A Rare Glimpse
On Friday morning I went to Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey to pick my almost 16 year old daughter Emma up from her two week program in video game design. As a mom, I was so proud of her to have done this program and spent time in the summer exploring an interest and working hard. As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I was even more delighted that she chose to pursue a course of study that could ultimately give us an opportunity to work together. In total honesty, I was completely elated and hoping that she loved every minute and found her calling.
But back to the point of the blog, my inside scoop into the video game world. So the professor that Emma had for her weeks at Stevens was Professor O’Brien, a brilliant creative whose personal focus is gaming with a social message to create change. I did not anticipate that he would be speaking, but this dynamic man spent a lot of the morning not just explaining what our kids had been doing, but sharing what a course of study in video game design might look like and what their career path after completing said course of study might look like. I was excited and enthralled.
I learned that like real world game design, Emma participated in a team during her program. They each assumed a role, as in actual video game design. There are coders, programmers, floaters, narraters, artists/creators, team leaders, and this was just in the student lab setting. All members of the team were essential to building and creating the game. Even though Stevens is an engineering school and the kids there take the same classes as the computer science students in the Engineering college, the professor explained that in gaming the team needs both the essential computer skills and the creative and artistic skills and has to comfortably float between these worlds. I was particularly pleased that my child had this experience, because as a small business owner, I have to do this every single day. I have to pour all of my creative energy into my voiceover projects, and then put on my business cap and do invoicing and market myself. Here is my child, a rising sophomore in high school, already learning to think this way.
Roles in Their Organization
From listening to Professor O’Brien speak, I learned about the various roles in a gaming company as well. While I have had a few roles on Indie video games, and there are typically several people in on the live sessions, I have never thought too much about the different opportunities available in the company. Apparently, after graduating from a university with a BA and a BS with a concentration in Video Game Design, these kids are prepared to be any part of the team, including project managers, creative directors, programmers, coders, writers, artists, floaters… the list goes on and on. It is clear that they need team players who understand both the technical and artistic components of the game creation.
Places to meet Gamers
I was fascinated by this part of that Professor O’Brien mentioned. As someone who spends so much time marketing and reaching out to new and potential clients, I was fascinated to learn that folks in video game design like twitter. Here are other useful resources I learned about:
- Playcrafting: https://playcrafting.com/
- Games for Change http://www.gamesforchange.org/
- GDC Vault https://www.gdcvault.com/
- The Sheeps Meow: https://www.thesheepsmeow.com/
What Surprised Me?
As a voice over actor, I was first surprised that none of these games have a voiceover component! The student projects did all have music, which my daughter told me was all free and public domain. When I asked the professor, he told me that even at the university level, the skill of casting voice talent adds a layer of challenge that they are not typically prepared for and that students don’t usually have voiceover in their projects. Next, I was surprised that so many gamers are on twitter. For years I tried to persistently market on twitter, posting about three times a day. I got no results from this. Perhaps I had the wrong target audience? Next, I was delighted to learn about the team aspect to the creation and about the team/community aspect to the testing and trial phase. I was delighted by this. Lastly, I was surprised by the technological rigors of the program. My daughter has an updated Mac that is several years old. Her rather expensive computer was insufficient to meet the needs of the high-tech software used for this course! She had to use a university provided loaner.
I am so thankful that my child had this opportunity! I am so thankful that I had the flexibility as a working creative to come and see hew finished project. I am one proud Mama!