Andy Wallace: Designing Games and Expanding Student Minds

Andy Wallace: Designing Games and Expanding Student Minds

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By Angelique D’Alessandro
Staff Writer

Professor Andy Wallace, a professional in the game design field, has been teaching students at LIU Post coding, game design, and computing for three years, since the undergraduate program was introduced. Wallace wears two hats; he is a mentor to students going into the field and also a game designer himself. With a background in computer science and design technology, Wallace designs small indie games for PC, Mac, IOS, and for old-school arcade cabinets. He prefers designing smaller games to designing for large game companies. One of his indie games was actually shown in the Smithsonian, he said.

Photo by Angelique D’Alessandro

Wallace explains coding as “a collection of ones and zeros” that creates something when processed in a machine. “These machines can be asked to do machine tasks,” Wallace said, reiterating the fact that his work is digital and completely based on computers. Wallace has created multiple games, such as “Extreme Exorcism” and “Particle Mace,” as experimental, indie projects which can now be bought and played by anyone interested.

Despite Wallace’s background in computer engineering, he makes his work extremely easy to understand. “Any piece of data can be treated as another piece of data,” he said. Wallace’s work shows just how versatile game design can be. His current project, “Bleep Space,” generates new cards for the game “Magic the Gathering” by computing and creating images and quotes completely virtually. This game will be shown and players can use these new cards at an event in New York City as soon as he finishes the design.

In the classroom, Wallace prides himself on “graduating students who can find a place in the industry.” He wants the students from his program to both use their skills to have fun and also to be useful in the business world. Wallace said he knows many students will not go into smaller game design like him, but instead want to work for larger game companies, and so he hopes to prepare his students for any path in gaming. Wallace said the difference between the two is that in his design, he works on all aspects of a project. At a larger company, the tasks are split up and the games a more collaborative effort. Wallace said the best part of teaching in the game design program is “playing games by students. People make really enjoyable work.”

In his classes, students design many games themselves, and Wallace says this can bring joy to the grading process. His students have created projects that are actually playable and fun to use.

Nicholas Frank, a freshman in Wallace’s game design course, says his teacher’s instruction has helped him grow as a game designer. A game designer and coder before entering college, Frank said that “[Wallace] understands people in his class and he’s very qualified. I took Java in high school, and what Wallace teaches in one class is what it took us months to learn in the past.” Wallace’s teaching stems directly from his work in the field. “He plays games and he makes games,” Frank said, “and he starts off with a very good curriculum.” Despite being a freshman, Frank says taking Wallace’s class has already incredibly improved his game design skills.

Wallace’s work in game design can be seen at andymakes.com.

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