Erin Hoffman's Inside JobInside Job: Interview: Zeitgeist Games Founder & Full Sail Real World Education Course Director Dustin ClingmanErin Hoffman's Inside Job - RSS 2.0
IJ: How do you balance teaching and running Zeitgeist? What advantages do the two roles provide each other?
DC: This is actually really tough from time to time. I'm blessed to have an amazing team at Zeitgeist that could probably keep the company running if I was to kick the bucket. They're very capable and I can rely on them when things get tight. Basically, I have a full time commitment to Full Sail and then whatever other time remains I place into Zeitgeist or one of my other new efforts. I knew … when I started teaching that I wasn't done making games. Teaching is an opportunity for me to bring the experience I have in the studio today in a way that's incredibly relevant and refreshing. I'm fortunate that Full Sail has always been supportive of these external efforts as a way to keep me honest and pushing forward with my lessons.
IJ: What do you hear from graduates that have completed the Full Sail program?
DC: When the students are done, they feel ready, but also anxious about things. The real world is coming and they've got to fly from the nest. I try to keep in touch with them to see where they've landed and it's always nice to hear what they've been up to.
IJ: Full Sail is regarded as one of the most rigorous producers of strong young developers currently in the field. What are you guys doing right that differentiates you from many of the other programs?
DC: Thank you kindly for the compliment. What are we doing differently? I'd have to say that we are incredibly agile in responding to - and even anticipating - changes in the industry. We have a fantastic advisory board who keeps us moving in a positive direction, and we're always looking to improve our process. One thing that also makes us different is the focused time that we demand of our students. Some might criticize the "8-hour lecture/lab" combination, but it gives us time to really focus and drill down on points that would be made in the course of a week at a traditional school. We spend a lot more time with our students than traditional academia, and that makes a huge difference. We also put the students on a cadence that rivals the work they will do in the industry. I tell my students all the time that they need to be able to jump off the graduation stage into a job and be a productive and contributing member of the team within a week's time. There is absolutely no way you can fake that, and people who have hired our grads can see it. One of the interesting things that happens is that one grad will get hired and then the company comes back two weeks later and wants three to five more. Midway hired 12 at one time last year!
IJ: Are you involved in the application process for the program at all?
DC: The instructors are often asked for input on some of these areas. We're all on the same page with a … vision of what we want to prepare our students to be capable of when they leave. That permeates every facet of our degree programs and gives people a fair idea of what we're going to expect from them during their time at Full Sail.
IJ: What is the main advice you give to students completing your program?
DC: My best advice is for them to drop the pretense about working for id or Blizzard right out of the gate and to get a legitimate job where they can earn credits. Once they've put a game or two on the shelves, they can then start cherry-picking those fun opportunities. My students have always been fairly levelheaded, and I'm always getting emails about where they've gone and the successes they've had. For a teacher, there's no greater reward than to know that you contributed in a small way to someone's success.