Bags packed – Xbox and all – IGN editor-in-chief Casey Lynch took a break from leading his 70-person editorial staff in San Francisco to lead an SJMC classroom of 20 students in the Adler Journalism Building throughout the third week of October.
“I have always been interested in education,” Lynch said, “but I’m looking for a way to integrate from a real-world perspective, because video-game journalism isn’t something that historically is looked at as a specific discipline that is taught at the university level. The fact that this Video Games & Communication course popped up, I just immediately had to reach out.”
Lynch contacted Kyle Moody, SJMC Ph.D. candidate and instructor of SJMC’s new video-game course, and Moody's adviser, SJMC director David Perlmutter who originally suggested Moody teach the class, and proposed a partnership with IGN. IGN is the biggest video game and fan culture media website in the world, with about 60 million unique visitors a month to its site, Lynch said. Moody was ecstatic to accept Lynch’s offer for collaboration.
“Casey Lynch reached out to us after hearing the news about this class and said that IGN is offering the opportunity for professional involvement so that the students can undergo a sort of editorial criticism inherent within the journalism gaming sphere,” Moody said. “In other words, we’re taking the editors’ room and we’re putting the students inside there, letting their work be vetted by industry experts and professionals in a way that has never been done before in any class whatsoever. I saw this as a huge opportunity that I could not pass up for my students.”
Students – some of whom appeared with Moody to discuss the class on Iowa Public Radio – didn’t want to pass up the opportunity, either. The course filled up quickly. The University of Iowa has offered other courses focused on different aspects of the video-game industry, such as video-game design and analytics, but there had yet to have been a course focused on video-game journalism that incorporated feedback from professionals.
Ben Moore, a senior journalism major and student in the class, said he has learned a lot about the video-game industry through his internship at GameTrailers.com in Los Angeles in the fall of 2011. Moore said he understands how hard it is to get in touch with editors in gaming journalism – or any field of journalism.
“Access is the hardest thing to get,” Moore said. “You can write and write all day, but editors are very busy people that have very small periods of time where they can free up their schedule and talk to you, and that’s not them being jerks, that’s just the way it is. So for me it was very amazing and a very rare learning opportunity to have Casey come in and teach.”
Perlmutter said, “Having Casey come was a fantastic example of industry–academia partnership: The students saw that he was a serious professional who wanted to find the highest quality contributors and content. He talked about integrity, creativity, story-telling – what we think our major is all about.”
As follow-up, this June Perlmutter will speak at a panel titled "Digital Games in Communication Research: Perspectives on the Institutional Embedding of a Growing Field" at the International Communication Association Conference in London. His focus will be on ways journalism programs can help prepare students for careers either within the digital gaming industry or covering it. “Video games are the world's largest media business and they influence many other parts of media and society. It's important to study their effects as well as learn how we can help our students fulfill career aspirations related to them.”