Finding an Education in Interactive Media

Since my appearance on Boing Boing Video┬╣ I’ve been giving a lot more thought about how someone can find the right resources and tools to formulate a curriculum and career in video games. Frankly, it’s not very good. There are an assortment of issues that lead to a drought of resources in deciding an educational path. While the issue is more complicated, I’ve narrowed down the tag line to this statement:

Do you want a job or a career?

A lot of the talk and guidance about video game education is rooted in getting a job with a studio. Yes, being employed is apart of a career and one seeks an education to become employable. I’m not questioning this aspect. What concerns me is the debate is geared towards getting that one job. There isn’t talk about the sustainability for one to adapt though their life time in interactive media. Simply training for getting hired out of college, not as a practitioner of the field.

Part of this comes from the current venues of advice one can seek. Naturally one would look towards the veterans in the industry as cues for being successful. While this advice is very valuable, the material from them seems more about getting the job rather than forming a career. The veterans of this industry created careers in a way that can’t be duplicated; The industry is created now. The experiences of our veterans can’t be duplicated. I wish there were more long-term advice applicable to today, but right now one has to extrapolate how the experience of the vets can be made in current times, and how it can’t. This kind of nuance isn’t realized by a potential applicant from high school, nor is anyone pointing this out. The debate is stuck at ‘get a job,’ not ‘make a living.’

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IP Rights in Academics

This week, Gamasutra sparked up the debate of IP rights with students in interactive media programs. The article “Controversy In The Classroom: Whose IP Is It Anyway?” starts the debate, but as you can see from the comments there is much more that needs to be discussed. In the Gamasutra article, the statement from the president and co-founder of DigiPen in Washington, Claude Comair:

“We are not here to compete with the games industry,” he says. “We are not here for people to come and make a game in a less-expensive manner utilizing equipment and software that has student licenses.”

“Just as importantly, we are not equipped to properly firewall our projects in the sense that we really don’t know legally speaking how many or which students created which games. We don’t know whether they received input from other students who have not been credited.”

This statement really rubbed me the wrong way on a few levels. The academic institution is skipping an extremely teachable moment by not incorporating IP rights and attribution of work. Will mistakes be made? Very much so. This is an educational institution and mistakes are part of the learning process. Avoiding the issue doesn’t make the issue go away, only defred for the student post-graduation. I can’t see how a student can be prepared to work in a field of intellectual property without understanding the basic law and practice of IP.

The counterpoint is the position is schools should teach the use and practice of tools and the IP should be left for law students. While I’m not claiming that each student should be prepared for entering a pre-law program, IP practice is the core integral part of being a professional artist. You don’t have to fully agree with the practices, but knowing the basics of how business is conducted seperates the professionals from the hobbyists. By denying students how to run the business, DigiPen seems limit student’s ability to become involved with being their own independent participants of this art form. The DigiPen curriculum seems to make worker bees for the game industry, rather than practicianers of interactive entertainment.

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