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James Finley


James Finley

Associate Professor, Simulation and Game Development

Norco College School of Math, Engineering, Computer Science & Game Development

For many people, James Finley has a dream career. By day, he is the studio director and CEO of Broken Circle Studios, a company he founded eight years ago to develop video games and simulation experiences for smartphones, next generation consoles, and PCs. By night/other days, he teaches avid gaming fans everything they need to know in order to be successful in the field of video game development. James’ former pupils walk the halls of industry giants like Ubisoft, EA, Blizzard, Riot, and more. It’s all pretty amazing for someone who never intended to go into teaching!

While pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Systems with a minor in Information Management at Cal State San Bernardino in 2002, James volunteered to be one of the first students in their pilot video game development program. As a result of his involvement in developing the curriculum, the university asked him to be an instructional student. He later began teaching at a local community college, followed by the Art Institute of Santa Monica, where he also served as assistant academic director. James has spent half of his 12+ years of teaching at Norco College. He currently teaches Intro to Game Programming, Rapid Prototyping for Video Games, Game Engine Scripting 1 and Game Engine Scripting 2. Though he wasn’t even sure at first if he would enjoy teaching, it didn’t take him long to fall in love with it.

“Game development is a competitive, business-oriented field,” says James. “When there are millions of dollars on the line, you must consistently create quality work while meeting tough deadlines and drawing inside the lines. It’s exciting and challenging but also exacting. In the classroom, there’s just unfettered creativity, driving passion, and the joy of learning. It balances me out and rejuvenates me. Being with my students reminds me of why I went into the high-stakes world of game development, so that when I go back to my other job I do so with a clear mind and renewed sense of passion.

A programmer who is "fluent" in more than 14 different programming languages, James has filled many positions in various companies that develop games and simulation software, including Chief Technology Officer, Lead Programmer, Associate Producer, and more. As the head of Broken Circle Studios, he leads a team of software engineers, sound designers, 2D and 3D artists, and business strategists that counts powerhouse brands such as Adult Swim, Netease, Sony, and Saban among their clients. James has a Master's degree in Software Engineering from Cal State Fullerton, and is pursuing his Doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Change from USC. With his hectic schedule, his favorite pastime is spending time relaxing with his wife Roxana.

"People ask me all the time what it takes to be successful in the field," says James. "I think my answer might be counter to what some other people think. When I was younger, I was watching an interview on television with a popular basketball player. He said that he'd always loved playing basketball but the moment he was forced to play it, he stopped loving it. I actually think it's important to identify the things that you're good at versus what you enjoy doing, and be mindful of how they overlap. For example, I'm skillful at being a software engineer but am fascinated by the art and animation aspect of gaming. I leave that aspect in the realm of mystery though, so that I can continue taking solace in what I love, while taking advantage of what I'm good at. I think balance is a powerful asset to have when pursuing success."

To view the Game Development program page, click here.



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