Program Leadership


Program Director: Michael John

Michael John (MJ) is the Program Director at the Games and Playable Media professional masters program at UC Santa Cruz. Prior to UC Santa Cruz, he was Game Director at GlassLab, a groundbreaking collaboration between forces in game development and learning, where he managed both game and technology development. MJ is a 20+ year veteran of the commercial games industry, having worked with companies such as Universal Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, 2K Games, Electronic Arts, and others. His commercial oeuvre includes the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy, the PSP Classic Daxter and work on the God of War series. He has been an adjunct professor in game design for USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and is a frequent speaker on the creative process, product development, and innovation, as well as advancing the field of games & learning.



Faculty Chair:  Michael Mateas1

Michael Mateas is Director of the Center for Games and Playable Media. He is Professor and Chair of Computational Media at University of California, Santa Cruz, where he helped launch the Computer Game Design degree, the first of its kind in the UC system. His work explores artificial intelligence-based art and entertainment, forging a new research discipline called Expressive AI. Michael, who holds the MacArthur Endowed Chair, runs the Expressive Intelligence Studio with Noah Wardrip-Fruin. EIS, as it is known, is one of the largest technical game research groups in the world. Current group projects include automated support for game generation, automatic generation of autonomous character conversations, story management, and authoring tools for interactive storytelling. Prior to Santa Cruz, Michael was a faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology. With Andrew Stern, he created Façade, an award-winning interactive drama that uses AI techniques to combine rich autonomous characters with interactive plot control, creating the world’s first, fully-produced, real-time, interactive story. Façade is available for free download at http://www.interactivestory.net/. Michael received his BS in Engineering Physics from the University of the Pacific (1989), his MS in Computer Science from Portland State University (1993), and his Ph.D. in Computer Science (2002) from Carnegie Mellon University.


Teaching 2018-19


Walt Destler:  Game Engineering

Walt Destler an independent game programmer and designer currently working on the game Cosmoteer. Previously, Walt was Lead Game Engineer at Rumble Games, Game Engineer at Schell Games, and a software developer at Walt Disney Imagineering. He also was the lead programmer and co-designer of the award-winning independent game WAY. Walt has a Master of Entertainment Technology degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.S. in Computer Science and B.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of Maryland.



Jim Whitehead:  Procedural Content Generation

Jim Whitehead is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he helped create the Computer Game Design program. He is also the founder and board chair of the Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games, which hosts the yearly Foundations of Digital Games conference. Jim’s research interests in the area of games include level design and procedural content generation. In the field of software engineering, Jim performs research on software bug prediction, software repository mining, and software evolution. He runs both the Augmented Design Lab and the Software Introspection Laboratory at UC Santa Cruz. As founder of the Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) Working Group, a broad coalition of industry and academia, Jim helped develop the WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol, extensions to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that support remote collaborative authoring. Jim received his PhD in 2000 from the University of California, Irvine, and his BS in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1989.


Kimberly Unger:  Game Art Intensiveekim_2015_cHR

Kimberly attended both the University of California at Davis (ENG ‘92), and the Art Center College of Design (Ill ’98/Honors). She has written two textbooks on mobile game design, “Game Development Essentials: Mobile Game Development” and “The Official Game Salad Guide to Game Development” both designed to serve as an entry point for new developers. She is currently the CEO/Founder of Bushi-go, Inc. and serves as an advisor with the Harvard Business School start-up partners program. She also lectures at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering as part of their Games and Playable Media Master’s degree program and in her remaining time writes science-fiction.



Patrick Trinh:  Audio Direction

Patrick Trinh is a sound designer and implementer working at Sanzaru. He has previously been employed by Sony Interactive Entertainment and has worked on numerous independent game development and music projects under the artist name Space Town, having presented his thesis project AURA at the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC and performed as far away as Melbourne, Australia. Patrick has an M.S. in Games and Playable Media from UC Santa Cruz and a B.S. in Cognitive Science with specialization in Human Computer Interaction from UC San Diego.




Eddie Melcer:  Serious Games

Eddie Melcer is an independent game developer and Assistant Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His primary teaching and research interests are at the intersection of games, human-computer interaction, and learning science where he explores the usage of novel interfaces and physical gameplay mechanics to enhance learning outcomes in educational games. He also does research in the area of game studies, conducting large-scale meta-analyses to better understand overall trends within game research and industry. Eddie’s serious games have won awards in venues such as the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge and Games for Learning Design Competition, and his independent games have been featured in a number of venues such as IndieCade, IndieCade East, and Come Out & Play. Eddie received his BS in Computer Science from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (2013), MS in Computer Science from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering (2016), and PhD in Computer Science from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering (2018).