By Carlos Serrano
If there’s anyone who works as hard and as much as Heather Decker, they deserve the upmost amount of respect. An interactive design and game development graduate student, it’s almost uncanny the amount of things she has on her plate.
Decker was recently made Secretary of the Chicago chapter of the International Game Developers Association. SCAD Myriad was able to talk to Decker about this and other aspects of her life.
Myriad: What inspired you to become an ITGM student, specifically at SCAD?
Decker: After I finished my Game Art and Design undergrad, I examined several online masters programs. I keep in touch with my former instructors, so SCAD was actually suggested to me by Christopher Legel of Clinton Community College. I was drawn to SCAD based on the course material outlined in the degree summary, the ability to complete the degree online, the time frame for completion, and the cost (compared to some of the other programs I looked into).
Once I became aware of the MFA program, specifically, it was clear to me what I needed to do. The MFA is the terminal degree in my field and qualifies me to teach at colleges and universities, which is one of my long-term goals.
Myriad: What is it about interactive design/game development that drives you?
Decker: I’ve always been a multidisciplinary sort of person (art, scripting, writing, building computers, etc.) and making games allows me to tap into many areas of interest all at once. I love problem-solving, which is a frequent activity when working on a game project. Most of all, I love seeing it all come together and being able to share it with others. We all speak the universal language of play.
Myriad: Do you have a dream project?
Decker: My dream project would be to work on something like a serious game for a higher cause, such as games for education. Games are naturally poised to be valuable tools for teaching, but we haven’t quite realized their full potential yet. Balancing the fun with the learning, and setting up appropriate opportunities for skill mastery, it’s all very tough to pull off, but I think we’ll see it come into being in our lifetime.
Myriad: When and how did you first get involved with the Chicago chapter of the IGDA?
Decker: I first got involved back in early 2010. I noticed the chapter had gone dormant and contacted the main IGDA organization to ask about it. I was pointed to Neal Sales-Griffin, who had initially inquired about the state of the chapter. I expressed that I’d really like to help get things going again.
Neal, Jay Margalus and I started meeting via Skype and we held the first event, IGDA Chicago Reboot, in April 2010. Soon we were joined by Sheri Rubin, who helped organize formal elections in December, and Christian Arca, who has offered space at Toy Studio repeatedly for our events. These folks I’ve mentioned now make up our awesome Board of Directors!
Myriad: Did you set out with the intention of becoming a member of the board of directors or was that just a natural progression?
Decker: I didn’t set out with the intent of ending up on the Board of Directors. I just really wanted to see the chapter back up and running, to see the game development community thriving again. Once we started talking about formalizing the chapter, I was prepared to stay on as a volunteer and continue helping out as much as possible. Sheri, Jay, and Neal all encouraged me to run in the election, and I’m really glad I did. Now I’m the Secretary on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Chapter and it feels awesome to continue to serve the game dev community in a new, official role.
When she’s not busy working with the Chicago chapter of the IGDA, Decker works with Team Mishap, a remote student Independent Games Festival team she founded in 2010. She’s also currently doing work on a textbook and when not working she enjoys her time with her family and two kittens. Decker’s work can be seen on her website: www.heathermdecker.com