on the job but allot of those "soft skills" can't.

  3. I'm currently on a game development course. And are entire curriculum is about giving us the bare bones do what unreal and unity looks like and says"make a game" the college I'm in wants us to talk to the music department, or the art, or the dance/drama department. Are main teacher was in the industry for yeah and had run his own company. For me, i spent MONTHS looking at colleges and the curriculum. Going to open events, talking to the teacher's. For the first day, my teacher told me "were not a class, I'm not your teacher. You are a games company. And we will teach you as such. You have deadlines and if there not met you will be asked to leave. This course is not for everyone." We are being trained to make games. I have dabbled In the engine before, but there are some people who have just finished GCSEs. (I'm for the UK so I think that's like 10th grade. There about 16-17.) IV been doing other courses while dabbling. I'm 19 this year and only just starting my educational journey, but my journey started 4 years ago when I picked up unity and Maya to play with it.

    It's try, most courses don't prepare you for what's it like. But this is the closest IV found to giving me the right mind set I would need.

  4. I'm not sure I agree with the "emphasis on maths". I know math and logic are closely related, but to some people, math is like going to the dentist. you should do it, but people are afraid. some people have great other skills to use, and might be good designers in other ways; if you force math into the program, you get a very specific subset of applicants.

    I saw this in our university vs my college. my college was math-heavy and my university was math-free. I learned valuable things for my job as UXD in both; programming and analytical thinking in college, design and philosophy in university. although a more techy and mathy approach in university would have been possible, it would have kept out a lot of talented artists who are kinda afraid of maths. they still will need maths in projects, but not having it as gradable subject in courses is very conducive. it teaches them to teach themselves a bit. maths classes terrified me. when I was out of college, and starting to work more on game mechanics and propability, I acquired all my math skills on my own and it wasn't giving me any trouble, because I had proper incentives to do so.

    So yeah. I agree that the game focused "on point" education can fall out of favor, or be not as useful as acquiring general problem solving and communication skills; I just think that maths is also simply a tool, and also not a requirement for everyone 🙂 … what about Storytelling? we don't require grade 1 writing skills of designers, do we?

    My understanding of design boils down to an easy sentence:
    design is making intelligent decisions (often by the use of methods); all else is domain specific knowledge.

  5. I study in a graduation which has many similarities with what was mentioned in the video. We work in teams, every semester we have to make a game following a briefing about the main characteristics for that semester. Most of the subjects are about learning tools (because we can't make games without knowing how to use them) but we have other subjects like History of Art, Visual Language, Design Fundamentals, Level Design, Ergonomy etc. Everyone knows written tests are useless, but we still do because bureaucracy and we have a saying which goes: the gamer has to die so that game designer can thrive.

    However the big "issue" is the teamwork part. Since many people give up the course, you are probably going to change teams frequently, so it's a bit difficult to adapt to so many people with different habits and workflows. It is especially frustrating when you find out that that person is not as dependable as you imagined and you have to cover that person because everyone's grades depend on that work. At least with this kind of experience, you'll be more prepared for this kind of situation, you'll spend more time trying to sort things out than raging about your co-worker.

    The real mystery is communication issues, you'll never know if the communication problems are because you are the one who can't communicate, or the team doesn't really care or both of them.

  6. My college has 2 different game design degrees. One is focused on art and the other is a specialized computer science applied math.

  7. Love your guys Channel it has helped me learn more about games. I have a question what about game writers? People that want to write a story with great detail about the adventures in hopes to sell or wotk with a team to make it a RPG with of course having to make changes to make it better or just playable. Got any tips or advice? I love playing games all types good and bad and want to write my own stories for others to enjoy or hate lol.

  8. 5:26 "And makes the jump to scripting easier"

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    Now that I've gotten that nitpick out of the way, awesome episode! As someone interested in game design and currently going through university, this is invaluable information to have.

  9. My name is Chase, I am really wanting to get into the game design, I love writing stories, Character Backgrounds, And story stuff etc. but I see that story writing is not there? A lot of people have a hard time going on with a story. Where do I go if I want to write and create the people in the game? Please Help!!

  10. Hello people from not 2016. If you're looking for a good game college that is almost word for word what this "perfect" game school is, look at Champlain College. I'm currently there as a Game Design student, and with the exception of multiple math courses, Champlain hits every requirement. Liberal Arts, industry professors, games almost every month (with interdisciplinary teams), and more. It also has a max class size of 30 students, so no lecture style classes here! Extra Credits helped me know I wanted to be a game designer, so I want to give back! Take a look at Champlain, I really want to see it grow!

  11. I'm a digital artist and a 3D Animation student interested in the topic. How can I educate game design myself? We do have group projects in form of creating games with game design and programming students but I would love to get the basic understanding of how game design works

  12. I wish my college had a "Game design" course. It mostly has general 'computer tech' courses, which is nice as it covers both hardware and software aspects of general computer sciences, however it did have a course on game-design theory but the year before I was supposed to take that course they cut it due to "not enough people applying" despite the fact we asked around and more people were applied for it than previous years.

    That said, I would say this is just a general problem in education systems these days. Schools train students how to get the answer to a problem, not how to SOLVE a problem. "Here's a math question. You use this formula to solve it, and this is how you get your answer. Now, do this 20 times with different numbers!" as opposed to engaging students to try and figure out how the formula itself works.

  13. That seems like a super fun course tbh

    though I'd probably be to introverted for the group work parts. Hence why I'm a writer rather than a game designer XD

  14. Extra Credits, you should look into the Aalborg Model, for learning it pretty much, at least for engineers, does what you describe.

  15. Im a twelve year old pseudo-developer and i learned vb6 basic coding by my dad and im making a puzzle game where you can make levels. I just want to thanks you guys 'cuz your help in beign essential for the creation of my game

  16. He's describing a classical liberal arts degree… the way it used to be. A very difficult course, if taught correctly.

  17. So if you want a job in game design, you should major in math and philosophy, with a minor in English lit and/or history.

  18. I live in the Netherlands.
    I'm currently applying at the NHTV in Breda for a 'study' Game Design. That school does not let you play games, or learns you the core ideas of making games, of course they offer the basics and theories behind it, if you want and need that…but they learn you how to work in a AAA-working environment and build up your portfolio with other peoplein teams.
    It also is one of the best options in Europe with a 'find a job'-rate of 87%, from which 1/3 actually works in the entertainment. Which is way higher than most schools offer.

    And besides that, the teachers recommend your videos as well. Luckily I already found out about your channel about a year ago, hahaha.

  19. My institute lacked the Connection part of the study, nobody was making students work on projects together. But the students solved this problem by creating a Game Development Club, where they do everything this video suggests, on their own. Now, students from other universities visit this club just to have some of that unique experience the club provides.
    Guess i'm lucky, too.

  20. My school kind of takes this approach. Everyone has Mathematics, Programming and Arts classes in the first 2 Semesters, before you get to specialice on 1 of the 2. We also have game design courses throughout the whole studium, in ehich we gotta write gdds and scientific papers and get to pitch a lot. And we also have a big game project every semester, following the described specifics. Only knowledge in the loberal arts is left to the students alone.

  21. How do you teach game balancing anyway? There always has to be some rough feeling on how the numbers need to look but the end balance is, or at least it was for me a process of testing, rewriting testing and rewriting and even more testing and rewriting.

  22. If there was a school or place that taught that/ those examples talked about here…

    I’d be there in a heartbeat!

    I’ve been in the Devry program forgame design, it didn’t end well. A lot of the program’s issues are mentioned here (a few not). Heck most grads of the program can’t get jobs in the field.

    If there is a place that teaches this way…please share the wealth!

  23. Can all of this be learned online?
    I am thinking of looking into Coursera and EdX courses to compile a list according to recommendations from this video.
    Or has someone already done it?

  24. Don't teach maths to teach logic; teach coding. Maths is way too much about memorisation; coding is about problem solving using logic, which is what you actually want.

  25. Welp. This solidifies it. I'm not at all cut out for game design even on an independent level. I kinda wondered. Oh well

  26. Where are those "Game Schools" and where do I sign in? or at least where I could learn all that gamey stuff?

  27. I would LOVE every aspect of this program. It hits on practically ALL of my leisurely interests! C'mon, American Educational System, make it happen!!!

  28. I already have two degrees one in gen ed and one in animal science for vet tech. I am going to school for game design. I have also worked from retail to warehouse to working in a animal hospital would you say this help out a lot for me or no?

  29. Tl;dr, you need the 'minor' courses more than the 'major' courses to be a good game designer.

    Now, where have I heard that one before?

  30. The most interesting thing about the degree requirements listed at the end of the video is that almost all of these things are already present in computer science degrees. Development teams don't just prefer Computer science degree holders because they don't see a real difference between them and game design degree holders; they do it because computer science degree holders have most of the skills required to develop video games. This is pretty much the entire reason why I was told that getting a computer science degree was far more important and for more versatile than getting a video game design degree.

  31. As game designer you create experiences. You need to know what elements of your game create the experience you want your players to have. Knowing human psychology and correct observation are the most valuable skills you that a designer should have.

  32. I feel like this video undermines the value of level design. Personally, I don’t see such a course as too game-y but it’s more like teaching designers how to use their tools guide players. The statements in the video seemed better aimed at as a general course for all schools and not so much focused on game design.

  33. GOD every step of the way in this video and every skill a designer needs i am more and more certain of my love of programming and game design and my absolute JOY of this profession

  34. "You are not here to learn to make a videogame, you are here to do a job."~GAME DEV EDUCATION COURSES! and if you question it or dont like it. you are ether told to shut up or outright failed on the class. Thats how it is at "game dev programs" in schools. Shut the fuck up and learn to be the lockstepped drone that the UBI EA and BLIZZ want you to be so when they hire you we get a kickback. OR WE FAIL YOU! . If you speak up when hired. You will be mentioned to the company by us and told are a disruptive or otherwise negative element and as such summarily are FIRED! its how it is, and the game dev education sector endorses and enforces this belief.

  35. If I recall, one of the higher guy in Pixar said (paraphrasing): "It's easier to higher artists and spend a few month to train them on a software; than, higher programers that aren't artists (…waste years training them to be artists)".

    Communication and collaboration and "cross-discipline": Games don't exist without programmers; but, the 'soft discipline' of writers, artists and coordinators are just as important. Need someone to design a great building and need some talented crew to build it.

  36. This sounds like what K – 12 schooling should be. All the other information about specific interests would be taught after.

  37. I think my school does this well, which is why our freaking ASSOCIATES degree in game design at our community college is voted better than the MASTERS in game design taught at the local university.

    The first thing our main teacher did for ‘intro to game design’ was set up and tell us ‘make a game’. This successfully weeds out the people who thought the degree would be easy to get and is only fun. My class dropped by more than half, but those of us left did really well.

    He also hand picks classes for each of us based on our needs and interests. I’m awful at math-but still willing to try programming- but we both agree my strong points are art and story telling. He signed me up for psychology, concept art, and story boarding for this semester, and also suggested I check out the online anthropology and archeology classes my school has.

  38. Sounds a lot like Aalborg University in Denmark where all engineering semesters are split in two parts, only 3 courses each semester that all in all constitutes ½ of the grade (3 x 5 ETCS for you other Europeans) and a group project lasting the whole semester which has no dedicated courses (it is just assumed that the hours between 8:00 and 16:00 that you do not have classes goes towards this project) that constitues the other half (15 ETCS)
    It encourages individual thinking and last landed the university an award as being the best engineering school in Europe in 2018 (5th in the world).

  39. as a college grad looking into going in Undergraduate course on game design i would love to join in a course like this … but can't seem to find any …

  40. Sign me up for this!!
    Truthfully all education today is not preparing us for life, not just in the Game Design industry. Systems like this should be implemented for each different discipline, obviously with some tweaks for each, but overall with better ways of teaching and grading on different subjects as eveyone is different and every class and discipline should be treated differently. Also watched the video on Gamifying Education and think updated systems like that would improve education overall as in real life one works with other people as a team and not in a constant battle against each other.

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