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  • The Teaching Game: Part Two - Instructing

    - Steve Swink
  •  [Steve Swink, an independent game designer, artist who worked for Tremor Entertainment, Neversoft and currently teaches game and level design at the Art Institute of Phoenix, addresses questions from academics and game industry professionals alike. In this response, Swink talks about what to do once you're hired.]

    In the first installment, we talked about why one would want to teach. Let's assume you're sold on the concept of teaching, have the requisite degrees and experience, have contacted a local school, and have been slotted into the schedule for next quarter.

    Now you're faced with a terrifying, exhilarating question:

    What in the hell am I going to teach these people?

    This is not an easy question to answer, especially in the two weeks you have before you find yourself standing in front of a room full of students. So what do you do? Well, you make stuff up. Huh? What? Well, yes!

    The first step to creating your curriculum is a brain dump of your knowledge about the topic. This is perhaps the most difficult step because it is at this point you must distill your years of knowledge and hard won experience (things which are most likely so intuitive and engrained as to be subconscious) into some kind of external format. This is, as you might expect, a somewhat time-consuming process. Here are some strategies I've developed in prepping for classes over the years.

    Start with examples of games you've worked on.

    Create Framing Questions

    This is just good brainstorming technique - framing questions are great way to guide your thinking. If you have a clear, concise question like ‘what is the most important thing I know about level design?', your brain will feed you some answers. The trick is keep going even when you feel you've found the ‘right answer' (a notion which is flawed and will severely limit your creativity if you don't abandon it.) If you look for twenty right answers to a question, I guarantee you'll find some answers that are surprising, and, in the case of drawing out knowledge on a subject you know well, surprisingly insightful. Here are some framing questions I've had success with:

    • What is the most important thing I know about _______?
    • What is the first thing I do when I _______?
    • What are the different kinds of _______?
    • What skills make someone an expert in _______?
    • What qualities make someone an expert in _______?
    • What knowledge makes someone an expert in _______?
    • If I could give someone starting their new job only one piece of advice about _______, what would it be?

    You can pretty much just insert the title of your class into the above blanks to get a solid framing question. Level Design, Gameplay and Game Design, Programming for the Artist, and so on.


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