On this episode of “Meet the Experts” we have the honor of interviewing Michael Zyda, the Founding Director of the USC GamePipe Laboratory, and a Professor of Engineering Practice in the USC Department of Computer Science.
At USC, he founded two degree programs: the BS in Computer Science (emphasizing Games), and the Masters in Computer Science (emphasizing Game Development). He also founded the year-long Advanced Games course.
In five short years, he took the video game design program at USC from no program to the #1 program in the world.
Questions & Time Stamps
1:28 – What is the difference between serious video games and entertainment video games?
2:55 – What are current challenges and future frontiers in the field of game design?
4:05 – What are the characteristics of students who are successful in your video game design program?
5:44 – Why is there a strong component of team work in successful applicants?
7:20 – How much value is there in a student who also takes humanities classes and art classes?
8:06 – How did you take USC’s video game program from no program to the #1 program in the world in just five years?
11:18 – In your career, is there a project or product that you are most proud of?
15:35 – Describe your academic journey starting from high school.
19:28 – Along the way in your career, were there times when you felt inadequate or wanted to quit?
21:05 – What advice do you have for current high school students who are interested in a career in game design?
21:56 – What computer languages do you suggest that high school students learn in preparation for a career in game design?
23:20 – Why is the “people skills” test the last test – after the coding test and linear algebra tests — when interviewing for a video game design job at Actavision?
23:55 – What video games would you say exemplify great game design?
26:58 – What closing advice do you have for the students and parents who are listening?
28:28 – Is there any trash talking that you want do towards a competitor or competing institution?
30:10 – Listener Question: I’m currently a junior in high school and I am having trouble finding my passion. At what point in your journey did you realize that video game design is something that you wanted to do?
32:44 – Listener Question: Currently, games with the most replay ability dominate the market, such as LOL, DOTA, CS Go. However, virtual reality (VR) games are often described as short experiences rather than a full game. What mechanics should VR developers explore in order to improve this area?
34:54 – Listener Question: For virtual reality, do you think the next step is improving the hardware or improving the games?
35:46 – Is there any plan for virtual reality to integrate actual sensory experiences from the rest of the body as opposed to just what we see with our eyes?
37:18 – Do you think virtual reality will ever get to the point where we plug a USB device into our brains?
39:27 – Some people say that violent video games increase violence in people. What is your response to that?
41:20 – Listener Question: My son plays too much video games. Should I discourage him or how should I change this into a more productive way to having fun?
43:24 – Listener Question: Is it ever too late to get into video game design? As a high school senior without amazing grades, I’m worried that I’ve missed my chance.
44:19 – What about someone who has studied computer science in college who now realizes that they want a career in game design? What should they do to start that career?
45:40 – Some people are addicted to video games. How much responsibility does the video game industry have to curtail the addiction problem or the suggest moderation?
47:10 – Is there any interest in creating video games that encourage people to do philanthropic work?
48:40 – In terms of developing educational video games to help poor people in third world countries, is there a preferred hardware platform that would be best for this?