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8:13pm on Wednesday, 15th April, 2015:

Afternoon in Uxbridge


I went to Brunel University today to give an afternoon workshop on game design. It's a portable workshop I've run before — not always for students, but I do give it to the IGGI PhD nunch and have a shortened version for my second-year students. Basically, it's a game system that the students instantiate a game for (much in the way that you could create a Top Trumps game for a genre of your choice). It's not a regular game system, though, as the sting in the tail is that it's based on the first-order predicate calculus; relational database queries are also based on this, so if you can formulate a game idea using this system then you can easily slot it into a database.

The Brunel students were a mixed group, ranging from first-year BA undergraduates to MA students. Frankly, I couldn't tell which was which, as they were all enthusiastic. They were split into four groups, one of which actually managed to get a playable game. Two of the others were close to playable. The fourth would probably have been brilliant if they hadn't taken so long hammering out the workings of time travel and ended up designing 8 overlapping games instead of just one, but hey, they seemed to get something out of it. Overall, they did really well, especially with the storytelling aspect of what they were creating. I don't know what they teach them at Brunel, but it seems to be effective.

Hmm, actually I do know what they teach them as I used to be their external examiner.

The Brunel games design course, which is so games design that it's a BA (unlike the BSc we have at Essex), is very strong. Two thirds of the original team (which is to say two people) decamped to Falmouth to set up a new games degree there with a massive chunk of EU funding behind it. Brunel responded by putting the other third in charge and then multiplying him by a factor of six (so, hiring another five people, some of whom are game studies types and others of whom are designer types). Their course is so different from the usual fare that employment in the games industry for graduates is something like 30%-40%. This is exceptionally good: most universities will struggle to place even 10% of their graduates in the games industry. We're traditionally around the same mark at Essex University, although in recent years we've sent more students on to do postgraduate degrees in games so we're probably not that high any more. Also, we have only around 20-25 graduates per year whereas Brunel has 40-45, so their absolute numbers are higher than ours too.

Anyway, it was a enjoyable workshop for me if not for the students. Even better, I was paid for it. Win!

Things you don't want to hear at 8:30 in the morning about 3 seconds after having paid £54 for a train ticket that would cost you £34 half an hour later: "Trains to London are subject to cancellations and delays following an overhead line problem at Romford". That's just so you know my day wasn't all fun and games...

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).