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5:29pm on Saturday, 3rd November, 2012:



This week, I read the dissertations of the students doing the MA in Digital Games at Brunel University. My tenure as external examiner on this degree scheme comes to an end in about three weeks, so I won't be reading them any more.

I don't actually have to read them; I merely have to assess that they have been marked appropriately. However, I do read them because some of them are really good. There are games of professional quality and papers of publishable quality; there's masses of creativity and only the occasional dud (usually someone who failed to submit a dissertation in a previous year who has been allowed a second chance). I've looked forward to reading these dissertations, so will miss the opportunity to do so in future.

Of course, at Essex University we also have postgraduates. Ours are on an MSc rather than an MA, so should have a more technical background. Sadly, this is not always the case. At the moment, this year's students are choosing which projects to take on for their own dissertations. As have all the other academics, I've had to put together a list of six project suggestions for our MSc students to consider. So far, I've had to turn down one because the student had no programming experience and was hoping to write a game that (unsurprisingly) required it; I also had to turn down one that would involve a lot of description of game design rationale because the student's English wasn't up to it (I should mention that almost all our MSc students are from overseas, so we have a marginally higher proportion of people who can't write English expressively than we do at undergraduate level). I do have two potential supervisees, but one of those doesn't have good English either (fortunately for a different project proposal that it might be possible to use pictures in rather than words). The other one has the programming chops but will need to come up with a game design; we'll see if they manage it.

My problem is that there is no games-related MSc at Essex, so I can't offer direct games projects: I have to offer projects that are Computer Science in some way. If no-one picks them up, I still have to supervise someone, but they'd be doing a project proposed by a different lecturer. I could end up with students doing telecommunications or electronics. For this reason, I do actually want people to pick my projects; it's just that there are few students who want to do them, as none of them are games students. Games students would, at the moment, be better going elsewhere.

This is why, whenever any of my third-year students ask me where they should go in the UK to do a games-related Masters, I tell them to go to Brunel rather than stay on at Essex.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).