When we get together at conferences, the conversation quickly turns toward our lives: "What are you working on?" "Can't say. You?" "Yeah, same here." And so, conversation becomes more personal - the games we're playing (me, WoW), the games we want to play (me, an unannounced product I've seen) and word of particular industry deals. Other times, it's purely personal. In my case, it's my new car, my recent weight loss (62 pounds and counting) and my move across the country. It is because of this closeness, this discussion of things other than "here's what I'm making," that I know about so many transitions in the first place. For instance, game developer Jon Jones tweeted his engagement to Nancy Morales while in town for the Montreal International Game Summit. Twitter fairly well scrolled for hours while devs from all over the world wished Jon and Nancy well.


And so, after I inform the Dean, my fellow faculty members and the students I can find, I post my decision on Twitter on October 26, 2009, with an echo on Facebook for good measure:

@ bbrathwaite I am returning to the game industry full-time in December. I can't say with whom or doing what yet, but I'm coming back.

I Exhale

The retweets and congratulations begin at once. There are dozens of "welcome back" messages both on the live feed and via direct message. Some want to know where I am going, what I'll be doing and what caused me to make the reverse jump. I received phone calls and emails, too. In a sense, it feels not unlike returning to NYC after living in Barbados for several years. (When the U.S. Customs officer asked me "'Ow you doin'?" I wanted to hug him.) Similarly, returning to game development feels like coming home to my family. It is a tremendous bond we have. The immediacy of Facebook, Twitter and invite-only forums brings 10-times the community I had when I started making games in 1981.

On the second floor of Montgomery Hall where the majority of the game classes are held at SCAD, a figurative bomb detonates as word gets around. The next day, a group of my game design students arrives for class dressed in black. Some students cry. I nearly do, too. I can't explain to you how it's possible to care about 317 people so much. To be surrounded by people so passionate about this medium that they want to spend four years of their college life perfecting and challenging the hell out of that knowledge is near bliss.

And teaching brings with it its own transitions. In the industry, after working with junior designers for a while, you help them rise to the role of lead. In education, they actually leave you to work for someone else - and that's the point. My students are now all over the industry. It's ironic that I'm actually competing with some of them now.

"Why are you leaving?" they ask.

How do I even explain it? It helps that it is the opportunity of a lifetime in a company that excites me in a space that's phenomenally dynamic. It was an offer I couldn't and didn't want to refuse. In a sense, teaching and game development are very much related. As a lead designer, you both make games and teach. As a professor, I did the same. It's where you place the pin on the meter (from teaching to designing) that tells you what I'm presently getting paid to do.

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