MTE: Game Design with Professor Zyda
Published on by

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?

Interested in Game Design?