Students in The College of New Jersey’s new Department of Design and Creative Technology had the option this semester to enroll in a course created by gaming pro Emily Zbyszynski that blends her two loves — video games and literature.
Zbyszynski, the program manager at youth-focused esports startup Futures First Gaming (FFG) in Wilmington, is teaching a mini-course — that’s a shorter, more specialized topic course — this fall at TCNJ called “Gaming as Literature.” Students will dive into story structure and how narrative drives play in many video games.
Zbyszynski graduated from TCNJ with a bachelor’s in English lit in 2019, and went on to earn her master’s degree in the craft in 2020. She first got into gaming when friends started a club at the school and needed someone who could operate its PR and communications, she said.
“I started out with that, then took every opportunity to absorb as much esports administration knowledge as possible,” Zbyszynski told Technical.ly.
Now, she develops curriculum for FFG’s STEM.org accredited programs, plans events and does community management for the startup. Zbyszynski also develops courses for Post University’s gaming and esports management department. But the “Gaming as Literature” course she developed for TCNJ will be her first in-person teaching opportunity.
Students will meet in person four times throughout the mini course, which starts on Oct. 25. Most of the students in her class will likely be going on to pursue careers in game and web design, Zbyszynski said.
“It’s a combination I didn’t expect would work so well. My first love is literature and writing, and my current passion is gaming and esports,” she said. “They actually marry very well together.”
Even though the class is for a tech-based major, it’s important to understand the humanities aspect of the gaming industry, as the narrative has a huge role in the power dynamics of a game and how it’s played, Zbyszynski said. There’s even research that shows interactive stories and action-based games can help students with dyslexia.
TCNJ recently launched its Department of Design and Creative Technology, within the School of the Arts and Communication, citing that disciplines such as web design, playable media, animation, digital fabrication and coding will be better taught through this new lens.
“In the last 10 years, the industries where our graduates most commonly find careers have converged,” Department Chair Josh Fishburn said in a statement. “We hope for this new department to be a home on campus for designers and creative technologists of all kinds.”
Zbyszynski agreed that the potential to make a career out of esports and gaming is a newer reality to folks, even recent grads like her. When she first entered college, there weren’t gaming scholarships or entire majors devoted to the profession — she didn’t even really start gaming until she was working in the industry.
“To say you want to make a career of esports then, it was early. Now, even three or four years later, there’s been so much of a boom,” she said. “There’s really the structure there to make a living in esports.”