The Guildhall at SMU

Guildhall administrator, Navy reservist Steven Cole celebrates Veterans Day after returning from deployment in Afghanistan

Capt. Steven Cole, USNRNavy veteran Steven Cole is back at SMU as both a staff member and a student after a one-year deployment with the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

A deputy director with the SMU Guildhall and an officer in the United States Navy Reserve, Capt. Cole returned to the University in August after serving as director of the NATO-led Multinational Fusion Center, Regional Command North (RC-North) – a United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Mazar-i-Sharif with personnel from 17 different countries.

And in spring 2016, Capt. Cole becomes a master’s degree candidate in SMU’s Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, which shares the SMU-in-Plano campus with the Guildhall. He hopes to complete his postgraduate journey with doctoral studies in behavior sciences.

Capt. Cole’s Navy intelligence service focuses on counterinsurgency, human terrain and strategic analysis. A certified fraud examiner and private investigator with special expertise in forensic accounting, he made good use of his experience in an assignment with the Afghanistan Minister of Interior Affairs and Inspector General, helping to revamp the agency’s training and infrastructure.

“All the money, all the bullets, all the fuel the United States and the coalition are pouring into the government – someone has to account for that,” he says. “You can’t expect an agency to account for things when they don’t even have an accountant on staff.” His audits helped to drive sweeping changes, including the removal of corrupt officials and a revalidation of the ministry’s reporting cycles.

“Now they’re reviewing real numbers,” he says. “And we left a lot of good people in place to continue making progress.” Capt. Cole will retire from Navy Reserve service in an on-campus ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 in the Hillcrest Commons, Collins Executive Education Center.

Capt. Cole began his “dream job” at the Guildhall in April 2014. During his deployment, he carried stacks of Guildhall stickers and business cards and shared them often with fellow service members – most of whom were fellow gamers as well.

“I’d love to see some of these enlisted members come to Lyle or Meadows on their Veterans Administration benefits and join the Guildhall 4+1 program,” he says. “It’s kind of a big deal, and it’s just about the best way to get into a Guildhall program.”

Steven Cole joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February 1986 and earned his B.B.A. degree in accounting from Abilene Christian University in 1978. His first Navy Reserve assignment was in North Texas: as assistant training officer to Fleet Intelligence Rapid Support Team, Pacific 0470 (FIRSTPAC 0470) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Dallas in Grand Prairie. During his Navy Reserve career he has served as an analyst, intelligence officer and intelligence training instructor with commands throughout California and Texas. His current command is stationed at Carrier Strike Group FOUR, Norfolk, Virginia.

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Capt. Cole served with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) mission of counterintelligence, human intelligence, force protection and counterterrorism assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Capt. Cole was awarded the Information Dominance Warfare Officer (IDWO) pin in October 2010. His personal decorations include the Distinguished Meritorious Service (2), Joint Service Commendation and Navy Commendation medals, as well as two Combat Action ribbons.

SMU Guildhall hosts 2015 Spring Exhibition Friday, May 15

Paul Bettner

Paul Bettner, co-creator of Words with Friends and founder of Playful Corp, will speak at a graduation reception for The Guildhall at SMU’s Cohort 21.

The Guildhall at SMU hosts its bi-annual graduate exhibition showcasing video games developed by graduating students on Friday, May 15, 2015. The 2015 Spring Exhibition will honor Cohort 21: 26 master’s degree candidates who specialize in art creation, level design and programming.

The Exhibition will take place in Building 2 of the SMU-in-Plano campus at 5232 Tennyson Parkway. All of the following events are open to the public:

  • 2:30-4 p.m. – Open play session of 2D and 3D games developed by Guildhall students
  • 4-5 p.m. – Cohort 21 Honors presentations and awards
  • 5-6 p.m. – Cohort 21 Capstone team games presentations

An invitation-only reception for Cohort 21 and their friends and family will conclude the day’s events.

> Find more SMU Guildhall events on Facebook

Paul Bettner, CEO and founder of the McKinney, Texas-based game development studio Playful Corp, will be the honorary keynote speaker at the Cohort 21 graduate reception.

Bettner has been creating interactive entertainment for 20 years. In 2008, he co-founded Newtoy, Inc. with his brother David to create the hit social game Words with Friends. Before that, he worked with Microsoft Game Studios, where he helped create blockbuster hits Halo Wars and Age of Empires.

In 2012, Bettner founded Playful Corp. Their first announced title, Lucky’s Tale, is a platforming adventure game designed exclusively for virtual reality. Bettner and his team are also in active development on Creativerse, currently gaining fans through early access on the Steam gaming site.

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online: guildhall.smu.edu

Princeton Review ranks SMU Guildhall #3 among graduate game-design programs in 2015

The Guildhall at SMU exterior, February 2015The Guildhall at SMU maintains its third spot among the world’s top graduate game-design programs in The Princeton Review’s sixth annual report, published Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

The University of Utah was ranked at #1 on the graduate school list in the Review’s 2015 report; UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy ranked #2. At #3, The Guildhall ranks above the University of Southern California (#4), Rochester Institute of Technology (#6), New York University (#9), MIT (#11) and Ohio State (#18), and higher than two other top-25 graduate programs in Texas: UT-Dallas (#12) and Texas A&M (#22).

> Read The Princeton Review‘s full 2015 game design program rankings

The Review selected the schools based on its 2014-15 survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad offering game design coursework and/or degrees. The 50-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics, from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. In addition, the Review weighted more than 60 data points to make its assessments, with criteria focusing on curriculum, facilities, technology and career services.

“Being in the top three schools is a tribute to faculty with deep experience, bright and motivated students, industry support, and a commitment to continual improvement,” said Gary Brubaker, director of The Guildhall at SMU.

The Princeton Review’s reporting partner, PC Gamer magazine, will include a section on the top schools in its May 2015 issue. The issue will feature information on degree programs, class offerings, events, prominent professors, and alumni. The print edition will be available on newsstands Tuesday, March 31.

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online

No means no: SMU study shows that teen girls report less sexual victimization after virtual-reality assertiveness training

Stock photo of two people holding handsTeen girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after learning to assertively resist unwanted sexual overtures and practicing resistance in a realistic virtual environment, according to a new SMU-led study.

The effects persisted over a three-month period following the training, says clinical psychologist Lorelei Simpson Rowe, lead author on the pilot study and an associate professor of psychology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The research also found that those girls who had previously experienced dating violence reported lower levels of psychological aggression and psychological distress after completing the program, relative to girls in a comparison group.

“The virtual simulations allowed girls to practice being assertive in a realistic environment. The intent of the program is for the learning opportunity to increase the likelihood that they will use the skills in real life,” said Simpson Rowe, who also serves as graduate program co-director in the Department of Psychology. “Research has shown that skills are more likely to generalize if they are practiced in a realistic environment, so we used virtual reality to increase the realism.”

The training program, called “My Voice, My Choice,” emphasizes that victims do not invite sexual violence and that they have the right to stand up for themselves because violent or coercive behavior is never OK.

“It is very promising that learning resistance skills and practicing them in virtual simulations of coercive interactions could reduce the risk for later sexual victimization,” said Simpson Rowe.

She cautioned, however, that the research is preliminary and based on a small sample: 42 in the “My Voice, My Choice” condition and 36 in a control condition. Future research is needed to establish the benefits of the program across different age groups and populations, for example, college versus high school students.

The study’s strengths included its randomized controlled design and a high participant retention rate among the 78 teen girls in the study.

The virtual-reality simulation component of “My Voice, My Choice” utilizes a software program developed by study co-authors Ernest N. Jouriles and Renee McDonald in conjunction with the game design program in The Guildhall at SMU. Jouriles and McDonald are clinical psychologists in the SMU Psychology Department. Jouriles is professor and chair. McDonald is a professor and associate dean of research and academic affairs in Dedman College.

“One advantage the virtual simulations offer is the ability to actually observe whether, and how, the girls are using the skills in coercive situations that feel very real,” McDonald said. “This provides girls with opportunities for immediate feedback and accelerated learning, and for facilitators to easily spot areas in need of further strengthening. The value of this advantage can’t be overstated.”

One question that remains for future research is whether the practice in virtual simulations was the operative factor that reduced sexual victimization, Simpson Rowe said.

“We need to determine if practice in a virtual setting is the key factor in making the intervention effective, or if other factors, such as being encouraged to stand up for themselves, led to the outcomes,” she said.

The researchers reported their findings, “Reducing Sexual Victimization among Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of My Voice, My Choice,” in the journal Behavior Therapy. The article has been published online in advance of print.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

SMU Guildhall hosts free-play sessions of student-designed games during 2014 Fall Exhibition Friday, Dec. 19

The Guildhall at SMU will host a free-play day featuring games designed by graduating students at its 2014 Fall Exhibition on Friday, Dec. 19. The Exhibition will take place in Building 2 of the SMU-in-Plano campus, 5232 Tennyson Parkway.

The Exhibition honors Cohort 20, composed of 26 graduate students who specialize in art, level design, production and software development. All of the following events are open to the public:

  • 2:30 to 4 p.m. – Open play session of 2D and 3D games developed by Guildhall students
  • 4 to 5 p.m. – Cohort 20 Honors presentations and awards
  • 5 to 6 p.m. – Cohort 20 Capstone team games presentations

An invitation-only reception for Cohort 20 and their friends and family will conclude the day’s events.

Steve Nix, CEO and co-founder of Yvolver, will be the honorary keynote speaker at the Cohort 20 graduate reception. Yvolver is a Dallas-based startup that brings the science of loyalty reward programs to mobile games with a platform that focuses on player retention, engagement and monetization.

In addition to co-founding Yvolver, Nix is an adviser for Dallas Venture Partners. Previously, he was GM of Digital Distribution with GameStop, ran Business Development at id Software, served as CEO of Ritual Entertainment, and helped found the SMU Guildhall. He lives in Dallas with his wife and two daughters.

For more information about the Fall 2014 Guildhall Exhibition, contact  at Doug Darby, 972-473-3545.

By | 2014-12-17T09:14:23+00:00 December 16, 2014|Categories: Calendar Highlights, News|Tags: , , , , |

SMU Guildhall deputy director heads out for active duty in Afghanistan

SMU Guildhall Deputy Director Capt. Steven Cole, US Navy ReserveSteven Cole, deputy director of operations with The Guildhall at SMU and a captain in the United States Navy Reserve, has answered the call of duty for a one-year deployment with the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

Capt. Cole will serve as director of the NATO-led Multinational Fusion Center, Regional Command North (RC-North) – a United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Mazar-i-Sharif with personnel from 17 different countries.

“The objective is to build the nation and help build the capacity of self-rule. Our primary mission is outreach to the community,” says Cole, whose Navy intelligence service focuses on counterinsurgency, human terrain and strategic analysis.

“Having been a reservist my entire career, this is just another opportunity to serve when asked,” Capt. Cole adds. His experience in joint operations made him a good fit for his current assignment, he says. “The U.S. Navy has the best, most educated and experienced intelligence professionals in the world, so the Navy is always at the top of the list for these assignments.”

Steven Cole joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February 1986; he earned his B.B.A. degree in accounting from Abilene Christian University in 1978. His first Navy Reserve assignment was in North Texas: as assistant training officer to Fleet Intelligence Rapid Support Team, Pacific 0470 (FIRSTPAC 0470) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Dallas in Grand Prairie. During his Navy Reserve career he has served as an analyst, intelligence officer and intelligence training instructor with commands throughout California and Texas. His current command is stationed at NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Capt. Cole served with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) mission of counterintelligence, human intelligence, force protection and counterterrorism assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Capt. Cole was awarded the Information Dominance Warfare Officer (IDWO) pin in October 2010. His personal decorations include the Distinguished Meritorious Service (2), Joint Service Commendation and Navy Commendation medals, as well as two Combat Action ribbons.

He and his wife, Rita, have two children, Mitchell (with his wife, Sarah) and Rachel. The Cole family make their home in Dallas.

Capt. Cole came to his “dream job” at The Guildhall in April 2014 after a long career as a self-employed forensic accountant, financial consultant and private investigator. He quickly found a home in the SMU community, including among its cadre of military veterans. (As of September 10, 2014, more than 130 U.S. veterans are enrolled in SMU degree programs using their Veterans Administration benefits.)

“My heart is at The Guildhall – it’s the best place in the world to work,” Capt. Cole says. He’s even taken several stacks of Guildhall stickers and business cards with him and never misses an opportunity to share them with fellow service members. “In fact, I just gave a bunch of them to some fellows who were in the cafeteria talking about World of Warcraft,” he says.

Lecturer in Production Mark Nausha has taken on Capt. Cole’s duties during his absence and will serve double duty as a Guildhall faculty member and administrator. “I’m very comfortable with him sitting at my desk while I’m gone,” Capt. Cole says. “I’ll miss the Guildhall immensely – the staff and faculty, and the great students we have – and I can’t wait to get back.”

SMU Guildhall ranked 3rd among graduate game-design programs in 2014 Princeton Review list

The Guildhall at SMU, SMU-in-PlanoThe Guildhall at SMU has risen to the third spot among the world’s top graduate game-design programs in The Princeton Review’s fifth annual report, published Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The list puts The Guildhall four places higher than last year’s ranking of #7.

The University of Southern California is #1 on both the undergraduate and graduate school lists in The Princeton Review’s 2014 report; UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy ranked #2 among graduate programs. At #3, The Guildhall ranks above the Rochester Institute of Technology (#8) and MIT (#10), and higher than three other top-25 graduate programs in Texas: UT-Dallas (#11), University of North Texas (#23) and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio (#25).

> Read The Princeton Review‘s full report on its 2014 game design program rankings

The Review selected the schools based on its 2013-14 survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad offering game design coursework and/or degrees. The 50-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics, from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. Among the 60 data points the Review considered in its assessments were program curriculum, facilities, career services and technology.

“Being in the top three schools is a tribute to faculty with deep experience, bright and motivated students, industry support, and a commitment to continual improvement,” said Gary Brubaker, director of The Guildhall at SMU.

The Princeton Review’s reporting partner, PC Gamer magazine, will include a section on the top schools in its May 2014 issue. The issue will feature information on degree programs, class offerings, events, prominent professors, and alumni. The print edition will be available on newsstands Tuesday, April 1.

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online

SMU Guildhall graduate students compete at the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco

Intel University Games Showcase logoTwo teams of graduate students from The Guildhall at SMU will compete for cash prizes and gaming glory at the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Computing and game-hardware giant Intel® will host the Intel® University Games Showcase on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at the Marriott Marquis.

The SMU teams will demonstrate two distinct creations: Hymn of the Sands, an action-adventure whose story draws on Egyptian mythology; and the viral hit Kraven Manor, a horror-based puzzle game.

Joining the Guildhall groups at the invitation-only event will be teams from USC, Drexel, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Utah, UC-Santa Cruz, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the DigiPen Institute, and UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA).

The competitors will demonstrate their best projects running exclusively on Intel® graphics platforms, and a panel of industry luminaries will select those that demonstrate the best gameplay and the best visual quality.

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Prizes will be awarded based on innovation in gameplay, game performance, immersiveness, art style, entertainment value, and quality in rendering, character design and user interface. In addition, Intel® will conduct live polling of the audience and display the results in real time as input to the judging panel.

The programs represented by the winning projects will each receive a $10,000 hardware grant from Intel®.

> Read updates from The Guildhall at GDC 2014 at SMU Adventures

The Guildhall at SMU scores in Animation Career Review rankings

The Guildhall at SMUThe Guildhall at SMU,. Southern Methodist University’s master’s-level game design program, has earned high national and international rankings from Animation Career Review.

The Review ranks The Guildhall as one of the top 10 animation and game-design schools in the Southwest. Other schools to make the list include Brigham Young, UT-Austin and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

The Review cites The Guildhall’s partnerships with SMU undergraduate tracks in Lyle School of Engineering and Meadows School of the Arts among its attractive features, noting that The Guildhall’s Master of Interactive Technology program “has produced hundreds of successful graduates, employed at more than 140 video game studios around the world.”

In addition, the Review ranks The Guildhall in the top 100 (#76) among game animation programs worldwide. This ranking is especially noteworthy because The Guildhall’s four areas of study – Art Creation, Level Design, Production and Software Development – do not include an animation specialization.

> The Guildhall hosts 2013 Fall Exhibition Dec. 20

Animation Career Review launched in 2011 to provide “the most comprehensive … information for aspiring animation and game design professionals,” according to its mission statement. In creating its 2013 regional rankings, the Review considered more than 400 U.S. schools that offer programs geared towards animation or game design. Their ranking criteria include academic reputation, admission selectivity, depth and breadth of the program and faculty, value as it relates to tuition, and geographic location.

The Guildhall at SMU is celebrating its 10th anniversary throughout 2013-14 with everything from a virtual yearbook to a brand-new career portal for its alumni. Additional details and upcoming events will be posted to The Guildhall website and Facebook.

When The Guildhall opened its doors in 2003, “The Tonight Show” had a field day.

“At Southern Methodist University they have opened a college of video games. It’s a school where the students can specialize in video games. Finally — a degree more useless than political science,” Jay Leno joked.

Since then, The Guildhall has proven the complexity and value of the education it provides.

“At our 10-year milestone, we have successfully answered the initial critics. A master’s degree in game development is not a passing fad,” he said. “And the growth in gaming and gamification will provide many more creative opportunities for our students, faculty and alumni.”

> Visit The Guildhall at SMU online