The West London university that covers game design from every conceivable angle
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.
“IT’S GETTING MUCH EASIER TO DEVELOP AND PUBLISH, AND THAT MEANS GAME DESIGN IS ONCE AGAIN ASCENDANT”
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