Hello! I'm Jim Verhaeghe.
In my 20-year career as both a video game developer and computer science teacher, I’ve had a front-row seat to many advances in interactive technologies. The recent acceleration in extended reality (XR) applications led me to author and teach an XR-focused course that has been adopted by Washington State as its approved curriculum. I believe we’re at the beginning of a very exciting phase in the cycle of these technologies, and am keen to deepen and update my knowledge of the space.
I began my career in the video game industry with a ten-year stint at Nintendo of America, initially as a Game Play Counselor. Before the advent of the internet, Nintendo had a team of representatives available via telephone to help customers if they were stuck in a game. I had the pleasure and privilege of getting paid to play games and talk to people about them for seven years. I then took roles in Nintendo’s testing and Developer Support departments while pursuing my bachelor’s degree. I got my first exposure to virtual reality there, in the form of Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy - an absolute flop of a platform.
Upon graduation from the University of Washington I worked in video game development for Amaze Entertainment in the U.S. and Ideaworks 3D in England. Over the course of eight years l was employed initially as a programmer, then lead programmer, working on titles such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Sims. My final years in the industry were as a producer and development manager.
A major component of my career was creating tools for game designers and developers. One major example was the game engine I co-wrote for the Game Boy Advance platform while at Amaze Entertainment. It was subsequently updated for use on the Nintendo DS and was used for more than 10 years. Another tool I was responsible for made games more data driven - similar to what Unity is today, but on a smaller scale. I led a team that built a program that allowed level designers to look at the art of the level, place objects and update states, and write simple scripts that would be read into the engine when we compiled the code. This made the creation of our games much faster, as our level designers could test their levels themselves until they were happy. I wrote the engine interface components, working closely with the team and designers to make it the best possible experience while keeping the code streamlined. I took this knowledge of design engine platforms with me when I moved to London in 2003. It was there where I used this knowledge again to convert The Sims’ object placement program, Edith, to work for the small scale Brew platforms for mobile phones.