Game Design Workshops
The school’s newest degree, the Bachelor of Science in Game Design, approaches the curriculum in a real-world fashion: conceptualizing, developing, marketing and publishing.
Students take three workshop classes, each one building upon success of the others, moving from idea development to creation to published games, so that graduates start their job hunts with at least one published game on their resumes.
MSCH-G 460 Workshop II, offered this fall, is the middle step. At this stage, students work to produce their games, problem solving and refining throughout the semester.
“The fact that we get to do this in an academic setting is mind-blowing,” said Kerry Norris, a senior serving as the team leader for Spook House, one of the three games developed in this semester’s class.
Students have been able to design games in that “academic setting” since last year, when the degree first was offered. Lecturer Will Emigh taught game design in the former telecommunications department who helped guide the curriculum as it was being developed. He taught Workshop II this fall.
“The basis of the major is what we call the T-shape model,” Emigh said. This method sets out to teach students a broad range of skills (the top of the T), then allows them to really delve into one area of study (the upright bar of the T).
Workshop I requires students working in small teams to develop concepts for their games, then design them.
“This is where you begin figuring out what your game is going to be,” Emigh said.
Workshop III focuses on marketing and releasing the finished games. This is also the time when they perfect their resumes and cover letters to prepare for graduation.
Workshop II is when the games actually come to life. This fall, students are designing three games. In Spook House, participants play as a skeletons trying to manage a haunted house. The idea is to scare as many people as possible for sustenance. Beat Breakers is a rhythm fighter game in which the player competes in dance battles as one-on-one combat. Almost Heroes features a B-list hero with a powerful sneeze who has to save the city from a meteor shower.
Through the semester, each team develops a demo of the game; creates a trailer for it in which all of the music, art and graphics are created by IU students; fleshes out the game; and begins the marketing process. This is a semester when a lot of the hard work happens.
“This is a very stressful class,” said Norris. “There are some days when you feel really on top of it and then other days where you feel like you are way behind.”
“In this class you realize just how little time there is,” said John Brown, a junior who is the Beat Break project manager. “But that’s how it is in real life. There are always deadlines and you are always on the clock. But it is very stressful.”
Despite the stresses of creating a game, the students say they love doing it.
“I love working in a team,” said Max Couch, the team leader for the Almost Heroes game. “It’s fun to work with other people and different personalities.”
“I really dig the how much passion everyone in the class has,” said Norris.
In that way, said Brown, it is not like a regular class.
“This isn’t your typical group project where you’re writing a research paper,” said Brown. “In this class, the game is this brainchild and then you mesh all of the best ideas to create something good.”
The stress and rewards are worth it, they say, and should be part of getting a real degree in game design. Several recalled how their parents would tell them they were playing too many video games, but now they are pursuing careers in that industry.
Emigh said the game design major is an important addition to the Media School.
“Games are a dominant form of media now,” said Emigh. “Until Facebook games and mobile games, gaming was considered no more than a hobby. But now it has a strong impact on culture.”
Though there are lots of other opportunities, Brown, Couch and Norris said they hope to pursue a game design career after graduation. Workshop II has better prepared them for that future.
“You get to experience the process start to finish,” said Brown. “You can say you have been with a team all the way through from conception to the end.”
Couch said the experience will impress.
“You get to create something that you are proud of,” said Couch. “You can oversee a project and bring it into actualization.”
“As cheesy as it is, you have the honor to make video games,” he added. “You really get to do something you enjoy.”
- Learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Game Design major.
- Read about other unique classes.
- Check out Creating an Indiana Magazine.
- Learn about Words and Pictures.
- Read about three film production courses.