Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

Game Designer Guest Speaker


Posted Oct. 10, 2013

CategoryGaming Community, Guest Post


One of our game designers here at E-Line Media, Mike Wikan, had a unique opportunity recently. He visited a middle school class in St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in Austin, TX where he spent time with the students talking about what it means to be a professional game designer. Here’s Mike’s recap of his visit:

I got to spend some time with the wonderful Technology Class at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in Austin the other day! They let me take up an hour regaling them with stories about game development, what skills I use, and my opinions on the importance of story in development, as well as answering their myriad questions! For example, one of the kids asked “When you are making a game, what is the process for getting Art into the game?”

I described the process of bringing a character into a game: First the designer describes the sort of creature he wants to make and creates a written design describing its properties!  It’s important to give enough detail for the artists, but not so much detail that the artists don’t have room to add their own ideas.  It then passes to the concept artist, who creates drawings to show what the creature might look like.  After we get it looking right, it passes to the modeler, who then creates a 3D mesh of the character and adds all the texture maps that give it color and the right look.

Usually at this point the modeler adds a “skeleton” to the model so it can be made to move.  It then passes to an animator who adds all the animations so it can be made to move around and perform in the ways the designer specified at the beginning. Lastly, it goes to the programmer, who adds all the computer code to make it move around in the world and perform its behavior. It takes a lot of talented people working together to make anything from scratch in a game. It’s important to leave enough room for everyone to add their own special creativity to everything they work on!

It was very enjoyable talking with them and their teacher followed up with a note that the talk seemed to have really inspired them and she has had a substantial increase in interest in the subject from her students. It was lots of fun and I highly encourage other game professionals to take the time to work little trips like this into their schedules!



One Response to “Game Designer Guest Speaker”

Tracy MulliganOctober 31st, 2013 at 3:13 am

It was my class that Mike Wikan came to a couple of weeks ago at St. Gabriel’s. The class’ focus is game design and Gamestar Mechanic provides the foundation for the course. It is a small group of 7th and 8th grade students and is the perfect size for piloting a game design elective.

To increase the relevancy of the course, I thought it would be great to have people in the game design industry come speak to the class. I sent out emails to local companies as well as a few other connected folks. Through a chain of “I know a lady who knows a guy” conversations, I finally received an email from Mike who eagerly agreed to come speak with the class. Mike is a dynamic speaker and really connected with the students. He did this by sharing the story of his career path and using examples with which the students could really relate. He described games he had worked from the popular Donkey Kong and Metroid Prime series and how a design team works together to develop a product. The students were very impressed that he had met the former President of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi.

Mike’s visit was a pivotal moment for this course. Afterwards, the students seemed to take things more seriously. His presentation made it “real” rather than just another elective course. We have connected with other designers that have volunteered to mentor students by playtesting and giving feedback for each student once a month. This connection with industry experts has motivated students put extra effort into their designs. They know that people are donating their time to come speak to them and play their games and they want to create a product that they are proud to share with the pros as well as their peers!

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