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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  


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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  


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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  


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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.      

 

Conclusion    

 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.    

 

 

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Research Essay - Katie Salen