back to school

Back to School

I have a carefully honed self-image as a doer, not a studier. For years, I’ve avoided formal school and embraced learning on the job. So what on earth am I doing in a Master’s degree program at Tampere University?

The truth is that there’s a certain amount of “why the hell not?” I actually made the decision to apply based on a Facebook ad and a cool recruitment video.

An official Game Studies recruiting video. Why NOT change the world with games?

It didn’t hurt that Finland makes going to graduate school easy. The application was simple, and the program is free for resident EU citizens. The workload also follows the usual Finnish principles of work-life balance. During the orientation week, I lost count of how many times we were reminded to leave room in our schedules for other jobs, family, and play.

School as a Mid-Life Crisis

Going back to school has also given me a chance to pause and ask myself, “Why am I in the software business?” There are easy answers to that. I like the people, the problems, and the money — sometimes in that order. But I also have some issues with the hows and whys of making games.

I’ve seen a lot of me-too projects that believe playing it safe will bring the big bucks. I’ve met “creators” whose only design inspirations are the games they’ve played this week. And I’ve been watching an industry that — overall — seems more interested in iterating shopworn power fantasies than finding new things to say about people and the world around us.

There are exceptions, of course. And I’ve always believed that being fun is all the justification a game needs to exist. But I’d like to see if games can do more. There’s evidence they can. And the courses I’m taking now should help me investigate the possibilities and figure out what I really want to make.

So What Am I Studying, Anyway?

Here’s the course load for my first quarter, minus a few random credits in orientation and other paperwork:

  • GAMS01 Multidisciplinary Game Studies. Gotta start somewhere! A broad survey of how people study games and what paths we student types might want to follow.
  • SOCM07 Introduction to Science and Research. Digging into the philosophy of science, with an eye towards getting more rigorous in my own research and writing arguments.
  • MTAA05b PlayLab! Game Journalism Project. Got to keep my writing and editing chops sharp…
  • KKSU1 Finnish Elementary Course 1. If I take enough of these, I may finally learn Finnish. That’s a big life goal irrespective of any other work.

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