Friday, January 29, 2016

Spring 2016 semester in game development

Hey, what's up, long time no blog -- I've been busy prepping game development classes for the Spring 2016 semester. This season, I'm teaching four (4!) courses across 2 different universities, which is considered a really heavy teaching load in academia. (Full-time professors usually teach maybe 2-3 courses a semester, on average.) So I'm dying a little. But I'll be ok. I think.

Here's a bit about the courses:
    This is a studio class for the undergraduate BFA in games, and I've been teaching this for years, tweaking the structure as I go along. It is kind of a "bread and butter" course where students dive deeply into Unity, writing more C# code than they've done before, and mastering important technical concepts like raycasting, instantiation, and for/while loops. For many, it is also an introduction to 3D modeling and texturing in Maya. This cohort will be interesting because it's the first set of students to come out of the "Introduction to Game Development" course, which we didn't have before, so we'll actually be able to see the curriculum in action. Since I anticipate we'll be able to move faster on some concepts, I'm adding some lessons in character animation back into the course.
  • "CORE LAB COLLABORATION: GAME" at Parsons School for Design.
    This is a lab class for the undergraduates specializing in games at Parsons, to help prep them for larger group projects, and give them more practice before they try to tackle their senior capstone projects. The lab is intended more as project work time to focus on technical issues, while the studio class (not taught by me) is for evaluating their designs and setting development goals. It's the first Parsons BFA class I've taught, so I don't really know where they're at or what they know already, so I'm taking a cautious approach and doing a lot of Unity review anyway.
  • "VR STUDIO" at NYU Game Center.
    A studio class primarily for the MFA in games, and it's the first MFA class I'll be teaching at NYU. The program traditionally focuses more on general game design than hardware, so this is sort of a small nudge in the other direction, as well as an opportunity to put a horse in the VR race and help prepare the students who are interested in VR. As an optimistic skeptic of VR, I try to do more than just technical instruction, but also assign some readings about VR as a media culture -- I want to critique the rhetorics that make it possible, such as the "holodeck" or even philosophical readings concerned with sensation.
  • "RECURSIVE REALITY" at Parsons School for Design.
    This is essentially the VR class I teach for Parsons, except my school has a policy of avoiding technologies in course titles, hence the more fanciful name. While the NYU students are more skeptical of VR, because of their games focus and the lack of really great VR games, the Parsons students tend to be more optimistic because they don't necessarily have a games focus. In this sense, VR is possibly much more transformative in film, experimental art, advertising, healthcare, therapy, manufacturing, the military, and social media. There's also a lot more interest in video as a VR medium, which I want to try to address in the class, but it's difficult given the lack of available VR video recording equipment. (Professional rigs are thousands upon thousands of dollars, and the most rudimentary entry-level rigs are hundreds.)