GDC 2012 Education: “What Can Game Education Learn from Architecture Education”

I went to some of the GDC Education summit talks. I doubt Gamasutra was there, as Education talks are among the least attended at GDC, but these talks still deserve coverage, so here it is!

Personally, I felt this session was a waste of my time — Parsons more or less follows the studio model that Helen Stuckey and Mark Flanagan prescribed in this talk — but it occurred to me that some people are in games programs under engineering / computer science departments, who no doubt do things differently.

The pair of speakers began with a history of architecture education.

Traditionally, it began with an apprentice-master relationship. That was just how “knowledge-transfer” happened in the profession. Then came the rise of art schools like the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris, with studio classes that emphasized a strict separation between theory and construction. Learning now occurred through the act of design, even if you didn’t really know how to do it yet. The Bauhaus School emerged in response to the Beaux-Arts pedagogy, stressing the unity and integration of everything — history, construction, critique, theory, etc.

These days, the “research” aspects of architecture schools stress the science of it. Architecture has physics-envy, in a way. But what if you don’t think architecture is necessarily a science? This divide, between arts and sciences, mirrors contemporary debates on game development today.

The studio model, as practiced in architecture schools like UCL’s Bartlett School or at RMIT, emphasize small classes (16-18 students) and Donald Schon’s idea of “reflective practice”: just go ahead and design stuff, then reflect on uncertainty / complexity during the design process itself.

The pair of speakers somewhat criticized the “culture of critique” at art schools, and cited Charlie Smith’s “Understanding Students’ View of the Crit Assessment.” Smith’s study found that students had extremely negative perceptions and associations with the critique process, specifically the general lack of criteria and being put on the defensive. Instead, the speakers favored a roundtable approach that frame the critique as a discussion instead of a pinata party.

By the end of the studio experience, a graduate student ideally has a well-rounded overview of issues in their profession as well as good presentation skills and an adequate amount of design experience.

… Again, I personally felt like this session was a bit contentless, but maybe that’s because they were trying to lecture about oceans to a school of fish. It is also worth noting that many regard the current program of architecture education to be rather useless, so maybe “game development as engineering” may be a useful reference point in this regard. Is game development more like architecture or more like engineering?

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