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April 9, 2020
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Dear colleagues, GO TEACH!

by Franck Fitrzyk on 02/20/20 10:40:00 am   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Links between game companies and “game schools” strengthen constantly as many game studios build those relationships in order to recruit fresh blood, new talents, as game schools are excellent pools of juniors. However, you have undoubtedly heard, or noticed by yourself, that the students’ applications looking for work were not always very good, or even sometimes mediocre: light theoretical knowledge, technical skills far from the industry’ standards and often draft portfolios, not reflecting the candidate's career desires.

Meanwhile, we hear many alumni from these schools criticizing the lessons they have received as well as more experienced individuals pointing to their shortcomings. In my opinion, here is a problem: the professionals who recruits the graduates of these specialized schools sometimes complain about the level of the students... At the same time, some of these schools have difficulties recruiting professionals from the industry come give lessons.

 As workers in the video game industry, we have a huge responsibility to participate in the training of our future recruits, we cannot just wait for someone else to do it - just like climate change. If no professional from the industry decides to pass on their knowledge, the level of juniors will never improve. Some have already made the choice to go and teach in schools while others participate in their own way by creating training content available online. However, this is still insufficient for three reasons:

  • Schools always need new lecturers to bring a fresh eye and new knowledge to their students;
  • Schools need help to create and keep their educational program up to date to meet industry expectations;
  • We cannot just hope that the students of these schools be proactive enough to learn everything, we must give them a taste for our jobs!

         Two years ago, I contacted schools with a list of courses and workshops that I could lead. Out of the five schools I contacted, five replied in a positive way, saying that they were happy to finally find someone who agreed to come and give level design courses: I was both happy to receive these feedback on the content that I proposed and sad when I thought about the students in game design sections whose training apparently did not contain courses dedicated to LD ...

Some large companies in our industry have started to participate in educational programs in schools because they have the means and because they have undoubtedly understood the following thing: if a company participates in the training of students, it ensures teach her work methodology and tools. By following the evolution of these students, it can then recruit juniors who require less training once in the studio and ready to join the teams and her productions. The higher the knowledge base, the faster the young recruit can progress.

Obviously, sending a member of its production team for one or more days to do training is a cost and this investment may only be useful for recruiting one or two individuals only. I have already heard: "Imagine investing in education to end up recruiting anyone in the end! It’s a total waste!” I would like to return them this question: what will happen if they do not participate in the training and they recruit anyway?

Most of the speakers today are individuals who have taken the lead to share their knowledge with the new generation of game creators. Thus, they give lessons as freelance or under small fixed-term contracts for hourly compensation ranging from 25€ to 80€ depending on the legal status and the nature of the contract (here in France). Suffice to say that I was not paid as much for doing my job as a designer in in game companies.

If money is your only source of motivation, I would still tend to advise you to try the experience by saying this: the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a course day where you can see joy on the faces of your students who enjoyed what you have taught them is as satisfying as seeing people playing your games and can be far more satisfying than what you experience in a studio.

You may already be sharing your methods and knowledge during conferences and events, unfortunately many students cannot afford to attend to those. Making a presentation in front of a room full of professionals is not the same experience as being close to twenty young people, where human relationships are obviously much easier to create: students are generally less afraid of to ask questions ; it is much more pleasant to do practical workshops there; you can sit next to each individual to give feedback and continue teaching through giving feedback on their project.

If you want to get into teaching, here are my few learnings/advice. Contact schools close to you or where you're ready to travel explaining why you want to teach and what you would like to teach. Of course, attach your resume to show your professionnal experience. A friend of mine shared with me the idea to also attach a document in with you sum up and explain the courses that you'd like to prepare and that could be interesting for this school. For example, here is a extract of  the document I send:

By providing this kind of document, you ensure to the head of the school that you have an understanding for educational objective he/she can rely to so it helps forecast how you can be including in the school's program. It's also a very good tool for you to plan the content you'll be creating for the course!

The content of my courses are grouped in modules that include a theorical part and a practical exercice with a small project in a game engine so that the students can get the global ideas which we refine together while working on a project. Of course, I always put traps during those exercices as part of the lesson to learn, add new constraints, etc. The cool thing is, they really enjoy it!

Once you are in the classroom, you become a performer and, in order to engage and hook the students so they carefully listen to you, your best tool is your confidence. During my game design school training - while I was the student, I've had some really boring teachers. Not that what they were saying was bad or wrong but they seemed dead inside and had no passion in what they were talking about.
I'm really convinced that a good teacher is someone who seems passionate about his subject, who hooks people by telling anecdotes, little jokes, who does not speak in a monotonous tone, who express himself with confidence, who moves, gestures, etc. Personally, I have always had a strong attraction for theater and acting so my theoretical lessons have become my little stand-up show! You don't need to that for sure, but be active, interract with your students, ask them to participate regularly. If you make them practice what they've seen during your theorical part, they understand much more the meaning of you example you explanations. On top of that, it's a good opportunity to show the example on how to give constructive feedback. I personnally always give new ideas at the end of my comments otherwise they often end up lost so I try to guide them so they don't get stuck.

Honestly, there is plenting of room to create interesting courses in game schools to teach anything you want that fits in the educational program of the school. What I've seen is that students are always ahppy to see a well structured presentation and a clear speach with a nice powerpoint document, example, small game analysis, practical exercices, traps, etc. There are dozen of ways to make cool things!

It represents additional working time to create course content and I know that not everyone has the patience and pedagogy to take on this role. However, those who feel the urge to get started should not hesitate! The experience can be extremely enriching, as much for your students as for yourself: preparing lessons is a pretty crazy exercise in synthesizing your ideas and introspection to successfully organize your ideas so that it is understandable by everyone.

If more people make this effort, students will inevitably be better in the future, carry out better projects and become better team members. Education is the keystone of our society and our companies. Better trained students means :

= better candidates to job offers

= juniors needing shorter training periods to be production-ready

= more time to spend on development

= fresh ideas

= potentially a better game 

= happy people everywhere

That’s why I’m sending a call to everyone in the industry: take a serious look at the issue of education and knowledge transfer more broadly than with your new interns. Developers, let's get involved in our juniors' education!


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