The following is from the March 7, 2007, edition of Macworld.
By Peter Cohen
Southern Methodist University in Plano, Texas is home to a pioneering master’s degree program in video and computer design creation known as The Guildhall at SMU. The Guildhall is not the only university program out there that teaches the fundamentals of game making, but since 2004, the institution has turned out some of the most sought-after game professionals in the industry. Peter E. Raad, Ph.D. is the program’s executive director, and at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco he offered some insight to the Guildhall’s secret to success.
While SMU may seem at first blush to be an incongruous location for such a program, Raad explained that it was the game industry itself that came to them to start the program.
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“The idea was first incubated in August of 2002, and within three months we had a plan of action,” Raad told Macworld. “The industry went to us to create it, and fortunately it was the right fit.”
Raad explained that SMU already had a center to innovate and incubate new technology programs. That, combined with an endowment and the cooperation of leaders in the game industry, enabled them to create a working program in a very short time.
“We started in July 7, 2003,” he said. “We went from nothing to having a 50,000 square foot facility, faculty, staff and students in less than a year.”
The 21 month program focuses students on gaining specialization equivalent to on-the-job training that would take a professional in the game industry years to acquire. The focus is not just on the mechanics of game design and development — understanding the technologies and tools used — but also on the leadership and management skills necessary to make it in this highly competitive and highly risky field: the ability to work in and manage teams, and to work in the style and the pace of the industry so graduates can hit the ground running.
“That’s why we call the program the Guildhall,” said Raad.
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