Erin Swink Chosen as Creative Director for Master’s Program

By on Dec 16, 2015 in News |

The Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz has hired acclaimed independent game developer Erin Robinson Swink to be the creative director of the master’s degree program in games and playable media offered at UCSC’s Silicon Valley Center. Swink comes to UC Santa Cruz with 10 years of successful game development experience as an independent game designer and developer, with credits on more than 10 independently developed games, most recently Gravity Ghost. She has taught game design and prototyping at Columbia College in Chicago for the past five years. Swink is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, such as the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Gaming Insiders Summit. With a background in neuroscience, she has written and lectured on the connections between neuroscience and games. “We’re excited to have Erin bring her tremendous skills and knowledge in indie game development to our students,” said Michael John, program director of the M.S. in games and playable media program. “Her story as both a creative and highly successful indie developer will bring awesome perspective and opportunity to students in the games and playable media program. We are also excited by Erin’s commitment to games as a broad cultural practice, evidenced by her recent first place in NOAA’s National Climate Game Jam, and her successful #beatthedev charity fundraiser.” Creative vision As creative director, Swink will develop the overall creative vision for the program, consistent with the goal of pushing forward the expressive potential of games as a medium. She will also represent the M.S. program to the international game development community through talks and interviews, as well as by developing and exhibiting her own creative projects. Swink said she was excited to join the team at UCSC’s Center for Games and Playable Media as creative director of the professional degree program. “I can’t wait to help tomorrow’s game developers create innovative and inspiring work,” she said. “I hope that my experience as both an independent developer and an entrepreneur helps our students understand the challenges of our industry and face them head on.” The M.S. in games and playable media is a yearlong (12-month) degree focused on combining technical and design innovation. The program includes a project-oriented course sequence in which students work in teams to create innovative games. As creative director, Swink will be the instructor and mentor for the M.S. students during the course. UCSC art professor and noted game designer Robin Hunicke said she was thrilled to have Swink joining the program. “We are creating a unique interdisciplinary program here that spans the Arts and Engineering divisions, enriching undergraduate and graduate education in games,” Hunicke said. “Erin’s experience as a game designer, artist, coder and advocate make her the perfect fit for us. We welcome her passionate belief that games are art, and her conviction that we can make a lasting and measurable difference through that art.” Swink joins several other recent hires in the games and playable media program, including program director Michael John (formerly at Glasslab) and computational media professor Katherine Isbister (formerly at New York University). “With these and other planned hires, we aim to build the top research and education destination for game students and faculty,” Hunicke said. “We are excited to have Erin on board, helping us make that vision a...

GPM MS Alumni’s Game Nominated for Indiecade Award

By on Sep 16, 2015 in News |

Recent GPM graduate Akira Thompson is an award finalist at this year’s Indiecade Festival for his game &maybethewontkillyou.  The annual event showcases and recognizes independent developers for their innovations in interactive artistry.  Akira’s game, which was also featured at IndieCade’s Showcase @E3 2015, is a live action experience that examines the nature of police violence and what it means to be black in America.   Akira and his game were recently profiled by writer Leigh Alexander for

UC Santa Cruz to host Natives in Game Dev Gathering

By on May 8, 2015 in Events, News |

Natives in Game Dev Gathering Friday, May 22, 9:00am-5:00pm University of California Santa Cruz Extension 2505 Augustine Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054     RSVP on Eventbrite   With the recent overwhelming reception of Never Alone developed by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council with E-Line Media, it’s clear that Indigenous games are on the rise. The Natives in Game Dev Gathering recognizes the work that comes before and that which is coming ahead to honor the ongoing impact of Indigenous people of North America on game industry ranging from AAA to indie.   Schedule 10:00am to 10:25am – Welcoming, Brenda Romero and Elizabeth LaPensée 10:30am – 11:55am – Ishmael Angaluuk Hope (Never Alone) 12:00pm – 12:25pm – Allen Turner (Stubbs the Zombie, Ehdrigohr: The Roleplaying Game, Hail to the Chimp, Disney Guilty Party, Marvel XP) 12:30pm – 12:55pm – John Romero (Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Quake) 1:00pm – 1:25pm – Jason Edward Lewis (Initiative for Indigenous Futures, Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, Skins Video Game Workshops) 1:30pm – 2:30pm – Lunch 2:30pm – 2:55pm – Elizabeth LaPensée (Survivance, The Gift of Food, Animism, Singuistics: Anishinaabemowin) 3:00pm – 3:25pm – Darrick Baxter (Rez Bomb, Ojibway) 3:30pm – 3:55pm – Manuel Marcano (Max Payne 3, BioShock, The Darkness, Treachery in Beatdown City) 4:00pm – 4:25pm – Renee Nejo (Ever, Jane, Gravity Ghost, Blood Quantum) 4:30pm – 5:00pm – Closing Speakers Darrick Glen Baxter’s long and distinguished professional career in technology includes helping to build a stronger National Aboriginal Television Network, teaching Computer Science at the University of Winnipeg’s DCE new Buhler Centre, and working provincially to build a connected eHealth infostructure within Manitoba First Nations, including speaking engagements both nationally and internationally. Darrick has studied at the University of Winnipeg and the Banff New Media Institute. He engineered locative media applications with an experimental HP technology using GPS and location based hardware. He also served a secondment at The Score sports broadcasting network. Under the tutelage of their Mobile Media Director – he experienced first hand the essence of successful business strategies that lead to the development of a hugely successful iPhone sports app. Darrick has now returned to his passion of creating exciting applications as the President of Ogoki Learning Systems.   Ishmael Angaluuk Hope (also known as Khaagwáask’ and Shis.hán) is a storyteller, writer, and actor who shares his stories, culture, and writing at community events and classrooms in Alaska and around the nation. He was a lead writer for Kisima Ingitchuna: Never Alone, produced by E-Line Media and Cook Inlet Tribal Council. In the winter of 2014 he released his first book of poetry, Courtesans of Flounder Hill, published by the Ishmael Reed Publishing Company.   Elizabeth LaPensée (, Ph.D. is an Anishinaabe, Métis, and Irish designer, writer, and researcher whose focus is Indigenous game development. Her design, writing, and art are informed by cultural values and teachings. She also expresses herself through comics, experimental animation, and other interactive media. Her dissertation looks at the Indigenous social impact game Survivance (2011), which encourages ongoing healing through storytelling and art. She contributed writing and consultation for the transmedia property Animism (2011). She has consulted and written for games such as Andy Schatz’s Venture Arctic (2007). Most recently, she co-designed Tulalip Tribes: Connected to the Land: Gathering Native Foods (2014), a suite of games about Tulalip traditional foods for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. She also designed The Gift of Food (2014), a board game by the Northwest Indian College about Northwest Native traditional foods. The research network Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace has supported her contributions.   Jason Edward Lewis is a digital media poet, artist, and software designer. He founded Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media, where he directs research/creation projects on computation as a creative material, emergent media theory and history, and methodologies for conducting art-led technology research. He co-directs the Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace research network, the Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design, and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. Lewis’ creative work has been featured at Ars Electronica, Mobilefest, Urban Screens, ISEA, SIGGRAPH, DHC/Art-Centre Phi, and FILE, among other venues, and has been recognized with the inaugural Robert Coover Award for Best Work of Electronic Literature, a Prix Ars Electronica Honorable Mention, several imagineNATIVE Best New Media awards and five solo exhibitions. Lewis is a Trudeau Fellow and a former Carnegie Fellow. He is the University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary as well as Professor of Computation Arts at Concordia University, Montreal. Born and raised in California, he is Cherokee, Hawaiian and Samoan.   Manuel Marcano ( is a Taíno developer born in New York City. He has worked on Max Payne 3, BioShock, The Darkness, Treachery in Beatdown City, and more. Also known as “Hurakan” to his tribe, the former AAA dev now makes RPGs about diversification, racism, poverty and tribal history.   Renee Nejo is a freelance 3D artist and independent game designer in Denver, Colorado. She has been making independant games for about 4 years. She is a proud Diegueno and a literal card carrying tribal member of the Mesa Grand Band of Mission Indians. Renee is an unapologetic advocate for education and self determination of Native people. She has recently contributed to the art and design of Ever, Jane, a video game in the world of Jane Austen as well as a few illustrations for Gravity...

UC Santa Cruz ranked among top schools for game design

By on Mar 13, 2014 in News |

The game design programs at UC Santa Cruz were named among the top programs in the country by the Princeton Review, an education services company. The undergraduate and graduate programs at UCSC both made the company’s new “top 25” lists for 2014 of the best undergraduate and graduate schools for students to study game design.   “We have consistently done well in these Princeton Review rankings, and it’s good to see that they continue to recognize the quality of our game design programs. In fact, our graduate program’s ranking has been moving steadily upward in recent years,” said Jim Whitehead, professor and chair of computer science in the Baskin School of Engineering at UCSC.   UCSC ranked 7th on the Princeton Review’s list of the “Top 25 Graduate Schools to Study Game Design for 2014” and 21st on the list of the top 25 undergraduate schools. UC Santa Cruz is the only UC campus on either list and one of only three west coast schools on the graduate schools list.   Brenda Romero, program director for the professional M.S. in games and playable media, attributed the strength of UCSC’s graduate programs to “a combination of our focus on independent game development, the influence of our world-class advisory board, and the collective experience of our faculty in both industry and academia.”   UCSC offers a broad range of programs in computer game design. The Baskin School of Engineering established the first undergraduate major in computer game design in the UC system in 2006. The campus also has three graduate programs with an emphasis on games: the professional M.S. in games and playable media; the digital arts and new media M.F.A.; and the Ph.D. or M.S. in computer science with a games focus.   The Princeton Review selected the schools based on a survey it conducted in 2013-14 of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada, and some countries abroad offering video game design coursework or degrees. The survey covered a range of topics from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements, and factors considered in the assessments included the program curriculum, facilities, career services, and...

Program Director Brenda Romero’s work PreConception (pregame notgame) has been chosen by IndieCade curators as an Official Selection of IndieCade 2013

By on Sep 16, 2013 in News |

PreConception (pregame notgame) is a game without rules. It represents the neutral state game designer’s mind as he or she considers the possibility space of a new game. It makes visible the radically shifting possibility space within the context of all possible permutations of play. Infinite at first, each selection changes the opportunities and play afforded by the remaining conceptual space. A die introduces chance. Counters introduce economy. Each selection constrains the possibility space of an emerging game further until the game is revealed.   Preconception will be viewable on Saturday, October 5 at IndieCade in Culver City, CA. For more information, visit IndieCade’s...

CBS: UC Santa Cruz Offers Master’s Degree In Video Gaming

By on Jul 23, 2013 in News |

Joe Vazquez from CBS San Francisco reported on the launch of our new degree: SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) – The business of video games is so lucrative and in need of creative minds that the University of California at Santa Cruz is now offering a master’s degree in video gaming at its Silicon Valley extension in Santa Clara. UC Santa Cruz student Mark Gerow is set to begin the brand-new program this fall at the Santa Clara campus – to earn a master’s in Games and Playable Media. Gerow and a team of student programmers, engineers and designers have come with their own video game known as “Siege Breakers.” “It’s a very technically oriented program that requires a lot of hard work … it’s not quite underwater basket weaving,” said Gerow. “It requires a little bit of blood, sweat and tears.” “It’s a really cool art form itself,” said UC Santa Cruz senior Nicole Rusk. “It’s technology and art put together. So it’s this really great combination.” Read...