Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: David Goodwine


Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

David Goodwine, Academy of Art University’s Distinguished Alumni honoree and executive director for the School of Game Development (GAM), faced an all-too familiar artist-specific situation when he was younger. 

When he told his friends and family he was considering a career in art, he was met with the classic rebuttals: “What are you going to do?” and “How are you going to make money doing this?”

So, instead of listening to himself, Goodwine sought out a career in science instead. 

He graduated from San Diego State with a B.A. in exercise physiology and worked in the industry as a health and fitness director for the San Mateo YMCA, conducted health and fitness testing for the Navy as well as a fitness trainer over the course of eight years. The profession served its purpose, but deep down, he still yearned to pursue art as a career. 

“I’ve always drawn and I was drawing then, but I never kept anything,” he said. “I didn’t have a portfolio. I did it for fun, for people, for events; I didn’t charge for it, I just did it. But most art schools, they want you to have a portfolio. So, I thought I could have never gotten in anyway.”

A chance encounter with an Academy course catalog at a friend’s graduation and Goodwine decided to make the leap. He figured, “If I’m going to do it, I better do it now.” Though he still worked as a fitness trainer at the Pinnacle Fitness Club (now Crunch Fitness next to 79 New Montgomery), Goodwine enrolled in the university’s animation and illustration program where he earned a B.F.A. in 2-D animation. 

“I had to work harder for this degree at the Academy than I did for my science degree,” he said. “It was tough because I was flexing different muscles. But I made a lot of good friends here and my instructors helped get me through everything. It took me a little longer to get done, but it was well worth it.” 

After graduating in 1998, Goodwine left the world of health and fitness for good, art degree in hand. For the first few years, he bounced around between small 2-D animation studios into 3-D feature film companies such as PDI/Dreamworks before landing into game developers such as Electronic Arts and Crystal Dynamics.  

His name is among the credits for Dreamworks’ 3-D feature film, Shrek and games such as Tomb Raider: Legend, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King, Project: Snowblind25 to Life and Legacy of Kain: Defiance

According to Goodwine, many of the projects he’s credited on were on the brink of groundbreaking animations, whether it was identifying and implementing high-definition graphics into a launch title for the newest Xbox or incorporating 3-D visuals onto a 2-D website during the booming dot-com era. 

Even when he was asked to join in developing the School of Game Development for the Academy, Goodwine’s penchant for pioneering carried over in a multitude of ways to benefit the program and its students. The School of Game Development is the only Academy department with a B.S. degree (for game programming) and continues to push boundaries and innovate with collaborative projects across disciplines. 

“Gaming is constantly changing and you’re constantly learning,” he explained.


Distinguished Alumni Award recipient David Goodwine and Dr. Elisa Stephens. Photo by Bob Toy.

Under Goodwine’s overseeing, GAM students are currently developing a number of virtual reality and augmented reality game concepts in conjunction with the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., comic-book creator Stan Lee and award-winning children’s book author, Tony DiTerlizzi. These initiatives will be seen by nationwide audiences and Academy students can attribute the opportunity back to Goodwine’s guidance and forward-thinking projects.

“We give them our knowledge, but they’re the ones that have to do it and get it out there,” he said. “Every single person in this department, and all other departments in this school, they’re doing it. Everything we do is not theory-based, we’re more focused on applying it.” 

Goodwine said that everything he’s done in his career was about application. Even during his time as a fitness trainer and instructor, Goodwine was always a doer and in his decision to make a career change, his natural talents and capabilities finally aligned with his true passion. 

He said he doesn’t necessarily attribute his achievements as “amazing,” but simply considers it great to be a part of something that wide audiences get to enjoy. More than anything, Goodwine says he enjoys teaching and seeing his students progress and move on to work for companies advocating for the same level of innovation he encourages and continues to pursue.   

“When I was younger, did I think I’d be working on any of these projects? Not really,” he said. “I had always thought about [art] as what I would like to be doing. I tell students this all the time: Yes, long hours, crazy amounts of work, but have I ever thought, ‘No, I shouldn’t be doing this?’ No, never.”