The West Lon­don univer­sity that cov­ers game de­sign from ev­ery con­ceiv­able an­gle

EDGE - - TIME EXTEND - JUSTIN PARSLER Lec­turer, Brunel Univer­sity

Justin Parsler has been mak­ing games pro­fes­sion­ally since he was 16 years old, and is now a lec­turer on Brunel’s Games De­sign course. He is also cur­rently a se­nior de­signer for Who’s That

Fly­ing? stu­dio Me­di­a­tonic, and his work has been pub­lished in a num­ber of aca­demic jour­nals and books. Here, he ex­plains why Brunel’s fo­cus is on de­sign above all else.

Talk us through the two game de­sign cour­ses you of­fer. We of­fer a BA (Hons) in Game De­sign and an MA in Dig­i­tal Games The­ory and De­sign. Both are now very well es­tab­lished and ex­tremely over­sub­scribed. The MA is aimed at people from var­ied back­grounds, but as game ed­u­ca­tion be­comes more com­mon the cur­ricu­lum is slowly chang­ing to ac­count for people who al­ready have a back­ground in games. Both are be­spoke game de­sign cour­ses, not re­pur­posed me­dia stud­ies cour­ses; we teach game de­sign in a prac­ti­cal, hands-on way backed up with use­ful the­ory. That in­volves a va­ri­ety of the­o­ret­i­cal per­spec­tives – some art, some pro­gram­ming, some pro­duc­tion and some busi­ness – but de­sign is where we live. The use of the word ‘de­sign’ can be rather neb­u­lous, es­pe­cially in ed­u­ca­tion. Our de­sign fo­cus is un­usual: of­ten when cour­ses say ‘de­sign’ they re­ally mean art or pro­gram­ming and do not teach much about con­tent, con­text, rules and struc­ture, user ex­pe­ri­ence or plea­sure. Our course is taught by people who are good enough to con­sult at a high level in the in­dus­try, or in the case of [Lion­head and Games Work­shop co-founder] Steve Jack­son, some­one who founded the in­dus­try! We have a lot of game in­dus­try ties, and many, many guest speak­ers and work­shops from in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als – and we have a to­tally amaz­ing, in­clu­sive, pas­sion­ate stu­dent com­mu­nity. We love what we’re do­ing and the whole course is filled with pas­sion and en­ergy! How does that fo­cus in­flu­ence the tools you use? We have al­ways used sim­ple, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble tools; there are plenty of them. Our fo­cus is de­sign, so we want to get past the tech­ni­cal as­pects and get on with mak­ing games. Unity has made no dif­fer­ence to us: you can pub­lish in al­most any soft­ware that works. We are look­ing at teach­ing it, but our fear is that we end up with a course that teaches Unity, not game de­sign. It’s get­ting much eas­ier to de­velop and pub­lish, and that means game de­sign, rather than pro­gram­ming, is once again as­cen­dant. Brunel’s Game Game lets MA stu­dents role­play at pitch­ing to pub­lish­ers. Do you have any plans to make it avail­able to un­der­grad­u­ates as well? The Game Game presently runs only for the MAs, but there are plans to change that. Stu­dents have to pitch to in­dus­try pros, who then rate the game cre­atively and fi­nan­cially. Steve Jack­son then has them make pub­lish­ing deals with each other. It helps them pull what they’ve learnt, and look at de­vel­op­ment from a prac­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial stand­point.


Brunel Univer­sity is based in Uxbridge, West Lon­don. It aims to com­bine aca­demic rigour with the prac­ti­cal, en­tre­pre­neur­ial and imag­i­na­tive ap­proach pi­o­neered by its name­sake, Isam­bard King­dom Brunel

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