UVNS School Director, Genesis Raña, said: “It’s the Life We Transform and Creativity We Nurture” – Interview

University of the Visayas New School (UVNS) is already enrolling students who want to learn game development and also e-Sports. It was announced back in May that UVNS will start a new program for e-Sports and game development. UV is the first school to have e-Sports and game development programs for Senior High in Cebu, Philippines.

In July 1, I was invited by a friend of mine from BreakMyGame, Jamzkie Ria, to speak at the UVNS orientation. And I had a chance to sit and talk with the UVNS School Director, Genesis Raña, to talk about his motivation to make this Senior High program happen.

What motivated you to set this up and make this program happen?

Genesis: Actually, I’m a graphic designer and also a gamer in my early days. And then of course, there are certain aspects in school and education that are really worrying and very outdated. I mean, there’s this disconnect between our generation, the younger generation, and the academic institutions. So we can say that either they don’t have any idea what’s happening around the gaming world or the new breed of entertainment, especially e-Sports.

There are so many things happening that the academics or universities or other institutions cannot catch up. Of course, you cannot innovate or react to what you don’t understand. They don’t understand e-Sports. And of course, Arts & Design, it’s always been the least priority of parents. Especially, of course, the industrial age mindset.

Kickstarting this new Senior High program in Cebu for University of the Visayas (UV), were there negative feedback, especially from parents, when they heard there will be this focus on e-Sports, especially Dota 2?

Genesis: 80% of the feedback was really good. And some, those who commented, didn’t even bother to read the articles. But generally, it was very good and it was quite overwhelming, actually. There are some who want to nitpick on everything that we do – those who know the game, or the gaming industry insiders – but my point is, like, we just have to start.

I don’t have to be right, we don’t have to be the perfect school, and I’m just a designer and one of the design principles that I learned was iteration. Of course, some of the great ones who did this was Steve Jobs. They had to fail, I mean, just like in the game, you have to die a hundred times before you can learn. I applied this with the design principle in building the school. I’m not here to say that we’re the perfect school. We iterate, learn from it fast just like in the game, and we adapt.The gaming industry is really a growing industry, so getting into this can really help out new aspiring game developers, especially in Cebu. Do you think the other schools in Cebu will follow like the University of San Carlos or some?

Genesis: I really hope so. I don’t see them as competition, I see them as part of the community. I wish that big [Cebu] universities would go into this because it would legitimize the gaming industry and e-Sports [in our city]. But I don’t think they have the mindset for it, it takes a certain kind of mindset or the way you think. I think differently from the other educators and of course, institutions, because they’re tied down to, shall we say, dogmatic, tried-and-tested, and money making, but that’s my opinion. But I would really wish they’d do it because everyone would be forced step up. 

Education has always been the key for success in our country, and involving gaming in the curriculum makes the Department of Education (DepEd) skeptical about the program. As far as I’ve heard, did you have some challenges having this approved by DepEd?

Genesis: Oh, we had a lively discussion. It’s not that they don’t want e-Sports or their minds are closed. They just don’t understand what e-Sports is or how young people feel about gaming. It’s quite a challenge for them to understand that. Because their method of teaching and thinking are quite different from the gamers.

Because, traditional education penalizes mistakes. Games in the other hand, rewards by challenging you and making you play better. So, I think that’s the difference polarity of thought. Of course, the feedback from games is instantaneous and it’s fast than traditional education where you get your grades after 2 months in which you already failed [laughs].

Do you expect that in the future UV will expand this program as a college course than a program in Senior High?

Genesis: I wish we can do that. But I’m working with what I have right now. Maybe if we get really good mentors, we can get, of course, help from other universities and institutions abroad, then why not?

What do you think the local gaming development need as a whole, especially in university standards?

Genesis: I think, for lack of a better term, I’ll call it “infrastructure”. Of course, we don’t have access to equipment, and we don’t have access to mentor information, and we don’t have access to human funding, and also direct access to e-Sports companies unlike Manila. We don’t have one in Cebu.

Do you think involving UV in the e-Sports scene can also encourage others school to do interschool competitions and tournaments?

Genesis: Yes. In fact, I’m proposing to a company to have that inter-school event in the last week of August.

Do you have any sneak peek of that plan or is it still under-wraps?

Genesis: It’s still off-the-record, but maybe in the next few weeks from now, and a telco is also interested to sponsor.Was it easy to pitch this program because of the K to 12 curriculum?

Genesis: It’s very hard to pitch a new course or for traditional institutions to create a new program because they have this very extensive process. Once they approve them, it’s no longer relevant or it’s not what it was supposed to be…

Like there are these alterations in the process…

Genesis: Yeah, it becomes a monster – Frankenstein. Our advantage is that I’m also the CEO, founder, and of course, program director of UVNS. I move fast, and I don’t have the, shall we say, mental baggage of traditionalists. Of course, I want to experiment and I’m willing to fail. Even willing to put myself out there and of course, there will be haters and trolls and all that – I don’t mind them. Just like Steve Jobs, I don’t listen to the market. My personal opinion of what education should be and what it needs, and I think what it needs right now is we create something.

If we look at it, the atmosphere in this floor, it feels that there’s a lot of creative freedom. Do you encourage this?

Genesis: Yeah! Of course! Apple even recognized us for that. We have very innovative programs, and of course, they define educational excellence not through grades or how many bar topnotchers we have, but it’s the life we transform and creativity we nurture. Of course, there is this factor of being different.

That’s right! That’s what I noticed, it stands out…

Genesis: Apple’s classic ad is “Always think different”. We’re very much different from all the other schools in the Philippines. Even Apple said that we should do what we do because no one is doing it and we’re doing it well. Even if we don’t have a lot of students, pound-for-pound, we have graduated more creatives than other university programs in our third year.

I’m really happy that there’s this Senior High program because it’s only 2 years. Based in our process in the past five years, we are confident that we can create really good graduates. Of course, attitude and character matter, if the students have that then we can really mold good creatives.

It’s time for the Philippines to make big budget games now.

Genesis: Yeah. Because we have the creativity. I think gaming entertainment is really made for the Filipinos, especially those living in Cebu, we have that innate creativity in us. As I said, we are already talented.

Image Source: UVNS Facebook Page

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