Serious Game Alumni Interview #5: Derek DeMaiolo


Much like his twin brother, Daniel, Derek DeMaiolo’s roots began somewhere other than gaming. DeMaiolo has been working with creative tools from an early age, eventually enrolling at Youngstown State University to study Media and Interface Design. “The transition from web design/graphic design,” he said, “really meshed with software development.” It was his solid background in several related fields that helped him prosper once he enrolled in Telecommunications, Information Studies, and Media MA program, as well as the serious game graduate certificate at MSU.

Derek feels that the people in charge of the serious game courses work well together to open the world of game development. While he had acquired multimedia skills before, the program fostered within him higher level thinking and concepts. Many of the courses, specifically Game Design and Development II and Foundations of Serious Games, taught him the core principles of game design and how to embed educational content within game mechanics, while also undergoing quick, sometimes sleepless development cycles, crucial “survival” skills for his job at Circle 1 Network.

“Most game studios are not looking to train and want prospective developers with experience making games. The SGC program covers this and more including techniques in HCI, fundamentals of game design, and fast-paced project atmospheres – something any future designer better be ready for when starting in this industry.”

As a game producer at Circle 1 Network, an edutainment company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, DeMaiolo wears many hats. From being a project manager to a UX designer to community manager, he’s in charge of coordinating supervising, and developing multiple educational software products for KidsCom, a division of the Circle 1 Network. But he also designs game mechanics, creates UI art, and conducts thorough QA testing and debugging for mobile games and apps. Of course, this is just a short list of some of the things DeMaiolo finds himself doing during his job.

Despite all the different roles DeMaiolo takes on at work, he truly enjoys developing games with educational goals. Now having completed at least six titles, including math education, nutrition education, and educational concentration subjects, DeMaiolo takes pride in the fact that his games have always had an educational objective. He finds it “extremely rewarding knowing that the games I develop are not only fun but teach the players something, too.”

“Whether it’s helping players learn more about mathematics or nutrition education, I find serious games to be extremely valuable tools that will help shape the way we look at learning.”

Overall, the SGC has had a strong impact on DeMaiolo’s life. While owing a lot to the program and the valuable lessons learned, DeMaiolo also had a chance to attend the international Meaningful Play conferences hosted at Michigan State University in 2010 and 2012, which he recalls as a “great experience for anyone interested in working in the industry and building a strong network,” especially since it’s “right in your backyard.” DeMaiolo believes that the key to success for serious game students lies in networking. “If you can attend conferences like Meaningful Play or GDC,” he says, “definitely do so because you can really make some strong connections there, too. Also, always contribute to and make the most of your teams in the program and give it your all because the industry is very small and the connections you make with your classmates in East Lansing could ripple later on in your life anywhere, anytime.”


For more information on the programs attended by Derek and Daniel DeMaiolo, please visit the MA site or Serious Games certificate page. If you’d like to attend Meaningful Play 2014 or submit a proposal for the conference, please see here.

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