Peter Raad, Executive Director and Founder of The Guildhall at Texas's SMU, has just found himself named one of the Video Gaming Industry's Most Influential People in 2007 by Next Generation (a widely-read industry website and newsletter that happens to boast the fantastic Edge magazine under its umbrella). Raad is number 25 on a list topped by Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata -- just to give you a barometer of who's who on this list. Raad takes the time to answer a few questions about his award, and perhaps why his academic program places 95 percent of his graduates directly into the gaming industry.
The Guildhall at SMU Founder Named as one of the Video Gaming Industry’s Most Influential People in 2007
Plano, Texas – January 17, 2008 - The Guildhall at SMU, a graduate program for video game designers and developers, has climbed to national prominence quickly in its first four years. Executive Director and founder Peter Raad has been named one of the video gaming industry’s most influential people for 2007 by Next Generation, a widely read industry website and newsletter.
Based on reader nominations and staff research, Next Generation’s list spotlights people who made t
Raad is in very good company: Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata made the No. 1 slot.
Raad is No. 25, cited for making a “profound impact on the gaming industry,” graduating over 180 professional developers in the four years of The Guildhall at SMU’s existence and placing 95 percent of them in the gaming industry. Next Generation credited this success to Raad’s work with the Dallas area video game industry community to create a real-world curriculum.
1) How do you feel about being No. 25?
Stunned, flattered, and deeply humbled, all in one. The list is an industry who’s who, and we’re the only academic program represented. I find it richly symbolic however that we’re book-ending the list with Nintendo’s CEO. Mr. Iwata’s Wii console made video games accessible to people of all ages and catapulted the digital gaming industry into new orbits of commercial success and social acceptance. Through The Guildhall at SMU, a diverse cross-section of young talent is mastering the arts and sciences of digital expression, and their works will place them in future top-25 lists.
2) What is the significance of making this list?
This is a positive reflection on SMU’s role in developing leaders for 21st century’s new form of human discovery and expression. The gaming industry reached out to us, and we responded with a world-class academic program that clearly meets their needs. The accolade belongs to many people who made it possible for us to come so far in such a short time: from the visionary gift of Linda and Mitch Hart, to the faith that the SMU trustees and leadership placed in us, and of course the active support and involvement of the Dallas video games industry. Clearly, we’re now seen as an integral part of the future of the video game industry.
3) There’s been a lot written about the maturation of the video game industry. The Guildhall at SMU is only four years old, but what do you see the program providing as the industry changes?
The meteoric growth of the video game industry has been a pleasant surprise even to its pioneers. As a form of artistic expression, video games have benefited immensely from advances in computing and graphical technologies and in many ways have in fact driven these advances. Next generations of artificial and virtual experiences will require next generations of developers who can harness newly found computational technologies. In that sense, I liken The Guildhall at SMU to a medical school where we teach our talented students to meld the theory and the practice. To date, our role has been to prepare our students to perform in the style and at the pace of the gaming industry. As we grow, I see our role as continuing to develop outstanding professionals adept at producing within existing technologies, but who also bring into the industry emerging technologies and methodologies.
4) Video gaming is huge, but can SMU’s work in interactive technology be applied to other disciplines?
Interactive network technology has changed how we live, learn, work and play. We are hard pressed today to find an arena that hasn’t been affected by networked interactivity – from military operations, to remote surgery, to airline reservations, to personal communications. Now, imagine learning new languages in an immersive cultural environment. Imagine tourism to remote places, inaccessible areas, or even extinct worlds. Imagine training in high-risk disciplines that allow a physician or a pilot to develop muscle memory within realistic scenarios, but in a safe and controllable environment. Already at SMU we are collaborating with the Psychology Department on a virtual reality role-playing game that aims to help young people reduce the risk of date violence, and with the Simmons School of Education and Human Development on a program for virtual coaches to support elementary school teachers who help toddlers with severe reading deficiencies.
5) The Guildhall at SMU is located in an area dominated by high tech industries. How does the location serve your students?
If you consider the pedigree and sheer number of studios in the Dallas and Austin areas, and then you add to the mix the likes of GameStop, Blockbuster and even nearby Walmart, not to mention technology powerhouses like Dell, Ericson, Hewlett-Packard, Nokia and Texas Instruments, one can make the argument that the center of gravity of the gaming industry is in Texas and not on the West Coast.
It’s now widely accepted that the world is “flat” not only in the sense that production chains cross the continents but that more and more nations can contribute significantly to a global economy. However, it’s also been argued that the world is “spiky” in the sense that creativity cares about geography. Creative people are attracted to and thrive in regions that intentionally nurture and celebrate creativity. While manufacturing and services may flow easily across a flat world, creative centers are where new economic engines tend to spawn. We are fortunate that Texas has four cities in the top 10 of “spiky” centers. This gives me a strong basis to believe that SMU in partnership with Plano and the Dallas-Fort Worth area has a singular opportunity to be the hub of creativity for emerging media and technologies.
6) You were cited by Next Generation, in part, for your close work with the local video-gaming community. What kinds of partnerships exist for your students?
The industry drives The Guildhall at SMU. Not only did industry invest sweat equity in designing the program and building our curriculum, industry leaders and professionals continue to lecture, mentor, advise, and provide internships and technology. Just this week, we proudly announced that Gearbox Software initiated our Scholars Program with six scholarships per year. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 scholarship and be matched with a professional mentor from Gearbox. It’s this type of support that has made The Guildhall at SMU the top-rated graduate professional development program of its kind in the nation.