Department Coordinator of Games Programming
What is your background in education and game development?
Although I have been teaching at various universities and institutes for the past six years, I actually have no degree. I never studied games beyond a TAFE Diploma. But building games was more than just a hobby for me, it was an escape. I was able to build anything and be anyone in these worlds, and I hid in them throughout high school. By the time I had acquired my certification I had already released two games: very minor, buggy titles, but I had experience. I used that to get a job teaching at TAFE, and from there I became a university lecturer and finally a department coordinator.
I’ve also been developing games since I was 12. I have six personal titles publicly released, that are all drastically different, from third-person team based goblin warfare to a cacophonic greyscale artscape/tear-fest. I use my projects to reflect where I am physically and emotionally; some take years to complete, some take weeks. Most notably I am currently working on the PC/PS4 title One Night with Epona Schweer, shown at PAX 2015 and GX this year.
Do students typically come to CG Spectrum with a good idea of what the local industry looks like now, and a decent idea of what sort of work they might be doing afterwards?
I often find students consider the industry a big question-mark. They don’t know if it exists, they hear bad things, they sometimes think they’ll be destitute for going down this path, but they do it anyway. Students enrol in games with the most dismal prospects, but they love games and they want to be a part of it anyway. They eventually learn where to find the industry and that companies are out there, but I still teach with a great emphasis on marketing yourself as a developer, making and releasing personal projects rapidly to help them to create a portfolio. Once they can make their own job or join the industry with something to show for it.
How does ‘programming’ differ from ‘design’, in terms of how it’s taught?
I don’t think that programming and design should be that different. They both affect each-other so deeply that it’s been an aim of mine to dissolve those barriers. Programmers should be able to make their own work look and feel great, designers should know how to make their plans an actuality. I think that teaching a programmer and designer should be more or less the same, with optional avenues of further exploration into whichever field they prefer, be it code, design, lighting, 3D, sound.
What do you think is the most important thing students can take away from a games course, that they are unlikely to get if they are self-taught?
The main thing I see students gain through study that I never received is a sense of direction and that boost into the industry. Skills can be acquired through many avenues and study is just one. But a way into the industry space, connections and the knowledge of where to go next and how, is something that can take many, many years to achieve otherwise. Plus, I still get 2am texts from ex-students I had years ago, asking me how to do something. I always answer.