Program Leadership


erin-swink-350Creative Director:  Erin Robinson-Swink

Erin Robinson-Swink is the Creative Director for the Games and Playable Media Masters at UC Santa Cruz.  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.






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.

Teaching Duties:  GAME 270 Series:  Games and Playable Media Studio.



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 2017-18


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.




Program Faculty


larry_andrews_bioLawrence Andrews: Associate Professor, Film and Digital Media

For most of his artistic career Lawrence Andrews work has functioned in a fine arts context, exhibiting in museums, galleries and festivals. His work has focused on issues of race, identity and power. His work has been realized in video, photography and installation, and audio projects. During recent years Mr. Andrews’ work has become increasingly involved with more traditional narrative and documentary methodologies while remaining committed to his core artistic concerns. His interests have expanded into reaching a broader audience with a wider demographic. His work has shown extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally on cable television, major film and art festivals, in museums and galleries, including the Whitney Biennial, The New York Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Pacific Film Archive, and The American Film Institute. He has received various grants awards and fellowships in support of his work including a Rockefeller Intercultural Documentary Fellowship, and two National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowships.


James Davis: Professor, Computer Science

James Davis is a Professor in Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 2002, and was previously a senior research scientist at Honda Research Institute. His existing research expertise is in computer graphics, machine vision, and sensing systems for building digital models of the real world, work that has resulted in over 80 peer-reviewed publications, patents, and invited talks, received best paper awards at ICRA 2003, ICCV 2009, and an NSF CAREER award. His research has been commercialized by companies including Sony and PrenticeHall. He was the Founding Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at UCSC, and sits on advisory councils for a handful of startups and nonprofits. He is now interested in research applying technology to address global social issues, and has developed an award winning course around this theme. 


Sri Kurniawan: Professor, Computer Engineering, Computational Media

Sri Kurniawan’s work focuses on interactive systems to help older persons, people with disabilities, children, people in developing countries and people with low socioeconomic status. The Web browsing interface that her research group developed is one of the most widely used application by blind people in the UK. She had worked with a research lab in Czech Republic to build a humming-operated mouse and keyboard for people with combined motor and speech impairment and with a research lab in Malaysia to help Malay-speaking stroke survivors. She has worked in Japan on collaborative digital arts between grandparents and grandchildren. Recently she was the PI on a successful National Science Foundation grant to acquire a Cave virtual reality system for UCSC.


Kimberly Lau: Professor, Literature

Kimberly Lau is a Professor of Literature with research interests that focus on questions of gender, race, and power in popular culture and folklore. She is currently working on a project about World of Warcraft and its potential for alternative modes of masculine sociality. She is the author of New Age Capitalism: Making Money East of Eden (2000), Body Language: Sisters in Shape, Black Women’s Fitness, and Feminist Identity Politics (forthcoming), and numerous articles. She teaches courses on topics ranging from virtual worlds to the vampire in folklore, literature, and popular culture.


Tracy Larrabee: Professor, Computer Engineeringtracylarrabee

After receiving her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University, Dr. Larrabee joined the UCSC faculty in 1990. Dr. Larrabee’s research in CMOS IC test and diagnosis has produced several award-winning papers and is widely cited. In 1995 Dr. Larrabee received the Presidential Young Investigator award from the National Science Foundation. Before academia, Professor Larrabee worked in several industrial research facilities, including extensive work on government contracts. She has also served as Associate Vice Provost for UCSC Silicon Valley Initiatives and in a number of other campus leadership positions.


Carlos Maltzahn: Adjunct Professor, Computer Science

Carlos Maltzahn is an Adjunct Professor at the Computer Science Department of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering, Director of the UCSC Systems Research Lab, Director of the UCSC/Los Alamos Institute for Scalable Scientific Data Management, co-PI of the Petascale Data Storage Institute, and a faculty member of the Storage Systems Research Center, all at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Carlos Maltzahn’s current research interests include scalable file system data and metadata management, storage QoS, data management games, network intermediaries, information retrieval, and cooperation dynamics. Carlos Maltzahn joined UC Santa Cruz in December 2004 after five years at Network Appliance. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1999, his M.S. in Computer Science in 1997, and his Univ. Diplom Informatik from the University of Passau, Germany in 1991.


Warren Sack: Professor, Film and Digital Media

Warren Sack is a software designer and media theorist whose work explores theories and designs for online public space and public discussion. Before joining the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Warren was an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Information. He earned a B.A. from Yale College and an S.M. and Ph.D. from the MIT Media Laboratory. Warren’s writings have been published or presented in the venues of anthropology, architecture, art, art criticism, art history, computer science, design, education, film, feminist studies, geography, linguistics, literature, media studies, philosophy, science studies, sociology, and political science. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, Rhizome.org, the Walker Art Center and the Jerome Foundation. His art work has been shown at the ZKM|Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the artport of the Whitney Museum of American Art; and, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


Marilyn Walker: Professor, Computer Science

Marilyn Walker is a Professor of Computer Science and head of the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her current research includes work on extending the language capabilities of interactive games, with a focus on training, assistive, and educational games. Statistical and expressive natural language generation, dialogue systems, artificial intelligence, computer games, and human computer interaction are also among her research interests. Before coming to Santa Cruz , Marilyn was a Professor of Computer Science at University of Sheffield. From 1996 to 2003, she was a Principal Member of Research Staff in the Speech and Information Processing Lab at AT&T Bell Labs and AT&T Research. While at AT&T, Marilyn worked on the AT&T Communicator project, where she developed a new architecture for spoken dialogue systems and statistical methods for dialogue management and generation. Marilyn has published more than 200 papers, and has 10 granted/pending U.S. patents. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Pennsylvania (1993).


Noah Wardrip-Fruin: Professor, Computational Media

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a Professor of Computational Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he co-directs the Expressive Intelligence Studio, one of the world’s largest technical research groups focused on games. He also directs the Playable Media group in UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media program. Noah’s research areas include new models of storytelling in games, how games express ideas through play, and how games can help broaden understanding of the power of computation. Noah has authored or co-edited five books on games and digital media for the MIT Press, including The New Media Reader (2003), a book influential in the development of interdisciplinary digital media curricula. His most recent book, Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies was published by MIT in 2009. Noah’s collaborative playable media projects, including Screen and Talking Cure, have been presented by IndieCade, Independent Games Festival, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, and a wide variety of festivals, museums, and conferences. Noah holds both a PhD (2006) and an MFA (2003) from Brown University.


Steve Whittaker: Professor, Psychology

Technology is transforming our everyday lives, how we think and interact. Steve Whittaker works at the intersection of Psychology and Computation. He uses insights from Cognitive and Social Science to design new digital tools to support effective multitasking, memory, collaboration and socialising. His past research was funded by the EU, NSF, EPSRC (UK) and Microsoft. He currently has a Google grant to research online collaboration and is Editor of Human Computer Interaction, 1 of 2 top HCI journals.