Chris Whaley

Visual & Game Programming

The Art Institute of Phoenix

christopher d whaley

Don’t ever let anybody outwork you. Chris Whaley , Faculty , The Art Institute of Phoenix
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I knew I was going to be a video game professional after I read my first programming book and was able to create what seemed like magic on my Atari 800 computer. It was an amazing experience the first time I was able to control characters and environments with simple programming code.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

As much as possible I run my classrooms in the same way that I run my game studios. I explain and model professional behavior and that is what I expect from my students. In the vast majority of cases the students  exceed those expectations.  

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

In Team Production we go through the entire design and development process from concept to bug testing. It’s a 3 quarter sequence of intense, professional experience. This “Game Studio” approach inspires the students to do their very best because it is exactly what they want. They dream to become video game professionals and the closer we bring them to that experience the more immersed they become.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Video games are created by teams of experts from various fields, particularly art and programming. Especially in the Team Production sequence but also in some other classes we have these groups collaborate on major projects just as they do in professional game studios. This collaboration is a key experience for the students and prepares them for working in the kinds of team environments that they will encounter as they progress in their career. 

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

I hope that by treating them as professionals and expecting professional behavior and results that I am providing them with an experience that will increase their confidence. That confidence is something they may need down the road as the career of a video game professional is not always smooth.

The most important advice I would give a student is rather simple: Don’t ever let anybody outwork you.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I started my career as a game designer and game programmer.  Along my career path I became a Producer, then a Studio Director for Sony Playstation, and ultimately the Owner/Director of several independent studios. I have produced many Top 5 selling hits and plenty of duds as well. This is a career arc that many students can relate to and hopefully it helps give them a sense that their dreams really are possible to attain.