Games Are Serious Business

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Games Are Serious Business

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One of the things I hear a lot is that teaching game programming is just i gimmick – something to get kids interested but not a serious course leading to serious things. It occurred to me the other day that people don’t have the same reaction to video production courses. After all we know that the movie/TV industry is huge. And there is that whole “news media” and change the world though the arts thing going. But what I think people don’t understand is a) it requires serious computer science to create video games, b) the video game industry is not just huge but larger than the movie industry and c) the same skills involved in video game creation are transferable to other fields.

Colleges and universities seem to get this. See this interesting article More colleges in the US than ever offering gaming degrees. One good teaser quote (highlight mine):

"Today, video games are not only the fastest-growing entertainment medium, they are also increasingly used in education and business for professional training and e-learning," Rich Taylor, senior vice president for communications and industry affairs at the ESA, said in a statement. "These new college programs underscore the importance of the video games industry, which is well-poised to create additional employment and professional opportunities in the coming years."

Writing computer/video games is hard work. It also involves a lot of things that I think open the door for cross curriculum involvement. Graphic arts for images. Music for background sounds. And of course story telling. Every good game has a story. Why can’t students create educational games as well? You know they’ll have to learn it well to teach it to others. They may have fun doing it and they will definitely be after their friends to play it.

There are resources out there too. See this previous post for direct links to curriculum on the Academic Resource Center.

Search using the XNA and Game Programming tags on my blog to find more.

  • ... and writing GOOD music is a serious business too!

  • I completely agree that the game programming industry is huge. What I find most kids don't understand is that making games isn't the same as playing games. They don't think they have to know the physics, the artistry, the English degree, let alone the programming.

    The reason I don't make games is because of that very reason, I'm not very interested in physics engines, artistry and so on.

    I tried XNA a couple years ago and I was totally lost, though I admit that I wasn't trying too hard.

  • Game development is not as easy as a lot of students think. As you ppoint out it requires lots of other things. For this reason it is a real team effort in most successful organizations. This is itself something valueable for students to learn. And it does make it clear that math and science especially physics is iimportant.

    We do have a lot more teaching/learning matterials for XNA now BTW. Both at creators.xna.com and at the academic sites.

  • Alfred, Great post!

    Game development is the entire reason why I got into computer science. It clicked that people made games by writing computer programs. So I wanted to learn how to do that.

    Of course, my day job is all about ecommerce and enterprise system development but as a hobby I still enjoy working with game technologies. The whole reason why I got into this line of work was because of video games I played while in junior high many years ago.

    Physics and Math are skills that are required to write some of the game engines, but at the same time some of those can be plugged in by folks who have done the heavy lifting.

    For students that are learning math and physics concepts it can be helpful to create a small demo that simulates what is being learned. A lot of times the actual code can be simplier than the math behind it.

    Again, great post!  Keep up the good work.

  • Last year you posted a couple of videos of game company execs talking about what they look for in a new hire.  I show these to my programming students.  The vids open some eyes.  Math, physics, matrices, more math, writing skills, yuck!

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