Interactive Entertainment: Sharing Control Between Authors and Participants

Randy Pausch
Carnegie Mellon Univ., Entertainment Technology Center
(Currently on Sabbatical at Electronic Arts in the Bay Area)

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University March 12, 2004

New forms of entertainment, training, and education are now possible due to advances in digital technology. Carnegie Mellon has created the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) [], a joint initiative between the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts. The ETC grants a two-year "Masters of Entertainment Technology" degree. We have seventy students in our Masters program; half are artists and half are technologists. Students from the ETC have been hired by companies such as Electronic Arts, Rockstar Studios, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Microsoft, MERL, PIXAR, Walt Disney Imagineering, etc.
In addition to video games and other traditional entertainment forms, our students go on to create museum installations, WWW sites, and other novel interactive experiences.

A fundamental intellectual challenge of the ETC is finding ways to share control between content authors and the audiences/users/players/guests of that content. A fundamental social challenge of the ETC is finding ways to get artists and technologists to work together. ETC students are continuously involved in project courses, where teams of four or five students from different backgrounds work closely under faculty guidance to create a technology-enhanced entertainment experience. A typical project might be to create an interactive theatrical piece, a robot who can sustain conversation, or a small scale educational video game.

This talk will describe what we believe is important in educating students for the entertainment industry, and how we do it. We will describe typical ETC student projects, including work in the "Building Virtual Worlds" course, where student teams build interactive, helmet-based virtual reality worlds on a two-week production schedule. We will also describe the lessons we have learned in how to most effectively put artists and technologists together into small teams that succeed.

Professor Pausch is currently on Sabbatical at Electronic Arts (EA) and may have a few words to say about that culture, as well.

Randy Pausch is a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon, where he is the co-director of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). He was a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow. He has consulted with Walt Disney Imagineering on the user interface design and testing of interactive theme park attractions, and with Google on user interface design. He is currently on Sabbatical at Electronic Arts (EA). Dr. Pausch is the author or co-author of five books and over 50 reviewed journal and conference proceedings articles, and he is the director of the Alice project which lowers the barriers to learning how to program (


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