Art of Game Design MFA

Bolton Lecturer Asks ‘What’s the Meaning of Play?’ on New US Tour »

Dr. Chris Bateman

Dr. Chris Bateman

This spring, one of University of Bolton’s teachers is getting ready for his lectures… in the United States of America. He’s embarking on his first US Tour, presenting at major universities in Indiana, Texas, California, and Utah on the topic of ‘The Meaning of Play’.

Dr Chris Bateman, a Researcher and Senior Lecturer at Bolton (and a Visiting Professor at Laguna College of Art and Design in California) is an award-winning game designer who has been invited to speak on five continents about games, play, and technology ethics. Speaking of his forthcoming tour, Chris remarked: ‘We all have different motives for play,’ he explains, ‘but we share the same biology behind them – and we share these with other animals too, some of which have been playing for far longer than we have.’

His presentation takes the audience on a billion year journey through the history and pre-history of play, and shows the remarkable achievements of humanity in developing tools for play, such as dice, boards, and more recently videogames. ‘I’m very grateful that the university has given me this opportunity to share my research with academic colleagues, students, and the general public in the United States,’ he adds, ‘and I’m greatly looking forward to sharing my exploration of what play means.’

His first stop is Bloomington, Indiana. Mike Sellers, a Professor of Practice at Indiana University, and also a successful game designer like Chris, said he was delighted to be hosting the first talk. ‘Like University of Bolton, Indiana University has been developing an outstanding programme for educating the creative talent of the future games industry. It’s an honour to have Chris talk to our students, and to show him some of the great work we’ve been doing here in Bloomington.’

Next up is College Station, Texas. André Thomas is a lecturer in Texas A&M’s Department of Visualization, and also runs a videogame developer where Chris provides consultancy services on cutting edge educational games. ‘Chris is one of the great lecturers on the history of games, and it’s a real thrill to have him coming to visit us. We’ve been working together for a few years now, but this is our first opportunity to bring him to Texas and show him that everything here really is bigger and better!’

Then it’s a flight over the Rocky Mountains to Laguna Beach, California. Chris is a Visiting Professor at LCAD here, and teaches on their ground-breaking Art of Game Design MFA which combines academic rigour with industry experts from companies such as Blizzard and Riot Games. Sandy Appleoff is the Chair of the MFA programme, and is delighted Chris is able to drop by their campus in the beautiful hill country of Southern California. ‘When were looking for someone to teach Game Narrative’, Sandy explains, ‘Chris was recommended by so many people in the games industry here in California that we were really pleased when he was able to accept a position as Visiting Professor at LCAD.’ She adds: ‘It’s been great having ties with the University of Bolton, which shares our commitment to excellence and outstanding achievement in the creative arts.’

Finally, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Associate Professor in Entertainment Arts Engineering at the University of Utah, Jose Zagal, has been following Chris’ work for many years. ‘Chris and I go way back,’ he explains, ‘and we’ve met several times in various places in the world as part of the Digital Games Research Association.’ Jose has served on the board of DiGRA for many years, and Chris has been a member for several years. Jose adds: ‘This is the first chance I’ve had to bring him to Utah and share him with my students – as well as showing him the world-class facilities of our own campus. Chris is one of the few people who successfully straddles the worlds of game academia and industry. We’re honoured to host him!’

After completing the tour, Chris is going to Tennessee to spend a few days outside of Nashville visiting his wife’s family. ‘My father-in-law has a giant log cabin that he built in the field where my wife and I got married,’ Chris explains. ‘It’s a great place to kick back and recover from what is looking to be the speaking tour of a lifetime!’

Chris has enjoyed a highly successful career in game development, working on more than 45 games including classic titles such as Discworld Noir and Ghost Master, as well as major global franchises such as Cartoon Network: FusionFall and Motorstorm: Apocalypse. He even self-funded an ‘artgame’ called Play with Fire that was featured in a travelling exhibition. Chris’ talents and work also go well beyond game development, stretching into groundbreaking academic research that combines game studies, neurobiology and philosophy. His work on the foundations to game aesthetics, published as the book Imaginary Games, is part of a long-term project combining philosophy and scientific research to help understand play and games. In 2013, he became the first person in the world to receive a doctorate in the aesthetics of games and play, via a PhD by Publication drawing from his existing work.

University of Bolton offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Game Design, Games Art and Game Programming, and Chris teaches on all the games degrees in various capacities, although Game Design is the BSc course that studies Game Design and Game Narrative under Chris tutorship. The University was one of the first in the UK to offer degrees in game development, and its graduates have gone on to work at major developers such as Rockstar North (based in Dundee), creator of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and TT Games (based in Knutsford), who are responsible for the LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman, and LEGO Jurassic World franchises. A team of game students from Bolton recently won two major prizes in the prestigious Dare to Be Digital competition.