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Design courses at DigiPen cover a multitude of sub-disciplines within the broader practice of professional game design and development. Most of these courses fall into one of six design specialization tracks — systems design, level design, user experience design, narrative design, technical design, and user research. The Department of Design faculty who teach these topics are themselves subject matter experts who bring decades of first-hand industry experience from the world of mobile games, PC/console games, tabletop games, user research, and more. They help students learn design thinking and how to solve problems from the vantage of the end user, creating more seamless and engaging experiences in the process.


Faculty Directory

Department Faculty


DigiPen Faculty Richard Thames Rowan

Richard Thames Rowan

Department Chair
Senior Lecturer

Richard Rowan has been passionate about games his entire life, beginning his exploration of game design at the age of four. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Gaming Systems & Applications at Western Washington University, he immediately launched his 20-year career in the game industry, where he worked in quality assurance, design, and production.

Rowan has worked on over 50 game products throughout his career, working his way up from an entry-level position in quality assurance and design up through various roles including Studio Manager, Executive Producer, and Lead Designer. He has created games for seven different publishing platforms in genres ranging from hardcore massively multiplayer online games to casual web and mobile games. He has worked for large companies such as Microsoft Game Studios as well as small game industry startups.

In addition to his video game credits, Rowan also has extensive experience with board games, tabletop roleplaying games, and trading card games. He worked for Wizards of the Coast for two years and founded two hobby game industry startups primarily focused on roleplaying games. He has a library of over 600 board games and 3,000 roleplaying game supplements. He is currently working on a textbook covering the 5,000-year history of games.

Rowan enjoys teaching game history, user experience design, production, and game design courses. He loves mentoring and challenging students to achieve their very best and especially loves when students achieve more than they ever thought possible. His hobbies include sailing, writing, designing games and traditional puzzles, playing European-style board games, and sharing these hobbies with his daughter.


DigiPen Faculty Benjamin Ellinger

Benjamin Ellinger

Vice President of Software Production
Program Director (BS in Computer Science and Game Design), Principal Lecturer

Benjamin Ellinger broke into the game industry more than 20 years ago at Steve Jackson Games, where he worked on board games such as Car Wars and role-playing games such as GURPS. Later, he worked as a programmer and designer on real-time strategy games, including This Means War! and Dawn of War, and massively multiplayer online games such as Ultima Online, Ashen Empires, and The Matrix Online, as well as Bicycle® Texas Hold ’em, the Fable II Pub Games, and the secret Microsoft Natal prototype project.

Ellinger has worked for small start-up companies, as a freelance contractor, and full-time at Microsoft as both a developer and a program manager. He has taught at DigiPen since 2003.

Ellinger was born and raised in Austin, Texas. He began programming computers over 30 years ago, starting out on a Commodore PET in the late 1970s. Oddly enough, he has a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology with a specialty in weight training from the University of Texas; but while he has taken only a handful of computer science classes, he knows a great deal about practical coding from professional experience, especially in the areas of game logic, artificial intelligence, physics, and networking. He plays and designs card games, board games, and tabletop role-playing games in addition to computer games.

“Teaching at DigiPen is not a job - it is a calling,“ Ellinger says. “The students have a dedication and commitment to learning that matches any school in the world. As an instructor here, I have the great responsibility of taking enthusiastic and hopeful students and forging them into elite professional game developers. The standards are high, and not a single day can be wasted. But for anyone who loves to teach, there is no better place to be.”

Selected Game Credits

  • Fable II Pub Games, created by Carbonated Games, published by Microsoft, 2008
  • Bicycle® Texas Hold ’em, created by Carbonated Games, published by Microsoft, 2006
  • The Matrix Online, created by Monolith Productions, published by Warner Bros., 2005
  • Dransik/Ashen Empires, created and published by Asylumsoft/Iron Will Games, 2003
  • Ultima Online, created by Origin Systems, published by Electronic Arts, 1997
  • This Means War!, created by Starjammer Studios, published by Microprose, 1996
  • GURPS Space, published by Steve Jackson Games, 1988
  • Aegis Wing, published by Microsoft

Selected Publications

  • “Artificial Personality: A Personal Approach to AI,” in AI Game Programming Wisdom 4 (Charles River Media, 2008)
  • Assistant editor for Autoduel Quarterly, published by Steve Jackson Games, 1988

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DigiPen Faculty Jeremy Holcomb

Jeremy Holcomb

Program Director (BA in Game Design)
Senior Lecturer

Jeremy Holcomb is a game designer with extensive experience in the design, development, and marketing of tabletop board and card games. He has over 20 board game design credits. His game The Duke, which he co-designed for publisher Catalyst Game Labs in 2013, earned a 2014 Mensa Select award.

Holcomb speaks at several gaming convention panels and previously taught game design at the ASUW Experimental College at the University of Washington. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Washington. At DigiPen, Holcomb designs and delivers course content on the fundamentals of game design, with a special focus on rapid system design and playtesting. His personal quest is to play every game that exists at least once.

“It’s always difficult to get into anybody else’s headspace. And it’s one of the reasons that I encourage students — with all of their projects — to just go put it in front of other people,” Holcomb says. “There is no way to sit in a vacuum and go, ‘Oh, yes. This is the right answer.’ That’s not how it works.”

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DigiPen Faculty Bill Morrison

Bill Morrison

Senior Lecturer

Bill Morrison is a 20-year veteran of the video game industry, with design credits across a wide range of titles and game genres. He has worked for such companies as LucasArts Entertainment and Microsoft, where he contributed to such landmark games as the Star Wars: X-Wing space combat series and served as game design lead on Star Trek: Bridge Commander and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.

Bill joined DigiPen in September of 2009 when he pioneered the DigiPen-Ubisoft program at DigiPen’s Singapore campus, leading an intensive program aimed at training advanced students in the art and discipline of game design. His first cohort of students went on to win awards for Best Student Game and Excellence in Technology for their game Void at the 2010 Independent Games Festival in Shanghai, China.

He returned to the Redmond campus in the fall of 2010 to continue teaching core classes for the BA in Game Design and BS in Computer Science and Game Design degree programs. At DigiPen, Bill has discovered a deep passion for teaching — combining his love of games and design, collaboration, mentorship, and fostering relationships — culminating in helping others to achieve their goals and dreams.


DigiPen Faculty Jo Cronk

Jo Cronk

Lecturer

Jo Cronk is a software engineer and UX specialist with over two decades of professional experience in the tech industry. She developed a love for computer programming very early in life and went to work for Microsoft directly after high school graduation. During her time there, she worked on a variety of projects including Age of Empires 2, Age of Empires: Rise of Rome, Urban Assault, Outwars, Pandora’s Box, Close Combat III, Motocross Madness 2, the MSN Gaming Zone, and Asheron’s Call.

She later received a BS in Human Centered Design and Engineering (a combination of computer science, psychology, sociology, industrial design, and user research) from the University of Washington, where she earned the Undergraduate Award of Excellence for demonstrating special strength in innovation. Coming from a more recent background in mobile application development and tools engineering for companies such as Crystal Dynamics, Snowblind Studios, PopCap Games, and Wargaming, she is currently teaching design and technology classes at DigiPen with an emphasis on user experience and technical design.

Cronk is also an experienced public speaker, appearing at many technology and gaming conferences such as the Game Developers Conference, Casual Connect, iFEST, Laval Virtual (France), Digital Nationz (New Zealand), plus various Women in Games speaking events organized by Microsoft, Amazon, and the International Game Developers Association.

Selected Credits

  • Age of Empires: Rise of Rome, developed by Ensemble Studios, published by Microsoft
  • Close Combat III: The Russian Front, developed by Atomic Games, published by Microsoft
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - Legend, developed by Crystal Dynamics, published by Eidos
  • Justice League Heroes, developed by Snowblind Studios, published by Warner Bros.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time, developed by PopCap Games, published by Electronic Arts
  • castAR (AR/VR hardware system), developed by castAR (formerly Technical Illusions)
  • World of Tanks Console Companion, developed and published by Wargaming

Angie Forster

Lecturer

Angie Forster started in the game industry in 2004 after a career in law enforcement. Forster studied psychology, sociology, and criminal justice at Western State College of Colorado for her BA. She also earned an MFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University. Forster worked at several studios, including Mythic Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Trion, Sparkplay Media, ChangYou, Zynga, TinyCo, and Soulbound Studios. Having worked for both startups and big publishers, she has led QA teams, been a F2P MMO producer for an international client, and won awards for her game design work at Zynga. Forster’s passion in design is not only to create engaging narratives that blend mechanics with your message, but also to empower the next generation to create games to change the world.

Forster was in the press regularly for awards and recognition for her work in co-creating Zynga.org’s “Game Design Academy” for the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD). She created curriculum for a two-year honors Career and Technical Education program for 11th and 12th graders which offered a paid internship capstone. This program grew from its pilot of 12 students to a program supported by several SFUSD schools. After the program’s first year, female student enrollment was up to 47%, which is quite an accomplishment for a tech-based STEM program in high-poverty schools.

Forster has been teaching a blend of freshman core classes and building a narrative track to be rolled out in the coming semesters.

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DigiPen Faculty Eric Cagle

Eric Cagle

Lecturer

Eric Cagle started his game career as a mere customer service representative answering rules questions for Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering trading card game. After Wizards’ purchase of TSR, Cagle switched to RPG R&D, writing and designing for numerous titles, including Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and D20 Modern. At the end of a 10-year tenure, Cagle moved to video games, writing and designing for Microsoft Game Studios, Flowplay, and Griptonite studios, all the while freelancing for a number of tabletop game companies including Games Workshop, Privateer Press, Green Ronin Publishing, and Paizo Publishing.

Cagle wore several hats in the game industry. In addition to game design and narrative writing, he helped plan and execute dozens of game conventions, was editor-in-chief of a game magazine, producer and lead designer for startup company Lifeform Entertainment, and served as content manager for Virtual Tabletop (VTT) software company D20PRO. His full list of published work includes over two dozen game products and hundreds of magazine and web articles.

After several contracts teaching game design to middle- and high-school students for Seattle-based Experience America, Cagle realized he possessed passion for instructing the next generation of designers to make the best games (and people) possible. At DigiPen, he teaches a mix of UI/UX design, game feel, and, most importantly, narrative design. For Cagle, story is king, and his life’s work is to get students thinking about the “why” of game design.

Selected Credits

  • Assault Dice App (official app for Games Workshops’ Warhammer 40,000 game)
  • Gears of War (Epic Studio/Microsoft Game Studio)
  • Star Wars: Edge of Empire Core Rulebook (Fantasy Flight Games)
  • Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook (Fantasy Flight Games)
  • No Quarter Magazine (Privateer Press)
  • Urban Arcana Campaign Setting (d20 Modern RPG, Wizards of the Coast)
  • Fiend Folio (Dungeons & Dragons 3.0, Wizards of the Coast)
  • Tome of Corruption and Tome of Salvation (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game)

DigiPen Staff member Joshua D. Savage

Joshua D. Savage

Lecturer

Joshua D. Savage (he/they) has a deep passion for games, cultivated through ten years designing them and tempered by over two decades of experience studying the sociological, psychological, and cultural impact of games in academia. He holds a BA in Psychology and East Asian Studies from Harvard University, as well as an MA in Digital Humanities from Maynooth University in Ireland. After earning his postgraduate degree, Savage became an Irish Research Council scholar in Maynooth University’s Department of Sociology, where he focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in digital game cultures.

Savage’s work in games frequently blurs the boundary between industry and academia. He has worked as a writer, editor, and narrative designer for numerous commercial games while also working with companies to present new best practices at academic and industry conferences. As a part of the Network in Play project in Ireland and the ReFiguring Innovation in Games project in Canada, Savage worked to develop diverse, equitable, and inclusive informal game education strategies to promote a stronger and healthier global games industry. He is also an enthusiastic preservationist, working with the LGBTQ Video Game Archive at Temple University to establish the Joshua D. Savage Digital Game Documents Archive at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York in 2020.

At DigiPen, Savage specializes in user research in the Department of Design and is also the head of DigiPen’s research laboratory. Through research and design, Savage encourages students to deconstruct their assumptions about games, game cultures, and game players, and to discover their unique voices in crafting the ludic stories that only they can tell.


DigiPen Faculty Orvar Halldorsson

Orvar Halldorsson

Adjunct Lecturer

Orvar Halldorsson has worked in the game industry for over 10 years. He is currently a Principal Director of Design at Xbox where he is designing the next generation of Xbox consoles. Before joining Microsoft, he worked for Bungie, helping them ship the well-received Destiny: The Taken King. Since then, he’s led the UI-UX development of all Destiny 1 and Destiny 2 titles up to the most recent release, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep.

Halldorsson was the UX Director at Bungie for five years, managing the UX Org on development of the Destiny franchise. While leading the growth of the UX Org, he directly managed Design Leads and Feature Leads, skip-managed all designers within the Org, and acted as hiring manager for all UI and UX design hires.

Prior to Bungie, Halldorsson was Game Design Director and later UX Director at CCP Games for five years, working on the critically acclaimed MMO game EVE Online. He was accountable for EVE Online’s player experience, including the game client, web and desktop applications, and other touchpoints. In his role, he shaped the overall UX strategy and vision for EVE in collaboration with other senior leaders. In addition to inspiring, guiding, and directing UX, UI, and Visual Design work on all cross-disciplinary teams within EVE development, he was also an active member of a feature team.

Before joining the gaming industry, Halldorsson held various creative roles within the web/mobile, movie, TV, and post-production sectors where he worked in UI-UX, creative direction, design management, visual design, visual effects, digital media, and graphic design. He graduated from Full Sail University, receiving the Advanced Achievement and Salutatorian Awards.

Selected Game Credits

  • Destiny 2, Bungie
  • Destiny, Bungie
  • EVE Online, CCP Games
  • Dust 514, CCP Games

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