Department of Game Software Design and Production

Douglas Schilling

Douglas Schilling, Senior Lecture in DigiPen's Department of Game Software Design and Production

Department Chair, Game Software Design and Production;
Senior Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Douglas Schilling earned a Bachelor of Science in computer science with minors in mathematics and electrical engineering from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. He has over 23 years of professional programming experience in several diverse industries, including avionics, desktop publishing, game development, and information technology management.

During his 14 years in the game industry, Schilling worked extensively on hand-held gaming platforms, such as the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. He also worked on titles for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Wii, and Xbox 360.

Schilling has contributed to more than 40 game titles in a number of roles, including lead programmer, senior programmer and studio technical director. As studio technical director for Griptonite Games, he managed 30 developers working on as many as eight different game titles at a time.

Schilling enjoys teaching the freshman and senior Project courses, where he can share his extensive industry experience with both new students and those about to enter the game industry.

Selected game credits:

  • Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi for Game Boy
  • Heroes of Might and Magic for Game Boy Color
  • The Sims: Bustin' Out for Game Boy Advance
  • The Urbz: Sims in the City for Nintendo DS

Additional game credits can be found at

Ellen Guon Beeman

Senior Lecturer, Department of Game Software Design and Production

Ellen Guon Beeman is a videogame designer and producer, with extensive experience in developing mobile, web, massively multiplayer, and console games. She has worked on over fifty games, initially with games in the award-winning "Wing Commander" series, and her roster of titles includes games based on major properties such as Marvel and Disney movies, and most recently, an array of indie mobile games. She has a wide array of skills including Agile game development, business development and entrepreneurship, marketing and PR, community, social media, and monetization and metrics strategies. She is especially interested in best practices for improving the usability of games, and has conducted dozens of usability studies and playtests.

Ellen has held salaried positions at Electronics Arts, Microsoft, Glu Mobile, and other game studios. As a freelancer, she worked for Disney, Sega, Leapfrog, and Mary-Margaret Network. Prior to her games career, Ellen was a professional children’s television writer, and she has published four novels and numerous short stories and non-fiction articles. She has a Bachelors degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

As an instructor in the Department of Game Software Design and Production, Ellen's focus is on mentoring students to create the best games possible and to plan and prepare for successful game industry careers. "Game development is a unique blend of creativity, technology, and teamwork," Beeman says. "The game project classes are an opportunity for students to learn essential game development skills and also how they can work together to create games that are so much more than they could do individually. I am continuously inspired by the innovation and talent in our student projects."

Ellen is a frequent guest speaker at conferences, including the Game Developer Conference, PAX Dev, SXSW Interactive, LOGIN, Game Design Expo, iFest, and other game industry events. Ellen was one of the five founders of the professional association Women in Games International, and was an elected board member of the International Game Developers Association. Prior to joining the DigiPen faculty, Ellen served for several years as a DigiPen Professional Advisory Committee member.

Scott Brodie

Scott Brodie, Adjunct Professor in DigiPen Department of Game Software Design and Production

Adjunct Faculty, Game Software Design and Production

Scott Brodie started his career at the age of 18 as a designer with Outrage Games in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since that time, he has worked with companies such as Stardock and Microsoft Game Studios, where he shipped or earned credits on more than 20 titles. In 2010, Brodie founded his own independent game company, Heart Shaped Games, where he focuses on building meaningful and memorable social games for the Facebook platform.

Brodie has worked in a variety of roles in his career, including designer, producer, programmer, special effects artist, and business owner. He is excited to combine his experience in the game industry with his experience in academia to help develop the next crop of great game designers.

Selected game credits:

  • Snoopy Flying Ace, created by Smart Bomb Interactive, published by Microsoft, 2010
  • Scrap Metal, created by Slick Entertainment, published by Microsoft, 2010
  • Lazy Raiders, created by Sarbakan, published by Microsoft, 2010
  • Aegis Wing, created by Carbonated Games, published by Microsoft, 2007
  • Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords, created and published by Stardock, 2006
  • Alter Echo, created by Outrage Games, published by THQ, 2003

Selected publications:

  • “Truth in Game Design,” for, 2010
  • “True Story: Dynamically generated, contextually linked quests in persistent systems,” in the Future Play 2007 proceedings

Scott Dodson

Senior Lecturer

Scott Dodson is a lifelong entrepreneur and an industry consultant in game design and user experience. He previously founded, funded, and served as CEO of Flying Rhino Studios, Tenacious Games, and Divide by Zero Games. Dodson is a mentor for Tech Stars, Seattle, as well as Washington Interactive Network’s REACTOR, two leading Washington startup accelerators. He serves as a board advisor to Zipline Games, BodSix, Play Works, and others. As COO and Product Owner of Bobber Interactive, Dodson helped devise "gamified" solutions for Fortune 100 companies and financial institutions looking to incentivize customer behavior.

Scott has launched more than a dozen products in 14 countries on social, mobile, and tabletop platforms and has been a frequent speaker at game conferences and workshops in the U.S. and Canada, often on the topic of motivational design—driving sustained engagement through intrinsic needs satisfaction. Dodson brings an entrepreneurial sensibility to DigiPen as well as a strong sense of current and emerging industry trends and market demands for new talent.

Benjamin Ellinger

Ben Ellinger

Vice President of Software Production;
Program Director (Game Design Programs);
Principal Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Benjamin Ellinger broke in to 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 an 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
  • 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

John Feil

Adjunct Faculty, Game Software Design and Production

John Feil is a game industry veteran with over 10 years of experience. Starting as a quality assurance tester for LucasArts, he has since worked in the roles of level designer, lead designer, writer, producer and now educator. His game credits range from children’s board games to large-scale MMOGs, from real-time strategy games to Facebook games, from racing games to flight simulators.

Teaching at DigiPen is a natural evolution for Feil’s career. Having a background in education (he trained as a music educator in college), he realized he had an opportunity to pass on what he had learned the hard way throughout his years in the game industry. He currently teaches game design to students of all levels.

Feil is the author of Beginning Game Level Design, and has contributed to two books on writing for video games: Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing and Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG. He is also active in the game development community, having served on the Board of Directors of the International Game Developer’s Association and currently serving as the Chairman of the IGDA’s Credit’s Committee, in addition to being a member of several other special interest groups.

Jay Gale

Senior Lecturer, Digital Arts
Senior Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Jay Gale received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado in 1978, majoring in Broadcast Technology and Communications.

Before coming to DigiPen, Gale worked as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, primarily creating vehicle models, real-world environments, and weapons and ballistics effects for Real-Time Networked Simulators used in armor training. Gale spent lots of field time at various military posts, working with armor and infantry units to gather data. Since that time, he has worked for 25 years as a freelance graphic designer, technical illustrator, and graphic artist.

Gale has taught at DigiPen since 1999. He started teaching 3D graphics and modeling for the Associate of Arts in Animation degree. When the program transitioned into the Bachelor of Fine Arts, he briefly taught both Applied and Project classes. Gale also created and continues to teach the GAT300 and 350 classes to RTIS and Game Design students. These classes are meant to give technical students an introduction to and full understanding of the process of designing, modeling, and animating in 3D. Students learn to create models and environments and learn the principles of both Forward Kinematics and Inverse Kinematics animation.

Gale also piloted and teaches the DigiPen Animation Academy classes at Puget Sound Skills Center in Burien, WA. This class was designed with input from the BFA faculty to introduce high school students to the rigors of fine art and animation production. Students gain valuable experience in art and design techniques and animation principles. The course content for this class was submitted and accepted for Advanced Placement credit by the National College Board in 2009.

Vivek Melwani

Adjunct Faculty, Game Software Design and Production

Vivek Melwani began working in the game industry in 1997 at Electronic Arts as a game designer for key franchise titles such as Future Cop: LAPD, Tiger Woods, and Road Rash. Later, he joined Nintendo in 2001 where he worked as a Game Director for 1080° Avalanche and Ridge Racer.

More recently, Melwani co-founded a small independent game studio, Igloo Games, with the focus of creating casual games for mobile devices. In 2008, Igloo Games created Dizzy Bee, which earned Independent Game Festival Mobile Awards nominations for “Excellence in Art” and "Best iPhone Game.”

Selected game credits:

  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem (Nintendo DS, 2010)
  • Ridge Racer DS (NintendoDS, 2004)
  • 1080° Avalanche (Nintendo GameCube, 2003)
  • Road Rash 3D: Jailbreak (PlayStation, 1999)
  • Tiger Woods '99 (PlayStation, 1999)
  • Future Cop: L.A.P.D. 2100 (PlayStation, 1999)
  • Igloo Games Arcade (iOS, 2010)
  • Dizzy Bee (iOS, 2008)
  • Bed Bugs (iOS, 2008)

Bill Morrison

Senior Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Bill Morrison is a 15-year veteran of the video game industry with design credits on over 10 titles. He has worked for such companies as Microsoft and LucasArts, where he contributed to landmark games like the X-Wing space combat series. He also served as Game Design Lead on Star Trek: Bridge Commander and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. Morrison joined DigiPen in September of 2009, where he pioneered the DigiPen-Ubisoft program at DigiPen's Singapore campus, creating an intensive curriculum aimed at training advanced students in the art and discipline of game design. He returned to the U.S. in the fall of 2010 to continue teaching in the Game Software Design and Production department.

Chris Peters

Chris Peters, Lecturer in DigiPen's Department of Game Software Design and Production

Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Chris Peters is a DigiPen alumnus with a Bachelor of Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation. As a student, he was best known for having created the Independent Game Festival (IGF) Student Showcase winner Base Invaders, and for pioneering component-based engine design.

After graduation, Peters joined Microsoft, where he started out in the company's Xbox Live Arcade First-Party Games group. At Microsoft, Peters shipped the Xbox 3D side-scrolling shooter Aegis Wing, taking the game from prototype to fully featured title in three months. Peters then worked on developing a sample springboard framework for XBLA game developers, which considerably shortened the development cycle for the teams that used it.

Later, Peters was selected to work on a secret Microsoft project to develop a camera-based, full-body motion device for the Xbox 360, which was part of the very early development leading to the Microsoft Natal game platform. He also served as sole developer on the game prototype for an internal, first-party XBLA title, code-named Playground, and as a C++ programmer for Fable 2 Pub Games.

Peters left Microsoft to join Benjamin Ellinger and Rachel Rutherford in team-teaching Game classes at the DigiPen Institute of Technology, and to improve the art and technology of making games. At DigiPen, Peters has radically changed the way the technical side of game classes are taught by introducing an early focus on architecture, rapid iteration, data-driven design, component-based design, and scalable flexible architecture. Peters also began the practice of writing detailed working code samples for students to learn from, and strengthened the technical quality of student games by requiring adherence to professional-level technical certification requirements.

Peters’ professional research focus is game engine technologies. Peters studies graphics technologies, game physics, programming languages, artificial intelligence, architectures, and large-scale project design. He is currently working on a large-scale, component-based game engine which includes a vector-based user interface and graphics system, 3D graphics, advanced 3D physics, a scripting language, visual debugging tools, and a robust content and level editor.

“What separates me from a traditional teacher is also what made me an odd student,” Peters says. “I learn by doing and intuiting, not by rote memorization. I am fundamentally a builder, and teach others how to build. At no other game school could I see, and help build, 50 projects a year.

“The true test of a good architecture is to give the structure to someone, and to see whether, without asking any questions, they can build what they want, and express themselves. Similarly, a good teacher gives the students the foundation and techniques, and lets them discover the rest. At DigiPen, the students regularly exceed expectations, both with what they build and what they learn.”

James Portnow

James Portnow, Adjunct Faculty Member in DigiPen's Department of Game Software Design and Production

Adjunct Faculty, Game Software Design and Production

James Portnow received his Masters of Science from Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, then went on to work for Activision as a designer on the Call of Duty series before raising funds to start his own company, Divide by Zero Games. Recently, he opened Rainmaker Games to help small developers find the right distribution partners for their products.

Portnow has written for every major trade publication, including Gamasutra, The Escapist, and Edge. Portnow is known for his theories on design and has been asked to speak at universities, companies, and conferences around the world, including GDC, AGDC, PAX, SxSW, and LOGIN. He is the co-author of a book on Invented Languages being published by Oxford University Press.

"Teaching at DigiPen has been an incredible experience for me, coming from the industry (and still active in it). The rigors of DigiPen engender students who care. I have learned from my students and have watched them change my understanding of the meaning of 'game' within these walls. Not only are the games of the future being created here, but the very future of the medium itself."

Selected articles:

Rachel Rutherford

Senior Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Rachel Rutherford team-teaches game development classes with two other former Microsoft software developers, Chris Peters and Benjamin Ellinger. While Peters and Ellinger focus on the technical and design aspects of game development, respectively, Rutherford focuses on the team and producing aspects. Together, this immerses student teams in leading-edge game development practices.

Rutherford has a B.A. in Rhetoric from U.C. Berkeley, and studied Piano and Dance for three years at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music. She is an ensemble theater director who has studied and directed theater in Seattle, Poland, Wales, Russia, and Denmark, and has assistant-directed at the Seattle Opera, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Intiman Theatre (with Tony-award winning director Bartlett Sher), and the Grotowski-lineage physical theatre company, Akropolis Performance Lab. She also taught Acting, Movement, and Shakespeare through Bellevue College's Continuing Education department for seven years.

Rutherford is a professional software and game creator. She has worked at Xerox PARC, Apple Computer, ImMIX, and Microsoft Game Studios, primarily as a program manager. She has published game titles on the PC, web, Xbox, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Surface, as well as in traditional media such as card, board, magnet, and spinner games. She worked for eight years in Microsoft Game Studios, where she was a program manager in the Kids Games group, the Action/Arcade/Strategy group, the Sports Games Studio, and the Casual Games Group's first-party studio, Carbonated Games. For two of those years she was stationed in Sydney, Australia, where she worked for Microsoft with Australian game companies.

Rutherford's professional focus is on teams as chaotic systems. She studies how to increase the accleration rate of breakthroughs and phase shifts in teams. She is a Certified Associate Core Director of the McCarthy Core Protocols system for high-performance teams, and was in fact one of the early members of McCarthy Technologies, co-leading Software Development Bootcamps and teaching the Core Protocol system for 12 years. She also offers Core Protocol trainings for local CEOs, venture capitalists, leadership teams, game teams, and charitable organizations.

"What I love about DigiPen students is their integrity and passion," Rutherford says. "The caliber and dedication of DigiPen's game developers must be experienced to be believed. DigiPen is the top game college in the world. Outwardly plain, consisting mostly of computer labs, it is full of haggard luminous programmers, glorious emergent games, and a monastic single-mindedness. It is a conservatory training, a special forces one; elite, grueling, punishing, virtuosic, and culminating in a graduate-level math/physics/computer science education with four year-long completed games.

"I believe that inside this rigorous game programmer training, inside game development itself, a new kind of artist is being born, and with it a new kind of art. We are not training these game developers for the industry that exists. We are training them for the one that they will create."

Game and product credits:

  • Firefly, a demo by Microsoft, deployed on Microsoft Surface.
  • Hop-It!, a web game by Microsoft, on
  • Solitaire In Motion, a web game by Microsoft, on
  • You Know It! Trivia 2, a web game by Microsoft, on
  • Mythbots, the prototype of an Xbox 360 game by Microsoft
  • NHL Rivals 2004, an Xbox game by Microsoft, shipped retail
  • NBA Live 2003, an Xbox game by Microsoft, shipped retail
  • Reach For The Stars II, the prototype of a PC game, by Microsoft
  • Roller Hockey, the prototype of a PC game, by Microsoft
  • Horrorland and Say Cheese And Die, prototypes of two PC games, based on the Goosebumps book series, by Microsoft
  • Mountain, River, Wonderland, Factory, and two other kids' adventure game prototypes, by Microsoft
  • Over 100 children's educational games in traditional media (card games, board games, magnet games, and spinner games) by Intelligy
  • Workspaces, a demo for the Macintosh IIcx, by Apple
  • Hummingbird, a demo for the Macintosh IIcx, by Apple
  • The VideoCube, an $80,000 high-end realtime Mac-based video-editing system, by ImMIX

Jen Sward

Associate Dean, Game Software Design and Production
Principal Lecturer, Game Software Design and Production

Jen Sward trained to be an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the University of California, Davis, receiving a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. After completing school, she worked for three years as a programmer and project manager specializing in fiber optics and satellite communications for the Naval Electronics Systems Command in Vallejo, CA.

Sward left to work for the next 15 years in the video game industry as a manager, project leader, producer, and designer at companies such as LucasArts Entertainment, Westwood Studios, Philips New Media and RealTime Associates. Sward worked on the first “talky” game (Loom) released in the United States. She has also worked on real-time strategy games, adventure games, puzzle games, and console games, focusing on user-centric design. Later, she combined her game design and electrical engineering skills while working at LeapFrog Toys, designing online user experiences for parents and children, and developing new technologies for electronic educational toys.

She is currently an Associate Dean for Game Design at DigiPen, where she teaches in the Game Design and Software Production Department. As Program Director for the Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Bachelor of Arts in Game Design, Sward constantly plans and develops curriculum across all media. She was also the International Game Developers (IGDA) Seattle Sputnik leader for four years, coordinating and leading meetings for local professional game developers on a monthly basis.

“One of the best reasons for teaching at DigiPen is the passion and commitment of the students to their education and to the game industry," Sward says. "It makes it more challenging for us as instructors, as they are constantly pushing the cutting-edge of technology and game development, and thereby constantly pushing us as well."

“Most recently, DigiPen has started the Bachelor of Science in Game Design and the Bachelor of Arts in Game Design programs, which I was highly involved in developing. It's a passion of mine to see great games get made and to see students receive the training they need.”

Courses offered by this department:

Course descriptions from all departments: