Take Five with Teddy Diefenbach ’06

Teddy Dief


Teddy Diefenbach ’06 is a videogame designer and writer, and the creative director at Square Enix in Montréal. Formerly a designer at Disney and game narrative researcher at University of Southern California, he co-created the award-winning role-playing game Hyper Light Drifter. He is a co-founder of the L.A. game collective Glitch City and has hosted and produced the Square Bowl charity, IndieCade Innovation Awards and Idle Thumbs’ Playscape podcast. His work has been covered by Wired, Vice, The Verge, Forbes, The Escapist, The A.V. Club, The Guardian and more.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I would describe myself back then as studious and aimless — a transfer student trying to play catchup. I took an absurd amount of credits each semester. I had no idea where I was headed career-wise, but being at Columbia afforded me the privilege to just study what interested me. I studied music and computer science, and learned Japanese. Fortunately, these all inform my work now for a game development studio headquartered in Japan.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I lived in an 11-person suite in Wallach. I think I was pretty antisocial with my suitemates, but I suppose I was at least a quiet neighbor back then. That being said, I remember a lot of pleasant nights in the common room, drunkenly playing the piano and singing with friends from my a cappella group, Clefhangers.

What class do you most remember and why?

I took a rare elective in the computer science department on videogames — that’s where I made my first one from scratch (I don’t recommend this approach). I pulled more all-nighters for that class than any other, and the extra work my team was putting in was optional. There’s something magical about working all night not because you MUST, but because you WANT TO.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

Judging by time spent, I’d say the music practice rooms in Lerner Hall. But my best memories on campus were probably in the Lerner Party Space, in the basement. A lot of good events and a cappella concerts happened in that otherwise blank space. For all that people talk about their love of the beautiful quad and the Steps, I always preferred seeing what the students created for themselves, and that space was a blank canvas.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I stretched myself too thin with my course load. I think I would have left more time to breathe, and to take in more of the things that were happening 24/7 on campus! New York City can put the hustle in you pretty fast. I think I could have gotten just as far as I have today with a little more room left for sitting on the Steps and chatting.