Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time for a New Chapter

Professionally speaking, I've done a few things in my life. I think it would be easy to say I've had at least 3 careers.

The Ad Days

The first, graphic design and advertising, I have a nice little piece of paper from the University of North Texas that says I'm qualified to work in that field. That very expensive piece of paper opened the doors for a lot of unique experiences for me. I've worked with some really amazing people, as well as some real monsters which I'm sure have a reserved seat in the seven circles somewhere.

Through the course of that first career, I sat in the luxurious crown royal suites at Texas Stadium during a Cowboys game, and I've been on the sidelines photographing the likes of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Daryl Johnston. For the record, I very much prefer standing on the sidelines over sitting in plush leather seats.

I participated in a photo shoot starring one "Snake" Sabo from the band Skid Row wearing one six-foot long python around his neck...until the python decided he liked Snake a little too much. I've worked with Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeff Carlisi, and I've even told Eddie Van Halen what to wear (no kidding).

All in all, it wasn't a bad run but it never really felt like what I was truly supposed to be doing.

The Age of the Interweb

I bumped completely blindly, by accident, into my second career. While interviewing for a traditional advertising position I dragged along my traditional portfolio full of traditional advertising samples, and one Syquest drive which held a few websites I had built as a hobby. I'm not sure if my advertising skills were just that unremarkable, or if they just really needed someone to create all their interactive work but just like that, I found myself in a new career...in a very new profession.

The dot com days really were a blast. There was so much innovation going on. It was a problem solvers paradise. We did things that we'd never done before, and possibly things that no one had ever done before. On more than one occasion we would start projects based on theories, a series of quick tests, and a lot of gut instinct. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm pretty sure we can make that work."

During that time I was introduced to collectible card games, and had the opportunity to work with, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Dragon Ball Z", Michael Jordan's Restaurant, not to mention rediscovering the joy of collecting baseball cards again.

For a number of years I worked with my childhood idol David Copperfield, and even had a pretty big hand in creating an illusion (because David doesn't do "tricks") that he performed in his show for several years. Danielle and I were even given a personal tour of David's secret magic museum by David and his then girlfriend, Claudia Schiffer. It was all pretty surreal.

Eventually the bubble did burst and I found myself out of a job, for almost a year.

It was a very...long...year.

+1 Extra Life!

Just when we felt like we were at the end of the line I found my way to my third career, games. When I was a kid (past age 8), if you asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would have said, "I want to make computer games!" And now, somehow, that's exactly where I found myself. I made games. Lot's of games. I made games for LEGO, Universal Pictures movies, MARS candy, Chevy, National Geographic and too many other companies to count. From a personal geek thrill standpoint, I even managed to help create several games for Lord of the Rings and Star Wars Episode III.

Oh, and to the high school counselor that said I had to be "really good in math" to make computer games, I'd have to say simply, "Naa, na, na, na, naaaah."

And to my algebra teacher...ok, fine, "You were right. I was wrong." I WILL actually use algebra at some point in my life outside your classroom.

What's Next?

As much fun as creating games has been, it's also opened my eyes to the power of games. Both the power of playing them as well as the power of making them. For the past several years I've been searching for a way to combine games and education. I've done a number of projects that I feel very effectively illustrate how powerful games can be used as a tool for teaching. I've used games to help educate both children and adults and very soon I'll be able to use these same techniques as well as continually developing new ones to teach kids at Village Tech in Cedar, Hill.

Village Tech

Beginning this fall I'm going to be a full time teacher at Village Tech, teaching Graphic Design and Interactive Media, among other things.

Village Tech is a very different school. They've shattered the mold of "the traditional school". You won't find row after row of desks in the classrooms. You won't find hallways filled with lockers. What you WILL find is a very "hands on" approach with project based learning. You'll find hundreds of kids, grades K-9, that actually WANT to be at school because it's fun. You'll see fifth graders giving piggy back rides to first graders on their way to class. They're taking classes like "Archery" and "Minecraft". They'll be making games like "Trashtronauts" while at the same time learning about space science and programming.

You'll find an incredible team of faculty and administration that are constantly looking for better ways to reach out to the students and get them involved and excited about learning. These are some truly amazing people with a passion for educating and learning. They're not following some centuries old book on what a school is supposed to be, they're writing a whole new book, and it works. Just ask any of the students at Village Tech.

That's where I'll be, and I can't wait to get started.

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