Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Games And Intel Studies Are Exactly Alike... (Game Education Summit)

Really, they are.

It is one of my big take-aways this week from the Game Education Summit.  As an academic discipline, the parallels between games and intelligence studies are frightening.

Both are relatively new disciplines.  The University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division of the School of Cinematic Arts is the leading games design school in the country according to the Princeton Review (It is housed in the George Lucas Building here at USC.  For an example of what an academic building should look like, check out the pic to the right...).  It graduated its first students in 2004.  Mercyhurst graduated its first students in 1996.

In 1997 there were a handful of game programs, by 2004 there were 80 and today there are 507.  Intel studies has not seen this kind of explosive growth (more on that in a minute) but it has grown significantly over the last twenty years.

The first PHD in games was granted in 2003 and there are still relatively few PHDs in the discipline.  I don't think there is yet a PHD in intel studies and darn few with even concentrations in intel. 

Games researchers struggle to find venues to publish their work as it is often interdisciplinary.  Intelligence journals, while good and a little older than the games-specific journals, are few and far between.

There is a conflict within games studies programs about how applied they should be versus how theoretical they should be.  Intel studies is the same.

Games studies have a hard time finding a home.  Are they art programs, computer science programs or do we just stick them anywhere (USC's program is in the School of Cinematic Arts for example)?  Intel Studies -- ditto (Mercyhurst's program began in its history department).

In fact, the biggest difference I can see is the level of support from the industry.  There is a deep level of support for academia from the companies that create and distribute video games and the hardware that runs them.  I heard lots of comments here that indicate there is an explicit recognition of the connection between academe and the health of the industry. There is a good reason for this: Video games (online, PC, console, hardware and software) are estimated to be worth 40 billion in the US by 2012.  That kind of an industry needs lots of trained and educated people.

While 40 billion is good money, it pales in comparison to the US IC's budget (75 billion).  Combine that with law enforcement intel and intel in business and even when you account for the very different core businesses of the two "industries" you wind up wondering "Where is the love?" for academic programs in intel from the intel communities.

I have a couple of hypotheses.

First, we suck.  This only makes sense if you believe that the intel studies programs out there (including Mercyhurst's) produce really worthless students that no one wants.  They have no skills and are not competitive with non-intel studies students.

Very little evidence for this from where I sit.  The New Yorker ran an article recently that indicated that, in 2010, the top job was accounting where 46% had job offers by the time they graduated.  At Mercyhurst, in 2009, in the depths of the recession, 78% of our students had offers (2010's numbers are not yet available).

Second, the IC and the broader community of businesses that support the IC don't care about intel studies programs.  To buy into this you have to believe that the men and women who run these organizations don't care; that they are more than happy to take the excellent products that come out of Intel Studies programs but that they could care less about whether they succeed or not.

Again, scant evidence for this.  Most of the IC's decisionmakers I have met and all of the corporate types worry deeply about the pool of qualified candidates to fill the growing needs of the IC.  Businesses and state and local law enforcement seem to be in the same boat.  It is absolutely not in their interests to see these programs go under.

Third -- and this one is worth considering -- there is no tradition of support for academia from the IC, contractors that provide services to it, law enforcement agencies, or businesses outside the IC who have intel needs.

Intel is different than games design and those differences are significant (despite my attention grabbing headline -- did you like it?  Worked on it all night...).  It is natural for a games company to look to a college or university to support it with educated game designers, artists and programmers.  It only takes a second to see that, if such a program does not exist, it is in the industry's own interest to fund it.

The value proposition is not so obvious in intel studies.  Despite the success of programs such as Mercyhurst's and others, there is clearly a hesitancy.  I think it is because tradition puts too much emphasis on those aspects of intel that can't be taught in a school setting instead of valuing those elements that can be taught (and, frankly, better taught, in a four year degree program than in a few months of training).

What to do about it?  Well, that is up to the IC and the corporations that support it, the businesses and law enforcement agencies who will be looking for intel analysts in the future.  They need to step up, in my opinion.  The time is now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Am At The Game Education Summit This Week (Liveblogging)

The Game Education Summit is one of my favorite conferences.  It doesn't have much to do with intel.  In fact it has nothing to do with intel, which is its big advantage for me.  It is the kind of small (ish) conference that gets me out of my comfort zone and makes me think differently.

I went last year and it inspired me to try to use games in the classroom.  Games-based learning is a growing and fairly well documented field of pedagogy.  The Department of Education has even endorsed games-based learning as a powerful teaching tool when employed effectively.

There's the rub -- "employed effectively" -- which is why I am here.

This year I will be presenting my paper on using games to help teach strategic intelligence.  I will be posting more on that later but in case you are interested in what I picked up last year, check out the links below:

Live-Blogging The Game Education Summit (Part 1)
What's In A Name? (Part 2)
Open Creativity (Part 3)
Brenda Brathwaite Is Amazing! (Part 4)
Innovative Teaching Through Game Design (Part 5)