Tuesday, February 26, 2008

GDC 2008: Our Panel: Cross-Institution Projects to Broaden Projects and Courses

After lunch on monday I was part of the panel:


Cross-Institution Projects to Broaden Projects and Courses

Speaker:
Stephen Jacobs (RIT)
Panelists:
Drew Davidson (Carnegie Mellon University), Ann DeMarle
(Champlain), Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari, Mary Flanagan (Hunter College),
Stephane Natkin (ENJMIN), Andrew Phelps (RIT)
2-4pm · Room 122, North Hall

Session Takeaway: A challenge for many institutions is creating a complete game project in a program that does not have all of the elements required to produce one (CS Programs with no artistic educators or talent, for example). Building relationships between game education institutions (or across departments within a given institution) would allow students to work to fill in the facets of a complete game they might not otherwise might not have access to. Beyond just filling in gaps, collaboration across departments and/or institutions offers new points of view, new energy, a broader set of students to draw on and many other benefits. This first half of this session will feature a panel of representatives talking about successful models
and the second half will be opened to the group to discuss how they might be replicated and to develop an on-line resource for facilitating cross departmental and institutional collaboration.

I did not use slides for what i wanted to say, instead i wrote down key words on big sheets of paper. In short, this was my contribution:

Gathering our resources towards the complete polished game project in education and research

A personal observation of sprawling success critera:

2000

Working in the games industry

Success Critera:

1. playable game.

2002

Working in applied research - game production team.

1. Playable game

AND

2. publications of research results

2005

Working in EU funded research project with multiple academic and industrial organisations

1. Playable game

2. publications of research results

AND

3. Possible commecialisation of technologies/producs

4. Learning – for involved students.

Alas, in project with multiple partnes, such as many academic institutions and industrial parners we get multiple goals:

- research result (in form of papers)

- playable product (game prototypes)

- student learning (for student learning is more important than end product)

- commercialization (often needed for industry to legitimize involvement)

- cooperation between organizations (a goal in itself)

The primary challenge in cooperations in consortium with a heterogeneous group of organizations as members is the different traditions of success criteria. Added to that geographical distance, lack of knowledge of each other, multiple mandates or lacking mandates creates a lot of minor challenges. Crucial to remember is the responsibility the organizations have to the possibly participating students. They may never be used as cheap labor. Such a cooperation need to be monitored closely to make sure that the student has a learning experience. It is often necessary that the student is capable of taking on responsibility and is able to communicate early and clearly.

In the morass of multiple goals, success criteria and challenges projects for education and research has a BIG PROBLEM:

The lack of resources for game production.

For students the finishing thesis in the form of text often take precedence.

For researchers the publication of a paper takes precedence.

Result

The complete (polished) game projects produced are few!

(With a lot of good exceptions, some shown by members of this panel.)

In the short run there may not be so much to do about the traditions that gives different success criteria, and in consortium driven project lots of challenges can be met by project managers from hell.

But WHAT WE CAN DO is to gather our recourses. There are good models to borrow from indie development.

We could for example create resources for

Forming teams

Students and researchers from different organisations could search for others with their passion in particular niches.

Sharing assets

A database giving a matrix of assets sorted according to media type and terms of use.

Sharing experiences

Collections of Post Mortems and pointers to downloads.



OTHER WAYS TOWARDS HELPING ON THE WAY TO THE COMPLETE GAME PROJECT?



All the other panelists showed amazing stuff done at their institutions. If I can locate where the slides are I will link them in here.

As a personal note - when I see what students can accomplish with the limited resources at hand I am always humbled. On Gotland University our students are making tons of games, some of them you can see here:
http://www.hgo.se/game/indexgameproject.htm



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