RMIT Faculty Li Ping Reflects on Her Recent Mobility to LCC in London

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Having spent a week at DMJX, our next stop was UAL in London. The UAL campus being located in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city – quite an interesting contrast from the DMJX location in Copenhagen. Whilst being here, I was able to attend classes and crit sessions for the Game Design program and Interaction Design Arts program at both BA and MA levels, which was a perfect mix that addresses both my teaching and research interests.

I attended Roy Caseley’s BA Games Design class on Day 1. Students brought in their work-in-progress on their game design projects and it was interesting to see how Roy interacted with students and offered solutions on the technical challenges the students were facing with their projects. One thing I find particularly interesting was how programming was being taught to games design students – a topic that students often find the most intimidating – something I am all too familiar with. Instead of overwhelming students with massive amount of abstract programming concepts, lessons were dissected into bite-sized tasks, where students were required to deconstruct a simple game (thus understanding the logic behind the code), before being guided to construct simple games. I thought this reversal of process (deconstructing the game, rather than constructing one at the beginning) is an excellent approach for students to attain meaningful understanding on why the codes were being written the way it was and make finer observations on details of mechanics built into existing games.

I learned that 3rd year BA Games Design students were required to develop a game this semester. In addition, students are required to submit a thesis. They have a 2 choices – to submit a 10,000 words thesis, or a 5,000 words thesis AND an additional game. Judging from the workload associated with designing a game, I initially assumed that most students would opt for the easier option (10,000 words thesis). I was wrong. From conversations with students in class, some students opted for the 5,000 words thesis – simply because they enjoyed designing games and preferred to spend more time on their practice over writing and research. That being said, I liked how students are expected to write a thesis at BA level – and the course provides the flexibility for students to choose if they favour doing more practice over research, or vice versa. And in doing so, it’s a great stepping stone for students to consider their next phase after completing the program – being a practitioner, or possibly taking up a postgraduate route.

We also attended an MA Interaction Design presentation at the William Morris gallery, where students proposed ideas and presented prototypes to curators of the gallery. The brief was to create an interactive experience for the gallery. We also gave some feedback and probed students with questions during the presentation. To position students in front of a panel of 6 people – it was quite a stressful and intimidating situation for the students – but it’s an authentic situation nonetheless. In speaking with different course leaders in UAL, students work on a range of real-world projects, involving galleries, museums, etc. I managed to get some helpful advise on best practices on how to incorporate real-world projects into studio courses. Something that I will definitely plan out after returning to Melbourne.

Industry speakers were a great addition to the classes as well. Mink Ette (Escape the Room game designer) shared her experience with MA Game Design students about best practices and approaches to build an escape room (the students are building one as part of their project this semester – how fun is that!). Wesley Goatley (artist and researcher, critical data aesthetics) gave an inspiring talk about his practice as an artist and researcher. A lot of invaluable advise shared with students that evening.

At DMJX, I recall Kaarsten’s mention of the idea on design pedagogy. On 1st year – students are “finishers”. On 2nd year, they are “producers”. On 3rd year, they are “inventors”. A week later at UAL, during an informal conversation with Tobias Revell – he mentioned a very similar structure. On Year 1 – How do you do it? Year 2 – What are you doing? Year 3 – What else are you going to do? I thought it was interesting to hear this from both lecturers situated in 2 very different institutions.

While the teaching models, approaches and environment of Interaction/Interactive design could be vastly different between institutions, it is grounded on similar teaching philosophies.

Perhaps, we are not so different after all?

Li Ping, Thong
Associate Lecturer, B.Design (Digital Media).
School of Media and Communication,
RMIT University