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Video: Why Romero, Spector and other AAA legends became educators
June 2, 2014 | By Staff

June 2, 2014 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Design, Video, Vault

"With freedom to fail comes tremendous freedom to experiment, and to innovate."
- Brenda Romero highlights the value of teaching and practicing game design in educational institutions, away from the vicissitudes of the industry.

Brenda and John Romero, Richard Lemarchand, and Warren Spector shared their thoughts on the trials and triumphs of moving from game design to education in a panel discussion hosted by USC's Sam Roberts during the Education Summit at GDC 2014.

The central focus of the discussion was on why and how these experienced developers made the jump to teaching, but the group also spoke at length about the challenges of teaching something as unconventional as game design within traditional academia, the new trend of veteran developers becoming professors, and what that might mean for the future of the game industry.

It's a great talk that's worth watching for industry veterans and neophytes alike. We've taken the liberty of embedding the free video of "AAA Academics: Superstar Designers in Academia" above, but you can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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Game Designer


Elijah Whitehouse
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I had the chance to meet John Romero this past October at IndieCade 2013. We spoke briefly about several things, mostly me just nervously explaining things I did and what I thought about the industry as a whole, before getting several pictures with him. Definitely appreciated the opportunity!

David Keen
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Heh, those who can't do, teach. As pioneers in the industry, maybe they can no longer keep up, but still do have plenty to share.

Alan Barton
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Maybe those who can't teach, would like to think pioneers are not better than them. ;)

Kris Graft
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Having experienced people stay involved in the industry in a teaching capacity is incredibly important in an industry where it's not unusual for people to leave after a handful of years, taking along with them valuable experience and knowledge.

Also, just because game devs are involved in academia doesn't mean they're not making or consulting on games in varying capacities, from experimental to commercial and so on. Maybe you didn't mean it in a disparaging way (hmmm), but "those who can't do, teach" severely devalues the importance of passing on knowledge, and implies that "doing" and teaching are mutually exclusive. They're not.

Greg Scheel
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And here I thought that a steady paycheck and predictable hours were at the crux of it.

Katy Smith
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Aren't all of them still involved in making games? Loot Drop is still active and while Junction Point closed, it only closed a little over a year ago. I don't think it's fair to say they can "no longer keep up".

Kris Graft
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@Katy Yep.

Rey Samonte
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For someone who worked in the industry for 14 years and has moved on, this type of comment definitely comes across negatively. I know one of the things I got tired of was the unsustainable cycle of being laid off, looking for work, proving yourself, sacrificing your life, only to get laid off again when the project was completed. That cycle didn't just affect the less experienced but also the veterans. After a while, it gets very old.

Fortunately, I was able to take my experience from the game industry and move into the health/educational area of software development. I have to admit, having sane hours and weekends, being appreciated for your work, and even having your own parking space is treating me pretty good so far.

Roberto Dillon
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Unfortunately, being able to do something doesn't automatically mean you can teach it as well. It's great to see someone who can do both!

Wes Jurica
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"Those that are teaching are doing" should be a phrase that replaces the one that you quoted.

Philip Minchin
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This is fantastic, but on top of this sort of thing, what I'd like to see more of (and am pushing for) is game designers teaching (at least guest-lecturing) across other subjects such as education, psychology, creative writing/literary theory and fine arts. Games and the insights of game designers have huge amounts to offer in all those fields - and vice versa of course, but game designers already use theory from those other fields to a much greater extent.