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.

Continue reading IP Rights in Academics

Games and Academics

For years as I was going through my undergraduate work at Emerson College, the weekly tradition of watching [adult swim] as my weekly fill of television would occasionally be tainted with a certain advertisement. A certain school with a ‘gaming degree program’ spot starts out with the question about why ‘you’ haven’t made your video game yet. Every time this commercial would show up, I would flip off the screen and think to myself “I’M WORKING ON IT!!!”

Academia for the video game industry is a topic rather close to me. It’s safe for me to say that I created a good chunk of Emerson’s program on game design and writing for I had to make it from scratch. I had a make-your-own major that happened to be degree on the books. Course, I was the first to actually go for a BFA in New Media and to create a curriculum based on design and writing of interactive storytelling. At the time, there wasn’t a convincing curriculum that attracted to me, so making my own program was the only way I could be satisfied.

As to why I’m taking education as my first major post on my Media Blog, it’s the way in which one creates media, in this case video games, that makes my connection. Yea justification!There are many issues college with the in interactive electronic entertainment. These problems are shared between the educational institutions, the commercial electronic games industry, the students, and academic/admission counselors. It takes years for academia to figure out good methods of teaching any subject matter. Only with a careful dance between the industry itself and the academic world can a solid curriculums be formed. Without some form of industry involvement, students will not be properly prepared for the industry. Too much industry involvement and the school produces one-trick ponies.

But what defines the difference? There are obvious bad programs (hint: they air TV ads), but how can we begin to calculate a quality school? No school will be perfect, but what model should students be looking for? The first thing that comes to mine is the scope of the program:

Continue reading Games and Academics