I believe as a visual art and game design professor it is my responsibility to provide a structured environment for the creative development of my students by targeting three primary learning goals: (1) understanding historical trends and contemporary formal approaches to visual art and as it relates to game design; (2) learn basic game design concepts; (3) cultivate a passion in game design.
In my introductory classes, I provide a thorough historical context of the development of the gaming industry and highlight the trends that lead to the state of the game design industry today. Follow up classes emphasize a clear development process for students to follow (encompassing both visual development and game development processes) to improve design quality. New concepts and techniques are demonstrated throughout the course term providing students with multiple ways of solving design problems. All projects assigned have specific criteria in order to successfully complete them; however, they are open ended enough to allow for individual creative expression.
There is no right answer when designing a game. However, establishing historical foundations help guide students to stronger solutions. Identifying formal concepts and applying them to contemporary examples helps keep learning new and complex information exciting and relevant. Open ended discussions and projects encourages students to think through design problems and develop their own creative solutions. Everything is a design problem. Life is an interactive experience. By outlining the historical foundation and explanation for game design concepts, students will have a unique skill set when faced with adversity in life. Ultimately, my goal is to have all of my students (both game design majors and others) leave my class viewing their world through the lens of a designer.
Reflections on Teaching
I believe that we are all students, and I have approached teaching with this philosophy in mind. I always have something to learn. This ideology has directly impacted me and my growth as an instructor. My courses have a strong foundation, as they are a direct emulation of teachers who I viewed as successful. However, I look to improve my courses daily through research, my own work, peer feedback, and most of all, student feedback. I was in the process of writing my thesis when I began instructing my first class. I attempted to design courses that were an amalgamation of different teaching styles that I have experienced. My classes are structured around five main ideas: (1) historical context; (2) basic concept explanation; (3) basic concept demo; (4) in class concept exercise for students; (5) open ended assignments. From here I began teaching, and although the underlying formula for my class has not changed, student feedback has directly altered all of the classes I have taught.
Although all of my classes have been redefined based on students’ needs and wants, the best example comes from the first class I taught, Advanced Illustration for Production. The first time I taught this class, students designed an “interesting world”, and developed environment pieces, props, and characters throughout the class. Although students successfully created individual pieces, their body of work as a whole lacked professional clarity. From visual cohesion of pieces to presentation, student work had major areas of opportunity. I realized that creating an “interesting world” was a good idea in theory; however, the scope of the project needed to be more defined. In order to accomplish this the second time, I had students design an interesting world, but specifically focused on a few major things: (1) What is this class project for? 2D animation? 3D game? 3D animation? (2) Who is the target audience, and how do we appeal to them? (3) What is the genre and identify competitors on the market? These changes allowed the class to remain open ended, but forced students to design with a plan. Furthermore, I spoke with a group of students in the hall one day who expressed how they would like more of their work printed out (for portfolio reasons). These conversations led me to add a project into Advanced Illustration of creating an art book at the conclusion of class. The art book would contain all of the work created and would serve as visual reference material that students could use in a portfolio. These two changes led to major changes in the work students produced. The focus was no longer on just pieces being successful but that the body of work as a whole was successful. My students left with a strong cohesive body of work that was portfolio quality and print ready.