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These top game design professors are active leaders in game design who have produced major blockbuster games and authored articles or books on foundational industry information such as game development and game culture.
A number of these professors study experimental learning and investigation into social and global issues through games, while others specialize in areas including queer game studies, storytelling, and inclusive innovation in design. Several are leaders at their respective schools, while some participate in private business or in activities advancing the research and application of gamification and game design across industries.
Jessica Hammer is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute and Entertainment Technology Center. She teaches courses related to Game Design and Learning Media for IDeATe.
Hammer has been named a World Economic Forum Young Scientist, received an Okawa Award, and participated in Project Horseshoe. Her work has been supported by the NSF, the Heinz Foundation, Google, Amazon, Bosch, and Philips Health, among others. She has also won Carnegie Mellon’s Teaching Innovation Award in 2018. Hammer is an award-winning game designer, including winning the national Shape of Health competition with my game Frolic.
Beyond her current work in academia, Hammer co-directs the OH!Lab, which develops work spanning learning, play, design, and culture. Hammer’s own research focuses on three core areas: transformational games, educational technology for project-based learning, and inclusive innovation in design.
An associate professor in the Interactive Media Division of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, Richard Lemarchand is a game designer, a writer, a public speaker, and a consultant.
Between 2004 and 2012, Lemarchand was a lead game designer at Naughty Dog in Santa Monica, California. He led the design of all three games in the Uncharted series, including Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. He’s the winner of ten AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards, five Game Developers Choice Awards, four BAFTAs, and over 200 Game of the Year awards.
Lemarchand also worked on Jak 3 and Jak X: Combat Racing for Naughty Dog, and helped to create the successful game series Gex, Pandemonium, and Soul Reaver at Crystal Dynamics in the San Francisco Bay Area. He got his game industry start at MicroProse in the UK, where he co-founded the company’s console game division. Lemarchand has made storytelling action games the focus of his career, and he is interested in the way that narrative, aesthetics, and gameplay work together to hold a player’s attention and facilitate the expression of their agency.
A passionate advocate of indie and experimental games, Lemarchand has been involved with the IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games for several years and was the co-chair of the IndieCade Conference in 2010, 2012, and 2015. He regularly speaks in public on the subjects of game design, development, production, philosophy and culture, and organizes the annual GDC Microtalks, a session that celebrates games and play with short talks by diverse speakers. He is also a former faculty member of the GDC Experimental Gameplay Sessions.
Colleen Macklin is an associate professor teaching in the Design and Technology and Transdisciplinary Design programs at the Parsons School for Design. She’s also the director of PETLab (Prototyping Evaluation, Teaching and Learning lab), a joint project of Games for Change and Parsons, supported by funding from the MacArthur Foundation. PETLab is focused on developing new games, simulations, and play experiences which encourage experimental learning and investigation into social and global issues. Projects range from a curriculum in game design for the Boys and Girls Club to big games such as Re:Activism and the sport Budgetball.
In addition to work in social games and interactive media, her research focuses on the social aspects of design and prototyping process. In this vein, she is working with the Social Science Research Council on a prototyping approach to creating innovative learning spaces with youth, public schools, and cultural institutions, with funding through the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative.
Macklin is a member of the game design collective Local No. 12 and the Leisure Society. Her interactive work has been shown at Come Out and Play, SoundLab, The Whitney Museum for American Art, and Creative Time.
Jesse Schell is a distinguished professor in the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. In his role, he advises students in their research projects and teaches classes in game design and building virtual roles. He is also the CEO of Schell Games, the largest gaming studio in Pennsylvania.
Formerly, Schell was the Chairman of the International Game Developers Association and is the author of the award-winning book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. In 2004, MIT’s Technology Review magazine named him one of the world’s “Top 100 Young Innovators.”
Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon, Schell was the Creative Director of the Walt Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, where he worked and played for seven years as a designer, programmer, and manager on several projects for Disney theme parks and DisneyQuest, as well as Toontown Online—the first massively multiplayer game for kids.
Adrienne Shaw is an associate professor in Temple University's Department of Media Studies and Production and a member of the Lew Klein College of Media and Communication graduate faculty. She is an affiliate faculty in Temple’s gender sexuality and women studies program. She is also the director of Temple's new graduate certificate in cultural analytics.
Prior to joining Temple, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University, a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, and a postdoctoral scholar at the Mudra Institute for Communication Ahmedabad in India.
Shaw is the author of Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (winner of the 2016 International Communication Association's Popular Communications Division's Book Award). She has co-edited three anthologies: Queer Game Studies (2017, University of Minnesota Press), Queer Technologies: Affordances, Affect, Ambivalence (2017, Routledge), and Interventions: Communication Research and Practice (2018, Peter Lang).
Shaw is also the founder of the LGBTQ Game Archive and co-curator of Rainbow Arcade, the world's first exhibit of LGBTQ game history (Dec 2018-May 2019 in Berlin, Germany).
From 2011 to 2015, she was also part of the multi-million dollar and award-winning CYCLES project, which developed games to train users to identify and mitigate cognitive biases. A full list of her publications is available via Google Scholar.
Presently, Shaw is leading the committee to bring the Association of Internet Researcher’s Annual Conference to Philadelphia in 2021. Shaw is also a co-editor of New York University Press's Critical Cultural Communication book series and an associate editor for the Journal of Communication. She also serves on editorial/review boards for the International Journal of Cultural Studies; Media, Culture, & Society; Critical Studies in Media Communication; Game Studies; and Not Your Mama’s Gamer.
Winnie Song is an assistant arts professor of game design at NYU’s Game Center. She holds an MFA in game design from the Game Center and a BFA in graphic design and expanded animation from OCAD University.
Song created “BADBLOOD,” a competitive stealth video game with a rich visual style, which was featured on Rock Paper Shotgun. She has been invited to showcase “BADBLOOD” at Indiecade, EVO, XOXO, Fantastic Arcade, and Day of the Devs. She has won several awards, including the Audience Choice Award at Indiecade 2015. She also has given a talk about the place of violence in games at AMAZE festival in 2016, and she was the visual designer of “ENYO”, a tactical roguelike mobile game.
Prior to her current appointment, she taught visual design at NYU Tisch and IDM and was a game designer at Square Enix Montréal. She now also creates games independently.
Eric Zimmerman is an arts professor at New York University’s Game Center, where he teaches a variety of classes, including Game Design: Professional Practice, Survival Skills, Introduction to Game Design, and Games 101.
Beyond his work in education, Zimmerman is an award-winning game designer who has been inventing play on and off the computer for more than 25 years. Zimmerman was the co-founder and chief design officer of Gamelab, a game development company based in New York City. Gamelab’s titles included the casual game blockbuster Diner Dash and Gamestar Mechanic, a site that lets kids create games, which was funded by the first major game-related grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Gamelab worked with partners including LEGO, HBO, VH-1, Nickelodeon, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Disney, Mattel, PlayFirst, PBS, Fisher-Price, Leapfrog, and many others.
Zimmerman is a founder of the Institute of Play, a nonprofit that looks at the intersection of games and learning that has opened a public school in New York City-based on play as the model for learning. Zimmerman has written and lectured extensively about game design and game culture. He is the co-author with Katie Salen of Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (MIT Press, 2004) and co-editor of The Game Design Reader (MIT Press, 2006).
With Nathalie Pozzi, principal of Nakworks, Zimmerman created large-scale game installations for the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as venues in Berlin, Paris, Dublin, St, Petersberg, and Los Angeles. Recent projects include tabletop games The Metagame (with Local No. 12), Quantum, and Dear Reader.