Carey Richardson Professor Shane Sullivan GDES 3300.01 8 December 2010 Research Paper Katie Salen
Eventually students move on from college and what they choose to make of themselves is up to
them. Some students may find a great career and prosper while another may struggle. What students choose to do with their degree is up to them. Some may graduate and their degree may be irrelevant to the career path that person chooses. No matter what, that student after graduating increases their odds of survival and success once they receive a degree. Sometimes it is no so much the piece of paper the student may receive at the end of the road but the student’s motivation. It is the drive and will to want to succeed and compete to reach that plateau. Katie Salen is one of those students who chose to be a success. Katie found a way to uniquely incorporate at fundamental design style in video games. Katie has a very astonishing and long career surrounding education, gaming, filled with public and personal projects. Salen is no longer a student but presently a teacher and lecturer. This designer has studied in various places in the United States and contributed to man projects. In order for some students to become a success later on it could be helpful to look at the footprints of those who have come and set the framework before them. If this is accomplished the newcomer can push the envelope and form new ways of thinking just as Katie Salen has. For future game designers it important to know facts about this Katie Salen such as her, education background, projects, design style, and the how Salen unifies her design skills with gaming. Education Background So who is Katie Salen and how did she become the iconic designer that she is today? Well, Salen is a game designer, animator, author and design educator. When learning about a leader in a particular field it is important to the educational background of that person. She began her career as a student at
the University of Texas. She finished her study here in 1990 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Shortly after her receiving her B.A. she then travelled to Rhode Island School of Design to study Fine Arts further. It is here where she placed her sights on Graphic Design. Salen then graduated with a Master of Fine Arts with honors in 1992. Career
Once Katie finished with her education she then began her career. Her first major employment
opportunity she received was in 2001 with Fox Searchlight as an animator in Austin, Texas. Salen seem do have a promising career because she has had various job titles and has moved around the U.S. quite a bit in a short amount of time. However before she jumped into the gaming community she worked a little bit an animator but in 2002 she moved to Ghostrobot Films. It is here where she worked as a writer and animator for two Music videos for Zero7. This video was later played on MTV, MTV1 and VH1. Next, in 2003, came one of her first big gaming projects called Big Urban Game (BUG). Her cover letter describes it as a, “multiplayer urban game to be played by the citizens of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota as part of the Twin Cities Design Celebration. This was a game for the two cities to play in real life. It had such activities that called on the participant’s knowledge of the city and the most efficient way to maneuver through it. Later on in Salen’s career she became a contributing writer to RES Magazine, which was a magazine that covered on the newest film technology, music, art, design and culture. Salen had a talent for working more than one project or job at once. From 2003 to 2005 she worked on various jobs. Salen held a consultant positions for various companies such as COGO, Microsoft the MSN Division, Spaceship Earth Game, MacArthur Foundation and the Rapunsel project. As you can see, her prominence in the game designing community grew and her opinions on up incoming ideas were valued. One of her most eye catching job positions she held was when she worked with Microsoft’s Xbox Live team as a researcher and developer. Here she worked on a storytelling system that was delivered through the Xbox Live system. The reason this job entry is intriguing is because Xbox Live is becoming a major driving force in the gaming community incorporating various outside applications such as, Netflix, Zune, Facebook, Twitter and just recently added ESPN network. So it was Salen and other designers who set forth the framework
for the gaming interface Xbox Live members see today. Also, from 2001 to 2006, Salen worked as core team member for Gamelab, a company that produces primarily single player and multiplayer games. Salen’s last notable employment was with the Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. She worked here from 2003 to 2006, since then she has been working as a guest lecturer and on personal projects. Recent and Current Projects
Katie Salen is a game designer who reaches out and contributes to a lot of diverse projects. There
have been vast different types of projects that she has worked and not all of the games needed a memory chip. For instance, the project that she contributed to in 2003, BUG. This was a game that involved people doing different activates in order to take part. In order to when, “teen movers raced 25’tall inflatable game pieces through the city streets along the winning routes” (Gamersmob). This was an interactive and physical game that involved numerous people in order to reach the proper destination in a timely matter. This game was sponsored by University of Minnesota. Another earlier project that Salen took part in was called Karaoke Ice. This particular project was directed toward a mass audience. The objective of this game asked players to navigate through virtual and real objects with the help of a nomadic squirrel. Gamersmob describes it as, “Karaoke Ice populates and parse live as a lived database, transcribed through song. One more gaming project that Salen helped developed is a program called game designer. This was a project that gave the power of the game design to the user and allowed for personal customization of the game itself. In detail, this game was, “set within the world of a giant capsule-‐dispensing vending machine, Game Designer gives players the chance to make, rate, and review games, completing game design challenges in order to attain entry in the mysterious Guild of Gamers” (Gamersmob). Here one can see the versatility of Salen and notice that she has no restrictions on the games she chooses to develop. Her most current project, as the Executive Director for the Gamelab Institute of Play, is one that helps promote “gaming literacy”. With this project she is trying to make a school that relies on educational games. The school that she is trying to put to together is primarily directed at public school systems. There is another project called the Diversionary Therapy, which helps support the design of game
prototypes for a new gaming platform designed for use by children in hospital burn units, that is also being worked on by Salen and her team. As you can see Katie Salen is always on to the next project and looking for some way to incorporate games in do everyday life. Design Style
Every designer has their own style whether they admit to it or not. Some may try to immolate
others, however traces can be drawn back to their own personal style. Gaming design comes of the same way. Treyarch studio style of design is far different from Bungie games. Yes they are both first-‐person-‐ shooters however the ways that their games are developed are totally different. A design style is just as unique as a person’s fingerprint. This holds the same with Katie Salen as well. Yes, Salen is versatile and contributes to diverse game styles yet she still has her way of getting her style across. In her case it is not the aesthetics of the game but more the message and lessons the game has to offer. In a way Salen is similar to Utilitarian’s who measure the outcome of decisions before they that make them. In an interview where she was speaking on her game called Game Designer she gives her personal insights on how she thanks videos games can be used. During this interview she states, “I want people to understand how games work” and “how kids value them, how kids use them and what the implications are for them in their every day life” (The MacArthur Foundation). She later goes on to state that we should evaluate the time away from school in which she called “informal learning spaces “ and that we should take advantage of those mediums. In this interview one can see that she values education a great deal. Not only does she want to create games that are fun but games that stimulates the mind. To Salen education can happen outside of the classroom through any means. In this matter it is through videos games. Salen’s particular design style has a purpose and reasoning to it.
Katie Salen was once a former student at some point and time that has now grown in to one of
the most prominent game designer today. This is a designer that found away to connect her knowledge in art and graphic design to gaming. Not only does she develop the ideas behind the game, she creates an
Richardson experience that has an objective in the end. In conclusion, Katie Salen is game designer that has a great deal to off to the infinite frontier of the gaming community.