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I would really like to know what influence academics have had on any previous media. Did David Lean or Orson Wells or does Steven Speilberg use academics when making movies? Has anything done by academics influenced their work in any way? Does Steven King or did George Orwell or CS Lewis or any even modern authors have any academic input? How about Beethoven, The Beatles or Eminem?

My completely un-informed impression is that academics have had zero influence on those media so why would we expect them to have any in games?

From the article:

> And academia can teach everyone a thing or
> two about what motivates a person to play
> games, why they are important, how we can
> make them better, and what we learn from
> them overall

I don't agree that academics can teach us "how we can make them better". I don't think they've done it in any other entertainment.

Note that I'm seperating actual creators of the entertainment that go write a book on how to setup a movie scene or how to write a novel or how to design a game from an outsider, "an acedemic researcher." Most of the aritcles in things like Gamasutra or Game Developer Magazine are written by people actually making the games, not by acedmics and I think the same has been true of movies and books.

That's not to say I don't think those other points aren't important like "what motivates a person to play games, why they are important, and what we learn from them overall" but I read into the statement "Perhaps this is warranted by the academics, who readily admit that few decision makers in development pay them much serious attention," that some people expect it would or should be different. I don't agree.


G-Man's kind of got a point. Plus, from much training and action in Literary Interpretation and it's application to Video Game Interpretation, you don't want to exactly make them better. Sure, you could look at a Dickens novel or a Miyamoto game and say "X doesn't work to its intended extent, here's how it would be better" but that's really not what the academic approach is about. It's far more fulfilling to study why something works and what it's purpose is.

Plus, the academic assumption that you know better than everyone else and can improve the work greatly has always seemed to me to be rather a big no-no.


I disagree. Most creators go through at least some schooling. Even if they end up defining their work in opposition to academic training (as many artists say you must), the training has influence.

And as Will Wright said in the collaborations panel I moderated at GDC fresh, educated students with an understanding of games, game design and the history of game implementation are a valuable resource. There's a reason that Maxis has developed such a strong relationship with CMU and other academic institutions. As they hire from such programs, new ideas trickle in.

I think the issue here is the absence of a developer voice in the piece, which was mentioned in the original post. It's not a dialog, and so it sounds (necessarily) one-sided.

Obviously, it's silly to say that academics should be teaching developers how to think. It's also unrealistic to expect academic research to suddenly or single-handedly re-direct the current trajectory of commercial development. Similarly, developers can't really teach academics how to educate students, or set the goals of research projects and programs.

Dialog is key. Instead of trying to tell each other what to do and how to do it - both sides should be sharing their best. If we leverage our respective strengths, and use constructive criticism to influence each other, I think we'll be a lot better off.

The IGDA's education committee has worked for three + years to develop such a dialog - hosting several summits at GDC and GDC Europe, and trying to establish guidelines for curriculum development. The summits were aimed at bringing academics and developers together to share ideas and brainstorm ways to work together, while the curriculum was geared towards injecting the *practice* of game creation into current interest in the *study* of games.

But supporting this dialog is hard work. And more often than not, people like to retreat to their campus (industry or academic) and point the finger at the other side which is counterproductive, at best. Personally, I'd like to see more developers and academics becoming involved on a case-by-case basis, cooperating locally. Listening to each other.

As it turns out, the education committee is in the process of defining it's mission for the next few years. I'm curious what the readers of GGA have to say about how we might improve upon our previous work.


gman: Without being too agressive, I'd say that your opinion IS uninformed.

If you're gonna define an academic as somebody who writes and researches things like movies without ever having attempted to actually make a movie, there aren't too many of those in existence. Sergei Eisenstein was a massive, massive influence on the development of the movies because of his theories on editing. He made several films, but I'd say his theory overshadows his film.

Now, I know there are some wonderkind who bypass a graduate degree or even college altogether, but most people who are working for companies that make games nowadays either have a masters or a doctorate as a requirement for working there. In my opinion, anyone with a doctorate is definitely an academic.

If you wanna see a really nice marriage of academics and videogames, check out the MIT lab. They do all kinds of beyond-cool projects and they're some of the best and brightest academics out there.


Sorry to be snarky, but CS Lewis actually was an academic, as was Tolkien. In any case, the influence of academia is more subtle than a game designer (or other industry person) "using" an academic. The ideas that come out of academe (through publications, but also through students who later join the industry) filter into the work over a long period of time.

In fact, the industry is paying more attention to academics. For example, I was the leader of a Carnegie Mellon research team that was invited to present research at Maxis. The opinions of people like Janet Murray or Kurt Squire are at least heard and discussed by industry folks. Matthew Mateas's "Facade" was a finalist at the last IGF. There are always academics present at GDC, and even if their talks aren't the most highly attended, their ideas do filter into the industry consciousness.

The IGDA has a monthly column called "The Ivory Tower" that dicusses this very issue, the relationship between industry and academia.

In fact, the cross pollination goes both ways. Chris Klug (former creative director from EA's online division) just joined Carnegie Mellon as a professor. This kind of move signals an increasing respect for the kind of innovation that schools can offer.

The biggest problem for academia is that the industry thinks of academics as snooty and aloof, which, unfortunately, academic types often are. That's changing though.


Graphics is an easy example of an area where academic researchers have a major influence on not just any media, but games.

The researchers do it offline and now, pushing the boundaries. 5 years down the line game developers tweak it and make it real-time.

Graphics, however, is a much more nicely packaged problem than say, AI or Game Design. Doesn't mean researchers shouldn't try though.

More and more people are lamenting the derivative nature of games. Researchers are more likely to take risks and try new things. I think we need more of them.

Tore Vesterby

Matteo Bittanti wrote a great piece on academics and their 'use' to the games industry over at the Ivory Tower on IGDA back in June. I think it sums up the issues in this discussion pretty well.

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