December 08, 2014

Giving Back

My good friend Michael Abbott hasn't said anything as yet, but I know it's alright to let the cat out of the bag now, so I'm pleased to announce that I will be spending the first semester of 2015 as an artist in residence at Wabash College, as part of the Digital Arts and Human Values Initiative (DAHVI). DAHVI is supported by the Mellon Foundation and in its first three years will be sponsoring residencies for a broad class of "digital artists," which in my case means game design.

My residency will be partly virtual; I will spend five discrete weeks on the campus helping to teach a course in game design to undergraduates. When not on campus, I'll be available to students and faculty via email and I presume Skype and IM and whatnot. The point of the residency is both the class but also to be a sort of partnership between myself and students and faculty in my work -- I'll be designing and testing stuff in public, getting feedback, that sort of thing.

This came about from a visit to the campus about a year ago -- I went to give a lecture to Professor Abbott's freshman class about indie games, had a more targeted discussion with some especially motivated students, and also sat for a Q&A with an open audience¹. At the time, the DAHVI project was still in the proposal phase, and I read a draft to give feedback not long after my visit. It never occurred to me that I might be asked to be the first DAHVI artist, and I was really honored and a little bowled over when Michael extended the invitation this past August.

About a month ago now, I visited the campus again, this time to give a lecture and specifically give students a sort of teaser about the sorts of things I think about as a working game designer. I focused on how games deliver meaningful human experiences, drawing first on very well-known games and then narrowing to smaller games of the last decade and finally to my own ongoing work and some recent design problems I've had to overcome and how I thought about them. I talked a lot about the MDA framework but touched on other lenses for meaning as well. I also sat in on discussions in some other classes and met with faculty and staff about this and other initiatives going on at Wabash right now. Beyond that, I also saw a lot of very good theater, including Guys and Dolls and some wonderful short one-acts, acted by students and the wider Wabash community. I felt really welcome there. It was a wonderful, full, exhausting and exhilarating week.

Students in the course will be making games; we'll definitely offer Twine and for the more technically ambitious², other freely available engines. We may remix some board games. We'll do a bunch of reading, and we'll play each others' games.

I'm really grateful for the opportunity; it's a way for me to give back to higher learning. I am myself the product of a liberal arts education. I've found that background to be hugely helpful in my professional life; it gave me a broad base upon which to build different ways of learning and thinking about problems. I think students of a liberal arts tradition have much to offer to professional and civic life. I also think it enriches my personal life, and of course in a creative profession that all tends to blend together a bit.

In any case, I'll be in Indiana a lot come this springtime and probably somewhat more public about my work generally starting then. I've got a little game I've been working on this autumn and another, much more ambitious game in progress that has lots of moving parts. Although my first year out of AAA development has been moving along slowly (by design), I'll be pushing the pace a bit more come 2015. I'm really proud and excited that I'll be doing that at Wabash.

¹I also got to sit on a memorable mix of the acting and directing classes, which had some very game-like exercises to help directors loosen up their actors. Interesting stuff.
²There are no coding prerequisites for the course.

Posted by Brett Douville at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2014

My current podcast list

Here's all the stuff I'm currently subscribed to (will mark stuff as "inactive" or "infrequent" as appropriate):

Games podcasts:

  • Designer Notes: Soren Johnson interviewing other designers, updates apparently monthly
  • Game Church: Discussions with game developers about belief (and maybe my favorite new podcast; note, I'm on it this week)
  • Giant Bomb Interview Dumptruck: Patrick Klepek records the interviews he does as the basis of articles for Giant Bomb, no set frequency (maybe one every other week)
  • Infinite Ammo: Host Alec Holowka interviews other indies, sporadic, tends to happen monthly for a while and then die down
  • Play Date: Davey Wreden and Shay Pierce play old games... hasn't updated in quite a while, may be dead
  • Sit Up and Shut Down: Monthly, SU & SD folks, enjoyable, board games
  • Talking Devs: GamaSutra started this, did three eps and nothing recently, possibly dead on arrival
  • Tone Control: Subscribed but is done in seasons, no idea when host Steve Gaynor will interview more designers for season two
  • A Life Well Wasted: probably ought to give up on this one, probably never coming back
  • Brainy Gamer: have put last because it's on hiatus -- Michael and I have talked about bringing it back, but recent cultural events have really kind of bothered me about this

Non-games podcasts:

  • 99 Percent Invisible: General design podcast with Roman Mars
  • Bullseye: General culture podcast with Jesse Thorn
  • Dinner Party Download: Culture and food podcast, weekly
  • Filmspotting and Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit: Film podcasts about new releases and streaming stuff, updated weekly and bi-weekly, respectively
  • Judge John Hodgman: Weekly silly internet cases, often quite funny but with heart
  • Selected Shorts: Actors read short fiction for audiences, updates weekly -- good stuff, usually a couple stories per episode
  • Serial: Spin-off of This American Life, revisiting a murder case in Baltimore MD (or as The Wire had it, Body-more, Murdaland)
  • Slate's Culture Gabfest: Cultural discussions on weekly topics with Dana Stevens, Julia Turner, and Stephen Metcalf
  • The Truth: Short radio dramas, weekly when in-season
  • This American Life: If you haven't heard of it, can't help ya :)
  • Welcome to Night Vale: Weird. Look it up if you've not heard of it. Tend to binge-listen on long drives.
  • What Are You Reading: Matt Debenham interviews authors about what they're reading, and what they read as kids that they remember

Posted by Brett Douville at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2014

An open letter to Intel

I posted this letter through Intel's corporate responsibility page just now in support of GamaSutra and its editorial stance.

Hi Intel,

I've been a game developer for coming on 17 years, and spent all of that time developing both on and for Intel architectures. I was at LucasArts in the late 90s and early 00s, and we were often lucky to receive Intel development hardware directly from you. I've used your tools for years, including your optimizing compiler, which led the competition in terms of performance almost from its birth.

So it's with no small amount of sadness that I see you pulling your ad support for GamaSutra today. I imagine there's been some incoming email about recent editorial choices at the site.

GamaSutra, and it's long-associated print publication Game Developer (RIP), were the developer-focused materials that I could also rely on over much of my career. I've seen your sponsored articles there frequently over the years; often it would be the first or even only place where I'd see your products, since so few advertiser-supported sites focus exclusively on game development.

I believe that pulling your support over recent editorial choices is a mistake; I believe that you've largely been contacted by a group who are not made up of the site's audience. It's a shame to see you pull your advertising dollars in hostage to a virulent hate campaign orchestrated by a small number of people who use the Internet's anonymity as a shield.

I hope you'll reconsider. I visit GamaSutra frequently, and I think the editorial choices have always pursued inclusivity in game development. Indeed, I think that's why it has lasted as long as it has.


Brett Douville

Posted by Brett Douville at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)