203: Ivory Tower Defense

Ivory Tower Defense

"I have no respect for people who teach in a game program who haven't worked in the industry." That's a sentiment you'll hear a lot from game developers, but it's based on a set of assumptions that aren't necessarily all true. Brenda Brathwaite looks at the conflict between the industry and the academy, and finds some common ground between both factions.

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Great article. I work for a University and have experienced this exact problem in a different area: Journalism. When I started school our JRN dept. had several people that were industry people, most (all but 1) have been pushed out in favor of people that had degrees, then those people left and now we seem to be going for both. Experienced industry professionals that have a Master's or higher.

I really enjoyed the way this article made me think. I'm not involved in either industry or acedemia, but I feel that this kind of thinking about games is needed in many more circles, not just acedemia or industry, but the players and the public as well, if video games are going to grow up. If video games are going to be anything more than the toys they currently are, and if they are ever going to be regarded with the same respect as literature, film, or other art forms, this thinking is a necessary step in that direction.

Thank you for this.

Wonderful article. It touched on so many important things, some new and some old. It is close mindedness on either side that is the paralyzing deficit, not whether or not you are an academic or an uneducated person with experience. Insecurity and ignorance drives statements like, "I have no respect for people who teach in a game program who haven't worked in the industry." Such sentiments really don't make sense because, beyond death, there is no such thing as "real life" and some assumed and hypothetical "unreal life." Actually, anyone can acquire experience but getting an advanced degree is another matter. Both are valuable but it's a backward notion that gaining a difficult and valuable Ph.D. is somehow a bad thing. I hope we can bridge this gap but it exists in many fields. Working together will only benefit the gaming industry.

Here here! Good article. The same sentiments are felt in other fields as well.

I have to expecially agree with two of your points:
1. Just because you can do doesn't mean you can teach. How true.
2. The industry needs experimentation and exploration. How stagnant the industry has grown! It seems devs keep pumping out the same games again and again, just with higher polygon counts. There is definitely some creativity out there, but not nearly enough of it.

Nice one Brenda.

When I was writing my MA thesis in games studies, I had a hell of a time explaining to my friends a) why games required / justified academic study, and b) why I wasn't just MAKING the games.

Most of this article takes place within a designer / academic dichotomy, but I think it could be a useful jumping-off point in illustrating the nuances of the game industry, and para-industries that inform/critique it, to non-gamers as well.

Great article! Academia needs professors who are experienced in teaching, not just experienced. "Real world" experience is great, but if students can't learn from a professor because they are used to dealing with people already learned in the jargon and techniques of the thing being taught and make that assumption (however unintentionally) to start with, it certainly isn't the students' fault.

I had two different professors my first semester of college. One professor taught introductory Italian, the other introductory computer science. The Italian teacher had plenty of real world experience; she'd lived and studied in Italy, and was married to an Italian. But on the first day, she decided that it would be a good idea to engage in "immersion" spoke full blown Italian at us for the rest of the semester. Most of the class did poorly. Enough that the college got rid of her the next year. My computer science teacher didn't seem to have a heck of a lot of experience in the real world. He was department chair at the college, had graduated from it maybe 14 years earlier, so he'd probably had just enough time to get a master's and a PhD before coming back to work. He was also teaching was to me seemed like a different language. Except he taught us the basics first (i.e. JAVA). Everyone in the class liked him.

Also, thanks again for a great article. I started reading it and noted the name and said to myself, "hrm... what else has she done? Why do I assume this is going to be good?" and then you included the link to the earlier article on black lead characters. You possess remarkable insight as a writer.

Interesting article. I think this is true for all fields. Finding a person that can teach well but isn't out of touch with the real world can be difficult. Not that research isn't important but if that's all you do you may lose track of where industry goes while your head is buried in books.

Great article. When I first started learning about engineering and programming, I did so on my own, and learned in a very practical hands-on matter. Stepping into a bachelour's degree in university was an entirely different world and a lot of the same prejudices where present.

The independence from commercial goals has a huge effect on the freedom and creativity that academia can encourage, and while some of these ventures may not culminate in anything practical and marketable, sometimes it opens entirely new fields. Consider even the computer itself -- born as an academic novelty, it has become a ubiquitous part of our lives.

On the other side of things, experience is undeniably valuable. The myopic vision of those in the ivory tower is a reality for some. It becomes apparent when somebody tries to take an arbitrary research project and market it; often, the idea isn't practical enough or there is no interest for it in the market. Sometimes the academics get lost in their interests and what they learn is of no use to society at large.

Overall, your article makes it clear that a stronger relationship between industry and academia would be advantageous to both of them. Academics could stir up the stagnancy that industry has fallen into, while industry can keep academia within the realm of the practical and usable, while sharing lessons with them that can only be learned through experience.

That is a damn good article to read showing the difference of academia and commercialism. Both schools have so much to teach and share a lot in common but both groups do not recognize each other's experience and this applies to almost all college students transitioning to careers they desire. It's great you have the knowledge but employers want the experience and finished product and for recent grads it is very difficult to get. Employers are also scared to hire those who only know the method and are unwilling to take the time to train that graduate in the industry that is that graduate's passion.

If only commercialism was willing to take risks and train those graduates and academia would be accepting beyond good grades for experience then the world and job market would be a lot more productive.

Just because someone hasn't sold their paintings commercially doesn't mean they're any less of a painter.

My complaints against academia are centered around their tendency to criticize my technique when they've never picked up a brush themselves. Experience, even failure, can give people the depth they need to truly understand the field they wish to teach in.

I refuse to give "pure" Ivory Tower academics much respect because they refuse to test their theories in the outside world, where I live. They are spoon-fed a carefully selected set of knowledge and regurgitate it upon demand.

Those commercially successful people I can respect because they've applied their theories and shown them to be of real value. Net worth. They have knowledge that actually connects to the real world.

Art... Art is a whole different ball game because it's all subjective. Define success how you will here.

 

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