Chicago programs teach collaboration as the newest trend in gaming

Institutions: UIC / EVL, Flashpoint: The Academy of Media Arts and Sciences, Story: Medill Reports Chicago

Chicago, IL

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by Kathryn Murphy
June 10, 2009

Gamer’s obsessions vary. It could be jacking an Escalade in Liberty City; creating a new avatar in a computer virtual world, or even pulling out an old school Nintendo to dominate in “Paperboy.”

But learning how to create the newest obsession is a secondary part of the curriculum for students in game development and computer science. Instead, they are learning a different set of skills, one that mom’s worldwide pull their hair out trying to teach their own children: how to work well with others.

“Talent is important, but it falls below several other qualities on the list: team player, accountability, showing up, and collaboration,” said Howard Tullman, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Flashpoint: The Academy of Media Arts and Sciences.

Leading a tour group of about 100 parents and potential students, Tullman repeatedly emphasized that attending Flashpoint is not a lackadaisical undertaking. The two years at the academy more closely resemble two years of work experience than a typical undergraduate education. Currently, 60 of the 275 students going into their second year at Flashpoint are game development students.

“We are interested in turning out people who are complete digital professionals,” he said. “They know how to work with a budget, they can communicate, read and write. The focus is having a job to go to at the end, developing a real world portfolio.”

A similar theme runs through the game development course at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The course is part of the four-year computer science program at the university and is co-taught through teleconferencing with instructors at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Program director Jason Leigh assigns the 30 or so students into teams of four, with two members in each location to force the students into honing their collaboration skills.

“They learn that one of the most difficult challenges is maintaining awareness of what the other half of the team is doing,” he said. “The teams that establish strong protocols for communication are usually ones that succeed. Interestingly, the teams that did the most poorly this semester were the ones that were entirely co-located.”


Date: June 10, 2009
TacTile at conference demonstration - L. Long, EVL

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