David King on teaching diverse games and why he never stops experimenting

Dr David King is the course leader for MA Games Design at the London College of Communication and has been teaching game design for three and a half years. He has numerous unfinished game prototypes and a PhD in swarm robotics. 

The MA Games Design course at London College of Communication isn’t necessarily what you would expect. Course leader David King, who has been running the course since it started three years ago, has a bit of freedom because as the course is an MA, he’s working with students who already have a lot of ideas regarding game design and a lot of them are also mature students, set on making games their second career.

We talk to him about what he thinks is important about his course.

Making a diverse range of games

“I try to make the course diverse in a lot of ways,” says King. “With the exception of our first term, which is geared towards upskilling everyone and getting students to understand how fluid the concept of games can be, all of our students are free to make games in any medium they like.”

In the first term of the year-long course, students are thrown at not just digital games but also board games, role playing games and even escape room games.

Many students, King says, come with a set idea of what games actually are, and his first task is to get rid of that idea by creating three quick projects: a digital game, a board game and an escape room game built within the university.

After that, they’re free to work in any medium for the rest of the course.

“They have the freedom to explore what they want,” says King. “Because we look at games as interactive and playful things. Can a game be a game if it has no interactivity? We try not to rule on that, and let students make their own judgements. Of course, if they want to just make a fighting game and submit it, why not?”

Tutors should never stop experimenting

King started creating games several years ago, as a way of learning the tools and programming languages he was using during study for his PhD on swarm robotics. He’s continued since, experimenting not just with the smaller digital games he created during his PhD, but also card games, role playing games and just about anything else that he can play around with. King gets a lot of enjoyment out of how design elements interact with each other, for him this experimentation is absolutely key to being a good teacher.

“As a teacher if I’m not constantly doing stuff I think I’d become stale and not have anything new to teach the students; if I’m not reading and experimenting, then what can I pass on to them?

“I don’t want to be ten years down the line teaching the same stuff that I am teaching now. With practice, I’m becoming a better designer, and hopefully by getting better I become a better teacher as well.”

Game jam

“For the last three years, we’ve been holding a Student Mentor Game Jam,” King continues. “We wanted to bring students together with those working in the industry, but also we have a BA course and an MA course, and we were concerned they might remain in silos, whereas we wanted to create a community of game designers.”

A community is key, according to King, as it encourages sharing ideas and students casting a critical eye over projects, but also creates the possibility that students could meet the older student who gives them a job.

If you work at a university and would like to be featured as part of our monthly Top Of The Class feature, get in touch with Jake Tucker at jtucker@nbmedia.com

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