My Name: Matthew Guzdial
My Major: Computational Media (CM)
My Hometown: Decatur, Georgia
My Certificate: Social/Personality Psychology
I like to create.
I also love to work hard, and this combination often leads me to too little sleep. That’s not all that important however; because when I am excited about something, I pour myself into it to the point where I can forget about everything else. Then, when I have the finished product that I can show off to people and see them use and interact with it, I feel fantastic. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Computational Media is unlike any other degree program.
It’s not a design degree, and it’s not a computer science degree. Instead, it shows you directly how to design and create digital media, giving one an unparalleled understanding of how all the various pieces can mesh together to create something as beautiful as it is functional. And more importantly, it shows you how those two things are intertwined.
My major is at the interdisciplinary crossroads of design and programming.
In middle school, I spent much of my time making Flash Animations, generally one per each holiday, and showing them off to all my friends filled me with joy. I’ve found that feeling again in CM, though my interests now dwell towards more of video game creation, as I find the added level of interaction (more than just watching something) to be really interesting and clearly much more a part of the digital age. I believe there’s nothing better than CM when it comes to understanding every part of the creation of interactive digital pieces, as no other major helps you simultaneously develop both your skill as a designer and as a programmer, to see a problem like an artist and a programmer, and lately merging those perspectives into something innovative and insightful.
My classes reintroduce me to my passions.
My favorite class so far has been LCC 2700: Intro to CM. It’s where I finally felt at home in my major and felt completely confident in that I had found the perfect place for me. In the class, you undergo a rigorous schedule of 6 projects in 5 different computer languages. The projects covered everything from an interactive narrative game to a non-traditional drawing tool to a chat bot. And I got to put forth all of the computer science and design skills I had learned in earlier classes in order to create brand new exciting things.
It's difficult to pick just one project I liked from Intro to CM, as all of them made us work quickly and creatively under constraints - which is honestly one of my favorite things to do. It might sound a bit weird, but working under constraints and a bit of pressure leads me to produce much more interesting work than I would otherwise, and I have fun doing it!
But if I had to choose one, I'd probably go with the Atari project, which was the final assignment for the course. We had to write an Atari game in the language of Basic for an Atari Emulator, and the whole game file had to be less than 4 KB in size. This project, of course, directly fit all of my favorite things in a project: constraints, creativity, and a time limit. However, on this project I also got to work in a team and take a lead role in our group’s work, which made it all the more fun as we got to bounce ideas off each other and support each other to create a more creatively developed end product. If you like, you can download the .bas.bin Atari Emulator file here (it requires an Atari Emulator to play). The project in particular really epitomizes the twin aspects of design and computer science in CM and how the two had to come together in order to be creative on the CS side and respective of the design constraints.
The Georgia Tech faculty is always there to help me achieve my goals.
Ian Bogost, Digital Media Professor, is definitely the reason that I’m interested in Video Games. Coming to Georgia Tech, I expected that I would lean towards digital animation, having focused on that throughout middle school and early high school. But Dr. Bogost’s passion for games sold me completely on the medium and now there’s no going back.
The organizations that I’m involved in give me an outlet and allow me to further pursue my passions.
I am the current speaker for VGDev, the video game development club here at Tech. We are a completely student-run organization, and we make and finish video games all within a single semester. So far, we’ve managed to complete an average of 5 per semester, in every genre from FPS to puzzle platformer to role-playing. By far, working on the games for VGDev is one of the things I look forward to most in my week as I’m actively learning skills that will help me in my later career and having a blast while doing so. I’m also involved in the Sci-Fi Radio Lab. As a contributor, I appear on the show to give my opinion on various issues in the Science Fiction realm, and I also produce content such as Science Fiction Radio Dramas.
Undergraduate research is key.
I'm currently working on Living Room Play, which is a sub-set of Computational Play, a project from the Adam Lab at Georgia Tech centered on creating digital agents that are able to play with people. My research in particular has the long term goal of creating a game in which one cooperatively plays with a digital agent through an avatar within a virtual living room using virtual objects in pretend object play (for example, pretending cardboard tubes are swords and whacking each other with them). Said avatar is controlled by your own movements, read in by the Microsoft Kinect. So far on the project, I've written a custom thumb and finger detection algorithm in order to figure out when a user's hands are opened and when they're closed; and I’ve created the virtual living room, which can be played currently by two individuals by making use of two Kinects over a network. The CM program has helped a lot in this respect as the two sections of the project I'm responsible for - the Kinect interface and the virtual living room - directly correspond to computer science and design. It’s my job to make the two work together in both instances.
Our city is diverse.
By far my favorite thing about Atlanta is the diversity. Go ten miles in Atlanta and you can be in an almost entirely different city, filled with its own specific culture. From Little Five to Downtown, there’s a huge range of worlds. I also absolutely love the trees with Georgia Tech being the greenest campus in the country and Atlanta also being known as the “City in the Trees.”
My advice to prospective CM freshmen:
To future CM Students, I would advise you to know what you’re getting into and utilize the major to its fullest potential. Don’t become a CM if you’re solely interested in being a 3D modeler or in becoming a digital artist. You’re missing out on literally half of what the major is about. Instead, embrace the other, more unfamiliar aspects and recognize that, just like anything else, computer science can be a tool for creation that can give you far more control than a piece of software ever could bring.
My name is Matthew, and I am liberal arts!