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The Video Game Major

The New York Times leads their tech section today with a story on the growing number of gaming-oriented academic programs. The article mentions a distinction between game design programs and the study of games as a cultural phenomenon, but doesn't dig much deeper.

Some highlights:

Certainly, the burgeoning game industry is famished for new talent. And now, universities are stocked with both students and young faculty members who grew up with joystick in hand. And some educators say that studying games will soon seem no less fanciful than going to film school or examining the cultural impact of television.

And then, of course, they find someone who actually is an academic and a game designer, and he thinks it's all crap:

"This whole idea of teaching game design is a fabrication," [Jack Emmert, Creative Director at Cryptic Studios] said. "I'm a serious academic, and what is the actual skill that they're teaching? If you're not teaching a quantifiable skill, then you are teaching an opinion. Making games is an art form. You need to understand the technical side, but I loathe any attempt to teach game design as an academic discipline."

This does raise the age-old question of what academic degrees are for: vocational training or some kind of broad-based critical perspective? Should the new game programs churn out Coppolas or game critics, and which skill set is more valuable in the long run? (Critics, right? Let's say critics so I can keep showing up for lunch. Ok, good.) Anyway, given the growing complexity of gaming, collaboration is probably the most important thing you could teach in such a program. As Henrik would say, it's all about harnessing the collective intelligence.



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