Tuesday 14 September 2010

My New Job: Teaching and Things...

I have a new job. Starting 28th September I'll be teaching the Story Design unit on the Game Cultures BA at London South Bank University.

It's going to be an interesting challenge - coming up with a complete syllabus has been tough enough.

Many people in the UK are on the cynical side when it comes to higher education, and many people in the games industry are on the cynical side when it comes to games degrees - I'd have to say that I often count myself among both. It's easy to trade in pipe dreams and £1 pints so before anything else I'll be fascinated to sit in on a few classes and get to understand things from the inside.

About a year ago I was approached to put together a games writing text book, which I passed on the basis I didn't have enough experience. I didn't want it to be another book about writing written by someone who's never written. (Despite that good natured jab both McKee and Freeman are on the course.)

One reason I'm choosing to take up the mantle now is that this is pitched as a practical course, and regardless of how long the odds are of breaking into the industry, let alone into writing, I think I can help. Having written games for four years I'd not say I knew enough to write a text book to rival the best academic resources; but I do hope that my experience can translate in the classroom.

I'm going to be running the course with as much hands on work as possible - workshops and critique groups holding equal weighting to lectures on classical drama construction, indie and AAA deconstruction and practical work on industry codes and methods.

Because this is just one unit on a larger game design course I'll be running it as much with a view to training up producers, artists and engineers in how to work with a writer as how to write at all, and I'll expect the standard to vary wildly. There'll be artists there who haven't written since Year 10, and guys who do it every day. If I'm completely honest, it's the latter that really excites me - chances are there'll be one person on that course that completely blows me away. Perhaps more than anything else, I want to be in a room of passionate young games developers and learn something myself.

Of course, I also just love to be on the stage.

You can download my draft syllabus here. The key areas are the assessments, programme and reading list. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. In case you're wondering, the header image is Manhunt 2 because it's about teaching kids bad tricks. You know, like the news story. Ah hah.

  2. Good luck with the course. How on earth do you have the time? :)

  3. Is this at all going to impact on your writing work with various games companies? Have you already or can you see yourself turning down opportunities you would have otherwise taken because of this extra time commitment? Seems to be only 3 hours a week contact time on the 1 day, though I don't know how long you'll need to do marking and of course a lot of the work has already gone in, in constructing the syllabus itself. I guess that might just get squeezed in alongside everything else?

    Well you're certainly going to be having a larger influence with all of this (assuming at least some of the students continue into the games industry in some way) and given your own philosophy on how narrative and story should and can link into games I can only see this as a really good thing for the next generation of games. Good luck indeed.

  4. Boo. Well, there's no way I could afford to transfer from the States over to London. Any chance of any of your lectures ending up online?

  5. @matt
    Thanks :-) As you say, total commitment won't be more than a day a week, so I shouldn't have trouble fitting it in. I wouldn't tend to put this ahead of games writing work unless it was real 'phoned in' stuff, though naturally I have a class waiting for me each week so I'm not about to bail mid semester.

    I've also got to remember it's not out of the realms of possibility the kids are gonna wind up here. Get back to work you lot!

    Sadly I think the chances of my lectures existing in any form other than scribbled on the back of a napkin is pushing it ;-)

  6. Sounds great stuff. That syllabus looks fantastic, if only I was (a) looking to get into games writing and (b) had the time on my hands.

    The proposed course materials (Braid et al) - I take it these are paid for by the students themselves as opposed to covered by course fees?

  7. Yeah, though as far as I understand it the uni library has to get anytyhing I put on the reading list onto its shelves. Don't know if that applies to games.

  8. I'm a kid and I'm in your class!

  9. @ Luke, sup ;)

    @ Tom/Mr. Jubert

    We'll be nice we promise ^_^

    Also in you're class btw, everybody is really exited.

  10. @ Production Diary... yea, to be honest, we're not entirely sure either.

  11. I expect Tom to come out with something like "pesky kids, get off my lawn!"