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Humans of the Hilltop: Ethan Ham

Ethan Ham, chairman of the interactive media department, worked on “The Sims” before coming to Bradley. Photo via Scott Cavanah

Before he settled into the classroom, Ethan Ham, chairperson of the interactive media and game design department, was developing videogames for multiple companies across the country.

Previously working as a game designer, programmer and producer, Ham is no stranger to the gaming and media industry.

“I worked at a couple of game companies, but Electronic Arts would be the most famous one,” Ham said. “[At Electronic Arts], I worked in their Maxis Studio which did ‘The Sims’ and ‘Sim City.’”

After spending some time developing games, he made the transition to academia and taught at City College in New York for 11 years until eventually landing at Bradley.

“What caught my eye about Bradley is the fact that we have a game design major,” Ham said. “I taught a game class at City College, but we didn’t have majors [in game design], so every time I worked with someone, it was new to them, and then they went on to do whatever they were majoring in … I was excited about the possibility of being able to go deeper and work longer with students in the area [of game design].”

Ham said being at Bradley allows him opportunities he never had while working in the industry. Aside from collaborating with students, the chance to experiment with games instead of worrying about selling them is a major plus.

“I work with our freshman, and that is fun because they are just starting their careers here at Bradley,” Ham said. “They’re interactive media majors, animation majors, game design majors, and it’s their first encounter with what we do.” 

As a former student of Ham, as well as someone working under his sponsorship in the Game Design Club, Kelly Sofian said Ham is a quality teacher who motivates his students.

“He knows what he’s talking about,” Sofian, president of the game design club, said. “He really does want his students to go far. He can be a little tough with some things, but that’s because he wants to push the students farther.”

 Along with teaching, Ham is currently working on designing a game of his own.

“It actually got sparked with our capstone project when we were bouncing around ideas,” Ham said. “What drives [the idea of the game] are laser-protected colored goggles that filter the colors, and what I can see isn’t necessarily what you can see.”

Currently, the game is in the prototype stage, and Ham said he is currently on prototype 12 so far.

“It’s part of the process of making games,” Ham said. “You just try something and you keep on working on it.”

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