Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Interview: Zeitgeist Games Founder & Full Sail Real World Education Course Director Dustin Clingman

Erin Hoffman | 15 Feb 2008 17:00
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IJ: Your "Wheel of Misfortune" is quite famous in game education. What are your favorite misfortunes, and what's been one particularly entertaining result of a misfortune on a development team?
DC: The Wheel of Misfortune was something I had in the plans for a while, but wasn't able to bring it to bear until our Bachelor’s program began. The idea is that the Wheel is a "chaos enabler" targeted at representing the chaos that I've experience on every project in my career. Ironically, there are actually some fortunes on the wheel which represent lucky breaks that some projects get along the line. As for favorites, my all-time favorite misfortune would have to be the proverbial "Team Swap." It's a pretty sick trick to play on a team. Just as they've managed to get something going, you take two people from different teams and they swap jobs for the milestone. It definitely breaks the cadence of development to all of a sudden have a "new hire.” My favorite "fortune" on the wheel is "Jack Thompson sues you for the content of your game, gain $25K in new investment capital.” The wheel makes for some interesting stories and I hope that it gives people a chance to build character.

IJ: “Team swap” is definitely the one I seem to hear bemoaned the most, but I do think the Wheel does provide them with a lot of stories. What do you tell your students about working rights and production methods in the games industry? Is it just a fact of life that they're going to have to deal with, or are they given any education on mitigating it?
DC: This is an interesting and important part of my classes at Full Sail. My perspective is that there are two important elements of this discussion. There's the game industry that we'd like to exist and then there is the industry we've got. We want the students to recognize that production methodologies need to evolve in the same way that our storytelling and gameplay methodologies do. The art of game development thankfully isn't static, and so our perspectives on the way we build games must grow and be as creative as our games. With this in mind, we try to approach the problem of production with an eye on the future but two feet in the present. My idea is to prepare them to build games the way that it should be done while recognizing that we've got to ship these products within the time constraints that we're given. I try to express that game development will never be a normal nine-to-five job, but that we shouldn't have to sacrifice who we are as individuals and the lives we lead in order to have a creative career. I hope that helps them on their career path.

IJ: It’s a very enlightened approach and heartening to hear. On a silly closing note, I have to ask: What's your secret for getting so many LinkedIn connections?
DC: I'm a perpetual networker. Whenever I meet someone, I always go back and put their information into my contact database. When LinkedIn showed up, it radically simplified my process by keeping people automatically updated. I'm also a member of some cool groups on that site, so it introduces me to a number of new folks. By no means do I have the most. I'm sure that Gordon Walton has won LinkedIn the same way he won Orkut some years ago.

Thanks, Dustin, for carving out a chunk of time in this particularly crazy season to shed some light on the development of the Full Sail program, and how developers who teach – a slow-growing but increasingly common element in game education programs – balance life, work and instruction.

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