TFMA launches new video game design course

Lab space for TFMA’s new course, Video Games and Playable Media Design, at Klein College of Media and Communication on October 6. ISAAC SCHEIN / NEWS FROM THE TEMPLE

In response to the growing demand for video game courses at Temple, the School of Theatre, Film and Media Arts launched an all-new video game design course this fall.

The class, Video Games and Playable Media Design, is taught by Adjunct Assistant Professor Tom Sharpe and offers a unique approach to the video game design process. The course was created in response to a growing demand for more video game courses at Temple.

Sharpe’s involvement with the course began when he was approached over the summer to teach the course.

“I was approached by Chet Pancake, who’s in the film and media arts department, and they came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we really want to start this video game class, you know, do share your thoughts with me,’ and we started talking at the start of the summer, and then they gave the go-ahead and we just moved on,” Sharpe said.

The course is the premier video game production course offered at Temple and focuses on every step of the video game design process, from character design to narrative writing.

“The Video Game Design and Playable Media course is really unique because it gives an overview of all aspects of video game development, and so what I do is that every week we come in and tackle a discipline completely different,” Sharpe said.

The course focuses on the end-to-end design of an original video game, with each student creating unique character designs, sound effects, and levels.

The structure allows students to feel more invested in the class because while other courses focus more on the individual stages of the video game design process, this class focuses on a large project, said Adrian Gonzalez- Pruna, film and media arts student.

“We are rookies,” Gonzalez-Pruna said. “We’re very new to it, so like we’re all like sponges, we’re ready to learn what we’re learning right in front of us, so we come at it with that feeling of awe.”

The course currently has 10 students, allowing students to receive hands-on attention during class. The hands-on nature and step-by-step method is intended to appeal to students with little experience in the field and allowed students to explore the subject in a novice-friendly environment.

“And the cool thing about this course, and that might change in the future if it gets more popular, but it’s in an environment where it’s not crowded, we only have eight people in our class, eight to 10 people, so he can be really hands-on with you and really help you learn,” Gonzalez-Pruna said.

Sharpe provides students with instruction on the latest video game technologies like Unreal Engine 5, a highly anticipated video game development tool released in April.

Sharpe, who runs Gossamer Games, an independent video game company, is able to bring her professional experience to the classroom as the nature of the course is similar to her job at Gossamer Games.

“So one thing I’m looking forward to is that every week is completely different, and that’s something that kind of reflects a lot of my personal work as well as an independent video game developer, I always jump from discipline to discipline, so I love coming to class every week and taking on a new challenge,” said Sharpe.

Although most of his students, who largely major in film and media arts, may not go on to work in that field, Sharpe hopes more students can get involved in the course at the future and that its current students will leave with a better understanding and appreciation for the art of video game design and an ability to take a multidisciplinary creative approach to everything they do, he said.

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