Game Design and the High School Curriculum

Game Design and the High School Curriculum

Game Design has come up a lot in these last few years in both my professional and personal lives. My youngest will attend college next year to study game design. My eldest will be a college senior looking forward to a career in the game industry. Both are interested in different areas of the process and are taking vastly different roads to get there. Each road requires a very broad and diverse skill set (see below).

Game design to me is the perfect example of the new careers that are coming online and a reason to revisit how and what we teach in school. In either career path you need expertise; be it specific programs, applications or coding languages – a technical education. At the same time you need a very well rounded knowledge base in the math, history, architecture, environments, anatomy, physics, mythology, language and story telling – a liberal arts education. You won’t be working in isolation; you need people and professional skills such as flexibility with strong collaborative, organizational, communication and teaming skills – a ???? education.

What do we call this type of education: experiential learning? We can list these soft or foundational skills, we recognize their necessity to be career ready but how do we fit them in into schools. How to do we help students develop these skills? I am not really sure how to classify and quantify this type of teaching and learning.

I had a conversation with a colleague of mine (who helps connect students to work and internship experience). She spoke about the importance of those experiences in helping students build these skills. But not everyone has the ability of having an internship during his or her high school years. The project based learning approach does help facilitate the development of theses skills in a school setting but it is not a widely adopted model in many schools.

She shared with me the idea of T-shaped people and careers, those that have expertise in a particular area (pillar) and board knowledge, collaborative and teaming skills (horizontal). In my mind it is not a T but more of an H.   One pillar is a broad range of content knowledge from a variety of disciplines. The other pillar is a particular expertise or technical knowledge. The connector is the professional, teaming and communication skill sets.

In technology fields in general and game design in particular people need all three strands of knowledge. Innovation comes from out of the box thinking, from making connections outside the main stream or a particular area of expertise. That ‘aha moment’ comes from making unexpected connections. If one is singularly focused innovation is not likely to occur.

Bringing Game Design courses to schools helps to facilitate growth in all three areas. Bringing in such a program is not just about developing technical skills, but broadens and connects to content areas and provides a rich opportunity for teaming and development of professional skills. There are some pretty well developed programs out there that are almost turnkey opportunities for brining game design to schools I have listed a few below.

Skill Sets
Game Artist
From Gamasutra 
From Creative Skillset
Game Designer
From Creative Skillset
Curriculum options
Game Spark
GG Interactive


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