Gaming and interactive media design program settles in with new director

By Tatyanna Carman

Director of the game and interactive design program William Lindsay arrived at Rider to offer students “exposure to the tools, understanding of the workflow [and] understanding of the context of gaming in society” in September 2019.

Lindsay also worked as a freelancer in game design, interactive media and electronic component for 15 to 20 years after receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in integrative electronics. He said it allows him “to get off the screen a little bit.”

“So the business I have been running for years, it’s trying to engage people or teach people who work in media arts, digital arts or game design to teach themselves to move forward, so basically I just design these kits, usually electronic kits sometimes software packages, that are very [do it yourself] where you basically construct your own tools to move forward with what you do,” he said.

Lindsay has worked freelance work for an escape room, Major League Baseball franchise Texas Rangers, Nike and smaller companies.

“And then in the Texas Rangers’ ballpark in Texas… I actually worked with a couple [of] designers on this, years back,” Lindsay said. “They have a 28 [foot], I think it is, tall giant letter ‘T’ and there’s these pads on the floor and it’s in a kids’ activity center and the kids can sequence. It’s a game where if they jump on the pad simultaneously, it lights up like a carnival game where the weight would go up in the air and would ring a bell. And if they do it perfectly, it lights up the ‘T’ and then does a little music sequence. So that’s the kind of freelance work that I do. It’s a mixture of game and electronic and digital.”

Prior to teaching at Rider, Lindsay worked and co-authored a game design program at Albright College in central Pennsylvania. He said that from that experience, he learned how lucrative the digital art component was in the game industry because of how transferable the skills are.

“An example of that would be if you’re learning 3D modeling and reading an animation for game design, right now that has become a hot topic in architecture and interior design, so suddenly you have three industries that your skills are suited to,” he said. “So for me right now since this is the very beginning of the program the interest is in exposing the students to the entire workflow process of game design and using all of those skills and then also seeing how those skills are transferable.”

Freshman game and interactive media design major Nichole Hall said that she has been playing video games since she was 3 years old and around middle school she realized she wanted to make games of her own.

“I predominantly want to write for the games I make, as in creating scripts, constructing characters and building settings,” said Hall. “The program here lets me branch off and focus on that, but also provides me with the building blocks of all the other aspects of creating games. Being able to focus more on the artistic side of development was a huge factor in why I chose the major here.”

Hall also explained that interactive media is also an art and adds another aspect of art to the campus.

“I think this program adds even more art to our already inventive campus. We have so many talented people in so many different branches of the arts like music, theater and photography and many more. Interactive media is easily art too, so this program brings an entirely new kind of art form to the community,” she said.

Lindsay said what he hopes graduates of the program gain from it.

“I am not particularly interested in teaching specific tools the way a two-year program might teach you ‘OK, you are going to learn Maya software for modeling and then Unity for the game engine’ because those tools are changing so fast. I think it is more important to teach students to teach themselves the next step. So I am more interested in having them walk away with that confidence and the ability to just see a new technology and make some decisions about it and then teach themselves to work with the new technology.”

Lindsay also shared that he believes the game and interactive media design major helps people understand how multidisciplinary the program is. He tells prospective students that he’s not merely recruiting, but he also explains the necessity for a creative and analytical mind in the gaming field, which is not for everyone.

“Your first semester here, you’re exposed to introduction to digital art and then at the same time you’re exposed to your first programming language and it’s not for everybody. I think there are certain kinds of people that work very well across discipline and that’s what works well with Rider,” said Lindsay. “I think that is the good fit here. So I hope that people from other programs and other disciplines grow to see that, how that exchange works. Components of game will work well with other fields to simulation design and sciences, arts and rendering and engineering, so there are other places that we can work [together].”

Lindsay also shared that the program may get a motion capture system in the next year, which caught the interest of the dance department, which shows an “opportunity to work together.”

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