Playfully into the future

Cologne Game Lab

Text and illustration by Raven Rusch


Schanzenviertel. Right in Mülheim’s backyard, there is a breeding ground for creativity. On the grounds of the historic Carlswerk, new life has sprouted from old bricks. The Cologne Game Lab is an institute of the TH-Köln, and has moved into the new TH-Köln Campus in 2014 to join the International Film School in bringing higher education to Mülheim. It was founded by ex-KISD professor Björn Bartholdy and comp-lit-guy Gundolf S. Freyermuth. The pair must be some of the coolest professors out there.


This year I was lucky enough to have been accepted into the Bachelor Program of the CGL. We (I am happy to be able to say) have made it our mission to study digital games and interactive media. To learn to create and to establish a new academic discipline of Game Studies. That was a mouthful, but really, it’s great here and I couldn’t be happier.


The students and the professors are all very international, I assume you have noticed by now that this article is written in English. We have people from Brazil, China, Egypt, Canada and the USA, to name just a few nationalities, all coming together to study what they love. We are a small and very young institute for the moment, and so we are a very tightly-knit community. All the professors know all the students and all the students know each other. It’s very inspiring to be around so many talented people. Fitting really, that the historic Carlswerk should be host to us, when you know a bit of trivia, specifically, that the first transatlantic cable was manufactured right there.

One of the questions that we concern ourselves with, is whether digital games will be the defining medium of the century. What does that mean? Are digital games the medium that will have shaped the century the most, culturally and socially. Whatever the answer, we need to study digital games the same way we study literature, theatre and film. The CGL is the first institute in Germany entirely dedicated to that endeavour. Germany is a little behind in that regard when compared to France and Scandinavia. But we are catching up and we’re doing it right here in Mülheim. Paradigm shifting and all that, it certainly feels futuristic.


I suppose you might be wondering what exactly it is that we do. I can only really speak for the Bachelor Program but here we go. Half of every semester, we study together, learning theoretical and practical knowledge in different fields. Game Art, Game Design and Game Programming, some economics and entrepreneurship too, because the video game industry is a highly competitive field. And then, we also pursue the study of digital games from a scientific perspective, making the field of Game Studies a reality. The other half of the semester we spend in groups, applying what we have learned and teaching anything else to ourselves – to actually make a game. Of course, things often don’t go as planned and as we have learned from one of our Game Design Professors, Bernd Diemer; making games is hard.


We are all very busy with our projects this half of the semester, but we still find the time to hang out together and have a Kölsch or two. Student life is pretty great. The world has opened up and come to Mülheim, again. 

©Raven Rusch, 2018
©Raven Rusch, 2018

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