Hack, Slash & Backstab: A Post-Mortem of University Game Development at Scale

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Andrew M Phelps
Christopher A. Egert
Mia Consalvo


This article describes the educational, operational, and practical implementation of an upper-division undergraduate studio-style course centered on the subject of game production. Specifically, the article addresses the course organization and processes, the institutional context for the course (i.e., its situated role in the larger curriculum), the overall structure of the course both from a pedagogical and operational point of view, and concludes with substantial reflection and analysis by the authors on what worked effectively and where improvements could be made. The article also provides substantial depth regarding the student experience, the structure of creating muti-disciplinary software development teams within the course, orienting the course around the successful production of a professional-grade XBOX One video game product, and various methods, structures and tools for course organization, communication, software development practice, documentation, etc. This in turn is framed in the larger context of the course as it was offered not only through an academic department, but in parallel with a campus-based games studio and research center. Numerous detailed elements are provided in such fashion as to provide other educators and mentors a relevant, structured, and detailed post-mortem of a large scale, multi-disciplinary effort that engaged students in complex multimedia software production in a professional context. In addition, several elements atypical from more traditional software project courses as they intersect game development including entertainment design, playtesting, marketing, press, public demonstration and performance, audience reception and analytics, commercial platform, etc., and discussed and analyzed.


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How to Cite
Phelps, A. M., Egert, C. A., & Consalvo, M. (2021). Hack, Slash & Backstab: A Post-Mortem of University Game Development at Scale. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 12(1), 16–33. https://doi.org/10.14434/ijdl.v12i1.31263
Author Biographies

Andrew M Phelps, University of Canterbury/American university

Andrew M. Phelps is a Professor at the University of Canterbury in the Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ). He is also a Professor in the Film, Media, and Arts division of the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C., where he also holds a joint appointment as a Professor of Computer Science and is the director of the AU Game Lab. His work is broadly multi-disciplinary between design, computing, and the arts.

Christopher A. Egert, Rochester Institute of Technology

Christopher A. Egert is an Associate Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the School of Interactive Games and Media. His research is broadly focused on game and media technologies, engines, systems, infrastructure, and the development process. As such, his work is broadly multidisciplinary as it integrates elements of art and design, music, media, computing, and hardware engineering in the practice of game development.

Mia Consalvo, Concordia University

Mia Consalvo is a Professor at Concordia University in the Department of Communication Studies. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design, and the director of the mLab, a space dedicated to developing innovative methods for studying games and game players. Her primary research focus is game studies, with particular interests in players and the culture of gameplay.