Thursday, June 20, 2013

Marking makes the world go something something

No thesis work today, but this week has been a reasonable start.

A reminder of what I need to do and consider when I come back to it:
1. Revise and re-read, making changes as I go.
2. Look at remaining comments and link those to relevant statistical data
3. Incorporate those comments or their analysis into the section.  Do not let the comments drive the agenda; rather, draw the agenda from a number of comments and stats, then use more comments from each theme to concretize the point.  Each theme is established at the start, but by the end each theme should be validated and a cause of each theme (for example, a negative attitude toward GDE) should be established by tying the threads of each theme together.  I need to draw a diagram that illustrates this.   

NOTE: Also add a timeline of the Australian industry to the intro.

4. Aim for about 3-4000 words per theme section (8 themes, somewhere between 24 and 32 thousand words).  Structure is thus:
  • Research question 
    • Theme 1
      • Establish causal links based on comments and stats
    • Theme 2
      • Establish causal links based on comments and stats
    • Conclusion for this research question 
      • Draw the threads (and links) of each theme together to address why this negative perception (e.g.)  exists. 
      • Summarise comments post-analysis, i.e. "This has been said, this data supports the notion and suggests why it has been said, ergo the outcome is bingo bango.
      • Probably need to frame the conclusions as aimed at the education stakeholders, i.e. "Industry says this, it is substantiated, therefore education lacks this or must do that"
      • I write good.
I should have a draft of the first theme done by early next week.

By gawd, I may actually finish this bastard.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why my results mean nothing

Firstly, I have only interviewed two people (well really it's five but am yet to determine if I should include their stuff).  They are however senior people, so they should offer a higher level perspective than a lower level developer might, but it's difficult to assert much of anything based on what two people think of a situation.

Second, I did not ask the right questions, or the questions to match my initial thoughts.  However, my initial thoughts have guided me to this point.  Then again, it should be from the results that the discussion arises; answers to the questions I did ask form the backbone of this discussion.  For instance, negative perception; I asked what they thought of GDE and almost to a man (or woman) the comments were disparaging.  Incidentally, I may have to justify why I aligned a certain comment with a particular theme.  Expanding on the questions that were asked and the context in which the quote arose may do, or it may cause me to reshuffle which theme these quotes fit into.

Third, have I uncovered anything original?  I have specifically addressed the Australian industry which is unique in that it has been borne off the back of fee for service but now finds itself drifting toward a more indie setup.  Does this constitute an original contribution?  I have determined that the games industry thinks poorly of GDE.  The question is why?  The answer to this question is potentially an original contribution.  Can I answer it?  Perceived lack of understanding from the educational end.  Also, basic disinterest about GDE.  It's simply not a priority for developers right now.  Asserting the value of a team ethic is not original, it's been asserted in literature.  Education is devalued and has no further role to play in the minds of developers.  Education needs to be able to offer more; the concepts handed to student groups idea is one possible way.  Explore alternative means of interaction, contrast to current interaction.

Another possible contribution is the educational background of developers and the dearth of GDE qualifications among them.  This ties in to the qualitative aspects of the study, where GDE is rather frowned upon.  This perhaps allows me to illustrate A) that devs aren't really hiring GDE grads and B) as evidenced by the statistical lack of GDE grads from the survey data.  List the reasons why according to the interviewees, then supplement with quantitative data as intended in the Methodology chapter.  It's brilliant! (no it isn't (quiet you!)).

Fourth, will I answer my questions?  The educational background one seems like a dead cert.  The perception one also seems like a dead cert, though perhaps the questions can be broader.  Perhaps a question about the role of GDE in the future based on the responses?

The issue is the themes I have and how to shoehorn them under the questions.  Perhaps the question of educational background can encompass the Developer education, Skills, Graduate opportunities and Extra-curricular work themes?  Aha!  The perception one, a broader topic, can encompass the negative perception and interaction themes, while the industry and future themes can fit into a third question, perhaps.  I'll go with that for now.  Maybe graduate opportunities can be a floater... hmm.

More later.  Now, writing.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Discussion chapter begins

I'll be at some point discussing the value of soft/interpersonal skills in a game development context.  Question is, do I draw a parallel with straight IT which also has a strong team focus (and if I do does this mean that the large volume of feedback from respondents that emphasises the value of team focus is just par for the course in any IT related field), or do I explore the notion that this parallel is spurious?  The interdisciplinary nature of game development marks the kind of team focus required of its exponents as specialised; IT requires a team focus as products require teams to design, produce and manage them, but straight IT typically offers a reasonably homogeneous skill set among the team members.  Game development features interaction between markedly different skill sets, such as programming and art, or audio and game design.  Summarily, the technical and creative are mashed together in a Venn diagram-ish kind of way.

Does this set game development teamwork apart from what might be termed 'generic' team work?  I believe it does.  It is important to improve one's capacity to work and interact effectively with others in pursuit of a common goal, regardless of skill set or discipline.  This should hold true for any career aspirant.  Where game development differs (and as such must be catered to in order to maximise the value of a GDE graduate for instance), is the nature of that interaction.  Grouping students together randomly in a GDE setting is not satisfactory; grouping students of differing skill sets together in equal distribution is required.

In short, if a group of 30 students is to be divided into 10 groups, those groups will ideally be composed of one artist, one programmer and one designer, though the presence of the third is debatable given the tendency toward smaller studios and therefore a more democratic design approach.  The conundrum of the specialist designer is a side issue for now, but does affect the makeup of a typical GDE-focused student team.

The importance of this equality of distribution is established through the responses from respondents, especially those interviewed.  Numerous references to the difficulties in getting the technically minded and the creatively minded to mesh highlight the need for team-savvy graduates, familiar with the pitfalls of interdiscplinary interaction and the tendency toward frustrating impasses.

The above highlights a need to properly define the terms used when referring to disciplines and how they interact.

Jessup (2007) defines multidisciplinary in a team context as the utilisation of skills and experience of individuals from different disciplines, with each discipline approaching the problem (project) from their own and their disciplinary perspective.  In this sense, game development is multidisciplinary as the three key legs of the development tripod (design, programming and art) are each distinct and arguably do not overlap.  Designers are concerned with the mechanical and rule defining aspects of the development process, mapping out the internal logic of the game irrespective of its final format.  Programmers are concerned with the transposition of those designed elements into code, managing the technical constraints and maximising efficiency.  They are concerned with the practicalities of making the game playable on the target platform (excluding physical games or board games for moment).  Artists are concerned with the aesthetic representation of gameworld components; characters, environments, styles, themes.  Their discipline identifies most closely with the generic notion of creativity.  Audio is obviously a major component for any major title and the role of the audio designer could be categorised as falling somewhere between each of the three major disciplines.

Game development is however also interdisciplinary.  Jessup (2007) defines an interdisciplinary approach as as the integration of ostensibly separate disciplines or disciplinary approaches into a single unified approach.

Though the above GD disciplines are distinct, it is only in concert that typical game development process can take place. A job description that has become increasingly common in game development studios is that of the technical artist.  The role of the technical artists is to act as a link between the wholly technical programmer and the (almost) wholly creative artist.  This role embodies the interdisciplinary nature of game development, but even without this role, artists are expected to have an appreciation of the limitations, resource management issues and structural challenges faced by programmers.  Likewise, programmers are expected to have a handle on the restrictions faced by artists and a feel for the value of art in a qualitative rather than quantitative sense.  Designers lie somewhere in the middle, but, as pointed out by a respondent, a successful designer should have sufficient technical skill and be able to produce their own prototypes, else their designs will suffer from a lack of appreciation for the technical constraints imposed by whatever code base or platform they are working on.

Exponents of each discipline must be able to converse and confer with each other in order for the development process to move forward consistently.  They must successfully integrate their respective disciplines and unite in the pursuit of the finished article.

To return to the original conceit, that being the importance of defining game development team focus as different to a more generic team focus in straight IT, the key role of GDE should be to expose students to this type of team structure.  The differing skill sets and personality types that tend to accompany them do not necessarily meld easily.

I'm noticing the need to better establish my definitions for these roles (art, design, programming).  A bit more reading is required.  The lit review will likely absorb the bulk of this stuff; it's important to define what design, art and programming in the game context actually is and I need to justify the marking of these three roles as The Big Three.

That should do for now.  As I progress, I'll write more specifically about that which I am looking at currently, rather than writing tangentially.

A brief recap: the first major theme is the negative perception of GDE, which the above does not really cover.  BUT, the notion that educational institutions are where this GD specific team focus should be instilled is perhaps not spoken of by respondents.  Their focus tends to be skill based, what unis and colleges can offer them in terms of technically skilled graduates (particularly the comment about it being better to use free or inexpensive online resources rather then get a GDE degree), but a strength of education should be the capacity to expose students to the 'studio' way of thinking, working and interacting.  I'll carry that theme on in the skills section most like.  Possibly best to leave pointing this sort of thing out until the summary sections though.

Next, I address more specifically the negative perception of GDE, pulling out comments in aid of exploring the theme.