Dr. Raad sees The Guildhall as a trade school akin to a medical school, where theory is important but practice is essential. Over the course of two years, students work in teams to complete increasingly complex games - starting off with 2D platformers in a three-person group, and culminating in a full 3D demo created by a development team of sixteen to twenty. The program heavily emphasizes cross-disciplinary learning and cross-pollination between the programmers, artists, and level designers. Throughout, the ultimate goal is fixed on developing skills that will make each student an attractive hire for the gaming industry, including building each student's personal portfolio. "We want them to be able to show that they're masters of their chosen profession," says Dr. Raad. "The industry couldn't care less about how many letters you have after your name, they care about what you can do on day one."


As a result, The Guildhall was designed to simulate the pace and work style of the games industry. During heavy development periods, students sometimes spend up to twenty hours a day coding, designing, fixing, debugging. Walk into the project development rooms and you'll find mini-fridges full of energy drinks. "It's important," he insists. "People always talk about the cruelty of military training, or of giving doctors 24 hour shifts during their residencies, but it's not out of cruelty. That's done because one day you will be called upon to work under extreme conditions and you need to be prepared."

However, industry guests often point out a key difference during their visits - the Guildhall facilities are too nice. Some have suggested that they create unrealistic expectations.

The computer science and engineering buildings I knew were always dank, tiled places that smelled of graphing calculators and sexual frustration - by contrast, The Guildhall looks and feels more like a Silicon Valley law firm. The walls are slick and rounded, painted in cool colors and hung with screenshots from student projects. Offices and conference rooms are outfitted with steel and frosted glass, and the lecture hall chairs are comfortable. Recently, The Guildhall became host to THQ's primary usability lab - a testing facility - making them the only graduate program in the country to have such a facility onsite. This fusion of academia and industry not only allows THQ access to a stream of product testers, but it allows students to conduct bug-hunts on their projects using professional equipment, not to mention the added bonus of impromptu FAQs and lectures from visiting industry figures.

However, the most impressive space is the aforementioned art studio, an airy, well-lit space papered in printouts of X-Men characters, film posters, and student pen-and-ink studies of Batman and orcs. Work-in-progress busts of bizarre monsters crowd one corner, all slavering tongues and bristly hair, while next to them stands a mannequin wearing the school's motion capture suit. Even though the room is empty, it feels full of life and motion.

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