By jenny nelson
Last semester, NYU Local’s visit to the Game Center Open Library gave an idea of the fun things going on in Tisch’s basement, but there’s a whole lot more on the agenda besides its massive collection of games. video and society.
In addition to the Open Library at 721 Broadway and a variety of events and lecture series, The Game Center is an academic department at Tisch that offers a minor in game design as well as an MFA program. The NYU local sat down with Dylan McKenzie, program coordinator at Game Center, and Mehak Khan, an English major and game design minor who works at the Open Library, to learn more about what the Game Center has to offer.
McKenzie was studying media, culture, and communications at Steinhardt when he discovered Game Center in a 2008 NYU PR blog post. In its early days, the open library was just a box — the department had an Xbox , a Wii and a Playstation. Students could play on the 9th floor of Tisch after school. Since then, the program has grown exponentially, though there’s no doubt that it’s still new (McKenzie’s current office is a converted equipment room). After an initial game design course taught by Eric Zimmerman, Game Center’s undergraduate curriculum has expanded to include a variety of courses related to game design, production, and scholarship.
The last of these three elements is introduced in the Center’s Basic Games 101 course, a sort of investigative art course that covers not just what every gamer should know, but what every culturally educated student should know. All teachers share the class, taking students through a whirlwind tour of what’s happening in all games. If you take Games 101, your homework is literally playing games and writing about them. The class presents the department as very inclusive, opening the field of game studies to non-gamers and non-programmers and starting everyone with the same basic cultural knowledge.
NYU isn’t the only school to offer game design courses. Schools like USC, DigiPen Institute of Technology, and Southern Methodist University’s The Guildhall also do this, but many programs are either part of another department, such as film studies or computer programming, or offer an approach more professional game design. , focusing on securing good jobs for students in the gaming industry. Asked what makes Game Center unique, McKenzie said, “I think we’re different because we’re part of a second wave of games education… games for themselves. With an emphasis on game scholarship and with no clear connection to any other NYU program—the department has grown outside of the areas of MCC, Computer Science, and Tisch Film+TV—Game Center has was able to develop a unique program and an independent style. Without the limitations of a parent program, Game Center focuses as much on a variety of non-digital games as it does digital games.
This uniqueness is in part due to Game Center faculty’s wide range of previous experience studying subjects such as painting, computing, and Nordic literature, and working in media, advertising, and literature. teaching at the ITP. Visiting Professor Jesper Juul holds a PhD in video game theory. In addition to its interdisciplinary experience, the Game Center’s location in New York, where games are played in public spaces and galleries, demonstrating the intersection of art, commerce, design and technology – through as opposed to the West Coast where the focus is more on games as a product – is beneficial for its focus on academics and art. Being in New York also makes it easy to find speakers – last year the Game Center hosted Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield and lead designer of the Unexplored Richard LeMarchand series at his PRACTICE 2012 annual design conference.
All students are welcome at Game Center events. These include curatorial projects allowing student librarians to share their expertise with attendees playing gallery-style games on the 9th floor. Playtest Friday from 4-8 p.m. connects the design classroom to the open library, initiating feedback for game design students or anyone else who wants to bring their board game, physical game, or “digital themed games independent ninjas” (words of Khan). Instead of just playing marquee games, players can try out new things created in the classes upstairs. Sometimes there is pizza! League of Learners meets Tuesdays from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. to teach novices (with help from experts like MFA students and game librarians) how to play League of Legends, currently the most popular video game. most played in the world, but also very complicated, and with a less than helpful community and therefore often intimidating for novices.
“A lot of times games can be very isolating, so we encourage people to come together,” McKenzie said. They encourage people to get together often – in addition to all the previously mentioned programs, Game Center offers something pretty much every week, whether it’s a talk, workshop or other event.
While Game Center prides itself on academia and What Makes Games Art, they also love competitive gaming, as evidenced by Spring Fighter, an annual Street Fighter tournament hosted by Game Center. This year the event will take place in April, and although it has yet to be announced, McKenzie has promised that the tournament will be huge, with appearances from some of the arcade game’s best competitive players and fathers. founders.
Interested students can learn more about Game Center on its website, Facebook or Twitter, and there is a mailing list and a game development specific mailing list that anyone can join. Currently, a new Game Center space is being built at MetroTech in Brooklyn, where NYU Poly is also located. The Game Center hopes to move there in the fall or when the space is ready. There, Masters students will be able to move into brand new, state-of-the-art facilities. As the program continues to grow and establish itself, McKenzie is optimistic about the move – “Now we’re out of the incubator and doing our own thing.”