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Computer Games and Traditional CS Courses

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the terrible-terrible-games dept.

Education 173

drroman22 writes "Schools are working to put real-world relevance into computer science education by integrating video game development into traditional CS courses. Quoting: 'Many CS educators recognized and took advantage of younger generations' familiarity and interests for computer video games and integrate related contents into their introductory programming courses. Because these are the first courses students encounter, they build excitement and enthusiasm for our discipline. ... Much of this work reported resounding successes with drastically increased enrollments and student successes. Based on these results, it is well recognized that integrating computer gaming into CS1 and CS2 (CS1/2) courses, the first programming courses students encounter, is a promising strategy for recruiting and retaining potential students." While a focus on games may help stir interest, it seems as though game development studios are as yet unimpressed by most game-related college courses. To those who have taken such courses or considered hiring those who have: what has your experience been?

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None (0, Offtopic)

KamuZ (127113) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223250)

My country is not into game development (Mexico). Lately there is a boom on games for mobiles but not huge.
They actually offer in a university some courses to specialize in this but is a joke.

My interest in video games came from playing them and being curious on how it worked.
I still play video games but suddently i lost interest in creating any but i still code for a living.

Listen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30223986)

If you suck at Counter-Strike, taking some course is not going to help you - one time a noob, always a noob. 'nuff said.

I program games. (5, Informative)

clinko (232501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223270)

I program games. I'm coding right now in fact.

In less than 6 hours, I will be going to the office to program insurance software.

If you want to program games, do it for fun.

If you want to eat, bone up on your Insert/Update/Select/Deletes.

Re:I program games. (1)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223352)

Well said.

Re:I program games. (2, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223496)

You can make better money in games than in insurance software, and yes, I've done both professionally. To make better money in games, though, you have to work for one of the big studios, or get really really lucky.

So if you want your family to eat well, and never to have to see them, go work for a big game studio.

Re:I program games. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226586)

You can make better money in games than in insurance software, and yes, I've done both professionally. To make better money in games, though, you have to work for one of the big studios, or get really really lucky.

You also have to be damn good so you can climb the ladder. As a peon, you'll get worked until you burn out and then spat out the other side, with nothing to show for it in the end.

Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer to avoid the sweatshops...

Re:I program games. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30223564)

I work for a game studio, one of the big 3's own in fact. I also have a gaming degree.

I've been working on database-backed tools for a few years now, but that aside, I, like the others around the studio, eat just fine.

My degree's primary purpose, as far as I'm concerned, was to tick HR drone's boxes. It was also three of the most fun years of my life, and gave me plenty of time to do my own coding flights of fancy.

The main problem in our case was that when you try to draw in new blood, you generally lower the lowest common denominator, which, if that's what's being catered to, just wastes the time of those who cared enough to already have an interest.

Few of the senior staff have degrees.

Re:I program games. (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224856)

Of course few of the senior staff have degrees, they most likely came into the industry 10-20 years ago when there weren't any courses related to game development.

Re:I program games. (2, Interesting)

wisty (1335733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223586)

I think we were talking about computer science, not JavaSchool. Sure, there's lots of IUSD or CRUD work, but that's not a university education.

2D / 3D algorithms, AI, DSLs, parsing, sorting and searching, network protocols, and so on. Those are all useful in games. They are also key concepts in a lot of computer science.

Re:I program games. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224890)

Yet most colleges don't even go over SQL and database. Which still has pleanty of computer science in the topic. DB call can be just as advanced a any other program. As well teach people to think in agragate. However most of the people I interview cannot do a join

Re:I program games. (2, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224944)

Yet most colleges don't even go over SQL and database. Which still has pleanty of computer science in the topic. DB call can be just as advanced a any other program. As well teach people to think in agragate. However most of the people I interview cannot do a join

SQL + Normalization : Set theory + discrete maths.

Re:I program games. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225058)

It frightens me that someone as inarticulate as you is doing hiring for any company.

Re:I program games. (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225810)

I guess I'll trust you, since you say you interview a lot of people. I can't imagine a 4 year degree program NOT having a database course. Is there a CS grad out there without a copy of Date's Intro to Database Systems book?

Re:I program games. (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226216)

Im in a 2 year program for network management, in a community college, in nebraska, and Im learning sql....

Re:I program games. (1)

Avalain (1321959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226772)

I'm a CS university grad and even though I did a database course in school, the practical database knowledge I acquired in that course was almost non-existent. I only realized how little I actually knew when I looked back at how much I learned in my first 3 months of work.

Re:I program games. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225208)

Exactly. The Viewpoints Research Institute did some introduction to programming things using Squeak eToys (Smalltalk development with a nice UI). After an afternoon, most of the children (ages 7-14) were better programmers than most of the undergrads that I've come across with a year of Java. They understood the concepts, but not necessarily the names for them. One of the first things the children were taught to do was create an algorithm for navigating a car around a track. They're basically playing, but their playground is an object-oriented IDE.

It doesn't teach them the theory, but it gives them the foundation to understand why the theory is useful.

Re:I program games. (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225780)

Yep. My school's AI course was all done in the context of game programming and was fantastic. It is nice being able to immediately see your code in action (literally). You also get a good lesson in practical space vs. time vs. developer time trade-offs. That said, I think your main point is that you don't go to school to learn how to program "insurance software," you are there to learn about the theory that let's you program anything. If a prof can do that within the context of video games, then that's awesome.

Re:I program games. (3, Funny)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223758)

On the other hand, when I'm at home I code Inserts/Updates/Selects/Deletes, and in an hour I'll be going to the office to program a game.

Ok, ok, the SQL is part of a web-based game I rarely work on in my free time, I normally spend my free time playing games, but it's still funny how opposed it is to what you said.

Re:I program games. (2, Insightful)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226374)

I program games. I just came back from the office from doing it 11 hours straight because of an upcoming milestone. I went onto MSN to complain about my life. My collage roommate asked me what I did today. I said that one of my tasks was modifying arrows to make them impale enemies "just right". Until his gleeful reaction, I had completely forgotten how lucky I was.

Re:I program games. (1)

BenoitRen (998927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226462)

How did you learn to program games? I'm struggling to find non-introductory documentation on how to program them the object-oriented way. I use C++ with SDL.

Video Games vs Reality (4, Interesting)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223278)

I think the lines between video games and reality are becoming more and more blurred. There are a lot of really interesting UI interactions I've seen a lot of "serious" apps riff from the gaming community with great success. It think it's important, as a lot of the younger folks these days are learning their computer chops from games, and the transfer of knowledge is pretty significant.

During grad school, I worked in an HCI lab with a pal that used the Doom engine to do experiments on people's ability to wayfind in a virtual environment. I know it's not game development, but it made for a really interesting experiment. I'm assuming there were lots of hours spent "testing the environment" as well.

Re:Video Games vs Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224382)

Hopefully you mean "ripped", not "riff"? AFAIK a riff is a repeated musical phrase, generally played on guitar.

Re:Video Games vs Reality (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224766)

Heh - that's funny. The musician in me bubbling up to the surface. I was trying to use the nicer term, as in "borrowing someone's riffs" or even a musical nod to someone, as opposed to just ripping them off outright.

One step at a time (5, Insightful)

skander (43037) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223328)

While games are obviously the result of lots of code, there is very little that a 1st year college student could learn about how to program Grand Theft Auto in 2 or 3 courses... Pong might be a good start...

Modern day games use loads of very high end CS concepts, that are simply out of reach for novices. While getting people motivated for a discipline is the first step to teaching them, this tactic sounds more like advertising than actual teaching.

Growing a problem solving mind by the use of strict logic, and taking things one step at a time is the way to become a great programmer. Setting out to recreate the Crytek engine on your first day is bound to end in failure, and more important, disappointement.

Re:One step at a time (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223390)

USC is trying. Here's their GamePipe curriculum. [] It's education for entry-level programmers at EA.

It's kind of like film school courses that prepare people to be production assistants, then assistant directors, which USC also offers. That's not a path to becoming a director. It's more like a career in field logistics.

Re:One step at a time (2, Informative)

elvesrus (71218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224376)

Some schools even go as far as doing nothing but teaching a curriculum around making video games. []

It shares a campus with nintendo, so it may be a bit biased there, but their students tend to get nominated for IGF awards each year.

Re:One step at a time (5, Insightful)

muecksteiner (102093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223578)

Yep, it's all about advertisement. With that one word you've hit the nail on the head. Utility to the students... comes somewhere way down on the list of desirable properties of these courses. In a lot of cases, the main reason is so that the one graphics lecturer who is into gaming himself gets some visibility. Remember, the fight for resources at a university is usually beyond feral - and visibility, and the number of students, go a long way in securing them. What you later do with these students, or how good their career prospects are... well, that is very seldom evaluated. To a disturbing degree, working academia is very often about appearances, and little else.

I work as an academic in Computer Graphics, so I sort of know what I'm talking about here... and frankly, there are too many people in this area already who "are into" game developing. Far too many.

Now this is not to say that a) one cannot have a well-paying career in game development, or that b) game programming is technically uninteresting. Nothing could be further from the truth (especially point b). But there is such a thing as catering for the needs of an industry - and then there is also mindless overproduction of graduates with questionable qualifications, just in order to please those academics who have "gaming" on their resumes. And I know of at least on example who actually does "gaming" precisely because it is such a good way of getting students into his working group. And not because he is all that interested in the area as such.

Just look, for instance, at the academic job listings on in the past 24 months. There are lots of small universities starting to offer "game development courses", and are recruiting lecturers for this. In my opinion, there are simply not enough jobs in this line of work to actually offer such a large number of graduates of such a specialised course any sort of perspective, once they graduate. And besides - what do these courses usually teach? And who gets recruited by these smaller universities? Former top-notch developers who can really communicate useful stuff to the students? Or rather guys who did not make the cut at a major studio, and are fed up with freelancing?

At the last Eurographics Symposium on Rendering (one of the smaller, but quite high-quality geek-outs for the rendering community), there was a panel discussion which included a somewhat senior person from the gaming industry. His assessment of the relevance of current real time graphics research was pretty short: guys, it's nice what you are doing at the universities, but most of this is almost totally useless for us in the real world, who have to meet deadlines, and make code work on normal systems.

But what is taught in those "gaming courses"? Usually precisely the stuff the main lecturer gets off on, and that he wrote papers about (and that the guy from the gaming studio described as nice but useless). This is natural, of course, everyone does that thing of teaching about one's research achievements (myself included, in my area), but... if there is one area in Computer Graphics that should be taught by people with industry experience, it is gaming. And this is practically never the case.

Just my 0.2E-32$


Re:One step at a time (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225824)

I work as an academic in Computer Graphics, so I sort of know what I'm talking about here... and frankly, there are too many people in this area already who "are into" game developing. Far too many.

Personally, I'm "into" game developing. I've written a number of games, one of which even won an (admittedly minor) award. How much money have I earned from this? Zip. It's a hobby. In my day job, I do nothing but Perl and Korn shell scripting, validating command line or CGI inputs and gluing together programs that other people wrote. It pays well and it seems immune to being outsourced overseas, so I'm happy. On my home PC, however, I have a few IDEs installed which I use for various personal projects. Sometimes I assist in various GPL projects to add features I want, but most of the time I'm writing games, most of which will probably never be seen by anyone but me. It gives me a fun way to practice the technical skills I use at work: requirements gathering, specification writing, unit testing. Yeah, it's informal and I cut corners a lot, but more than once I've had a project tossed on my plate that required skills I'd been honing at home in my free time. (This is very likely why my job pays well and seems immune to being outsourced overseas.)

So, how do you feel about youth sports leagues? Are there far too many people who are already into sports, so kids should stop playing? As I see it, you'll probably never play in the big leagues (or even on a high school team) but you learn habits that will be useful for a lifetime.

Re:One step at a time (1)

muecksteiner (102093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226682)

Personally, I think youth sports leagues are a very good thing to have. Same as your hobby of coding games - like I said, and even though this is not my own line of work, I think that gaming technology is seriously interesting, and keeping up with this field is a really intriguing challenge.

Any my objections are also not against having "game design", or rather, "game tech" courses at universities in principle. Given the complexity of some of the bread-and-butter gaming technologies out there, one does need quite some background to actually work on a real game engine these days. The question is rather - do we actually need as many game *programmers* as are currently being trained by this mushrooming industry, and do these games courses do a good job of training them?

Consider that even within a games company, not all that many people will end up actually working on the engine. The majority of day to day game dev work is arguably content creation, something which creative colleges are actually better at training people for. And which actually requires a somewhat different skillset than being able to code. So the actual number of *programming* jobs in the game sector tends to be overrated to begin with.

And then there is my main objection - that universities very often do a lousy job of preparing people for development work in a revenue-earning company. In a place like that, the last thing you want are hackers fresh from uni with an affliction of "shiny kit syndrome", who try to cram every technology they can think of into an engine. If you plan on not going bankrupt in the near timeframe, comparative simplicity and reliability win hands down over having the latest SIGGRAPH paper integrated in your engine.

There is no sugar-coating this: for the purposes of such a specialised course, the only sort of person who can both instill a healthy dose of needed realism in young programmers, and at the same time show them at least some relevant tricks that actually work, and make sense in a real environment, are people who have done this in practice. Themselves. Hands on.

But these guys are expensive to hire. So who you get taught by are, more often than not, the existing staff members of a college. Usually, these are of course your average academic, who are very good at writing up their stuff to appear at SIGGRAPH. But perhaps not quite as good at writing code that is not of throw-away quality.

To add insult to injury, the sort of graphics researcher who is capable of producing SIGGRAPH papers is usually not the one who "gets creative", and starts a game developer program to increase his visibility within the faculty. By and large, these guys don't need to do that stuff, so it is more often than not the B-list of graphics research that ends up doing this sort of thing. With all attendant consequences for the quality of the course.


P.S. And in case you want to flame me for being too critical of game dev courses... do consider that I am trying to get my point across, and intentionally use a broad brush for this. There are very nice game dev programs out there, which deliver value to the students who take them. It is unfortunately a non-trivial task to separate the wheat from the chaff in this area.

Re:One step at a time (1)

darkvizier (703808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226342)

As I was graduating DeVry they had just started a Graphics and Simulation Programming degree, or something like that. One of the professors I talked to about it was of the opinion that its purpose was to trick students into actually doing something useful e.g. running simulations for Sandia Labs. I think that if a game programming degree does its job in teaching computer science concepts those graduates will have no problems branching out to whatever flavor of programming they want.

Re:One step at a time (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224316)

Why do games have to be 3D? I've programmed fairly complex 2D games just fine.

Re:One step at a time (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225832)

Why do games have to be 2D? I've programmed fairly complex text adventures just fine.

Re:One step at a time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226178)

I, for one reason, want to finally see a Grue

Re:One step at a time (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226292)

Why do games have to be 2D? I've programmed fairly complex text adventures just fine.

Unless you squirt out your text in morse code, you'll be using a 2D display, at least.

A morse code text adventure would be a pretty interesting artifact, especially if it was not PC hosted, but plugged into a telegraph key.

Re:One step at a time (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225862)

I think it is more about getting students interested, then making top-level game programmers. That said, you'd be surprised what a group of motivated undergrads can do in a semester. Did you know Valve's Portal started out as the thesis project from a team of undergrads?

Re:One step at a time (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226008)

I've found puzzles and word games to be a good way to learn useful data structures and algorithms. There's not a lot of complex UI stuff required for games like boggle or scrabble. Implementing a crossword puzzle generator can also be a fun and challenging.

Re:One step at a time (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226444)

So don't knock games as a teaching tool when used correctly.

Games are a truly awesome teaching tool. I've taught students through games before, and it is very helpful. On one end of the spectrum are the students who can't make sense of a for loop. But give them a graphics library and to move a character across the screen and they suddenly "get it." It gives them a clear, simple, interesting, physical analogy for what a loop does. Arrays are another one that works this way.

Students need to be interested and motivated. Games are definitely very difficult to code, but they are fun and interesting. And that brings me to the other end of the spectrum: teaching algorithms. Teaching a student the A* algorithm by starting with heuristics, math, and global -vs- local optimization is not the way to start. Instead, give them a game engine, and tell them to make the AI find their way to the enemy base. Throw in some nice explosions too. :-) They start to see how mathematics, algorithms, and fun interact. Chess wouldn't be fun if it was easy. And Grand Theft Auto wouldn't be fun if the AI players couldn't navigate the map. When they see that, they are often motivated to find a better algorithm, and to understand those mathematical concepts. A few of them even find the discipline that they need to make a career out of it.

I would never have done computer science had I not started with games. The only thing that got me through Linear Algebra, Trig, and Calculus was by finding cases where a video game needed to use them. When I took trig I did fun spirographs. Linear Algebra showed me 2D and 3D rotations, collision detections. Calculus showed me smooth path finding and camera motion.

Also - Robots are a good teaching tool as well.

game programming the means not the end (4, Insightful)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223346)

While a focus on games may help stir interest, it seems as though game development studios are as yet unimpressed by most game-related college courses. To those who have taken such courses or considered hiring those who have: what has your experience been?

It seems like that's not the point. The goal of having students write games isn't to turn them into game programmers, but to show them that programming can be fun, and then they can use their new skills to solve all sorts of problems.

Re:game programming the means not the end (1)

Merc248 (1026032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223368)

Fun because they think they can make video games, or fun for the sheer enjoyment of solving problems?

I think teachers/curriculum developers/etc. seemingly misunderstanding this distinction is what worries me the most about integrating the latest entertainment fad into academic disciplines. I remember taking a Cisco CCNA class in high school, and there were vignettes of classes here and there which were supposed to teach us about business; it was quite fun being in those classes back then, but not because I actually enjoyed business.

Re:game programming the means not the end (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223842)

fun because writing a simplistic game, for most people, is more enjoyable than writing a simplistic "convert change to best currency units" program.

Of course if the students then spend all their effort on moving a pixel here to make the game look nicer you've lost. Then again I remember crazy first year students spending silly amounts of efforts in prettying up their text output on non-game programming work...

Re:game programming the means not the end (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224108)

Well, I know I spend my time after having finished the program refactoring it. Unfortunately, it's hard when you're supposed to use "base code" given by the teachers, and that code is something I would be ashamed to show.

And it's also discouraging when I get the same grade as my peers, who deliver a program that does the same, but with a single class of 1000+ lines, and few methods. I would think that code cleanliness would be appreciated in a CS course, but apparently not.

Re:game programming the means not the end (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225236)

You wouldn't get the same grade if it was my class (back when I taught one...). Half the marks were machine marking of the output - which you would get the same mark for. But the other half were style (and did he cheat the machine marker somehow checking) and a functions which are too long are going to do poorly in the hand marking.

But the prettying up the output I mean is spending hours creating a header on the output using ascii art, that needs to be changed everytime they change some other part of the output to make it look "right". As I mentioned the output is machine marked, so no one even looks at the prettyness of the header (which they are told not to do anyway in case they confuse the machine marker).

Re:game programming the means not the end (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225550)

Luckily I only encountered one totally inept lecturer during my degree, mostly they were intelligent and a few of them were even interesting. After I graduated I taught C at university for a few years and ended up friends with some of the interesting ones. In my lab 'code style' was worth 50% in every assignment much to the dismay of engineering students who invariably ignored my style sheet and wrote their entire assignment inside main(), the teachable portion of those students did not make the same mistake with their second assignment.

You appear to have everything it takes to be "succesfull", which does not not necessarily mean wealthy. I have interviewed and hired quite a few programers in my time, out of a class of fifty CS students there would be maybe five I would consider hiring as junior programmers. They are easy to spot because they go the extra mile to teach themselves all the stuff that won't fit into the lectures. Intellectual curiosity is uncommon and can not be taught after puberty, you either have it by then or you don't, the best any degree can aim for is to teach the intellectually curious how to teach themselves.

As for games, I was a 70's HS dropout, I got into computers almost 30yrs ago via a magazine article describing Conway's Game of Life, I was obsessed with it and went through reams of paper hand drawing the cells, the obsession drove me to buy a second hand AppleII and teach myself how to get it to play Conway's game. Arguments ensude with the wife about TV usage, in the late 80's I enrolled in uni not just because everyone told me there was money in programing but also because it gave me an excuse to lash out on a brand new ACER XT.

Speaking of the game of life, if games are a waste of time then it follows that life is also a waste of time. That's a depressing worldview if you ask me.

Re:game programming the means not the end (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225224)

Any program that you write as an undergrad is going to be a toy. If it's a toy that you want to play with afterwards, then that's a better motivation.

Re:game programming the means not the end (1)

UncleOwl (1016926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223800)

It seems like that's not the point. The goal of having students write games isn't to turn them into game programmers, but to show them that programming can be fun, and then they can use their new skills to solve all sorts of problems.

I agree. For a couple of years, I have used The Battle for Wesnoth [] as a practical example of open-source development. Its markup language falls somewhere between HTML and real programming and thus has been working very well for students with non-technical background who typically run very far when programming is mentioned. The students form teams and create a mini-campaign, using version management, wikis and other typical tools (I've used Trac [] for that).

Also, it is similar in web development in the sense that it promotes/needs three separate skillsets - visual (the result should be aesthetically pleasing), technical (the result should work and follow standards) and verbal/creative (the result should tell something and do it in a correct manner). Thus, it can be used to teach various skills, stressing one or the other as needed.

Re:game programming the means not the end (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224156)

While a focus on games may help stir interest, it seems as though game development studios are as yet unimpressed by most game-related college courses. To those who have taken such courses or considered hiring those who have: what has your experience been?

It seems like that's not the point. The goal of having students write games isn't to turn them into game programmers, but to show them that programming can be fun, and then they can use their new skills to solve all sorts of problems.

Indeed, the goal should be to get the students to be interested in going beyond the assignment. Many programming skills needed later on are only thought by experience, students need to build up that experience. They need to sit down and program stuff, theory helps, but it's useless without the experience required to apply it.

If you give an assignment where students need to build a tool that keeps track of shop orders, with a frontend, backend and everything that comes with it. Then they will make just the things that are needed to pass inspection.
However, give them a assignment of writing a 'massive multiplayer pacman' (still needs frontend/backend and many more things) and all of a sudden side projects pop up, some will try to make bots (hello basic AI), others will try to find ways to cheat (AKA security) and they will be much more engaged in the project.

(I'm a self thought programmer that learned OOP trough Unreal modding, C/C++ because someone showed me libsdl and OpenGL. Yes, I do have a degree in CS, but anything thought there has been far less useful then my own experiences)

Re:game programming the means not the end (2, Insightful)

CptPicard (680154) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225318)

What are they doing studying CS if they need to be persuaded that programming can be fun like they were a bunch of kids who need to eat their broccoli?

Re:game programming the means not the end (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226812)

It is important to recognize that in the CS education arena the term "computer game" is often used to refer to the attempts at, and the results of, effective and meaningful integration of animated graphical visualization and various degrees of interactivity. Because of the unknown entertainment value, strictly speaking, much of these are interesting and innovative teaching materials and are not computer games in a commercial sense.

This is exactly what I had thought when I read the summary. The most gratifying and enjoyable part of programming, especially early on, is some visual feedback of success. Interactivity, even more so. Providing graphics and interactivity to depict and display the results of the programming task makes the application feel "cooler" and yet fundamentally they are still solving the same problems as before.

Game dev class got me a job! (1)

GrandPoohBear (990591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223396)

I got a job programming console video games after interviewing with my class project from a video game programming class, so it works! My company just hired another student out of the same class. Pretty good evidence I think! Of course, in the course of my job, I use very little that I learned from that class, and SO much more of the solid programming and logic that I learned in the first year courses... On another note, I assisted a second year class that encouraged students to make games in Java Swing. Some made some very cool little things, but for the majority of students it was a Swing and a miss...

Game programming made me leave! (1)

Hobadee (787558) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223404)

When I was in college, I was going to be a CS major, but I *HATE* programming front-ends. Being forced to make a game my first semester made me quit CS. Game programming should be a sub category of CS, rather than a requirement.

Long live the CLI!

Re:Game programming made me leave! (1)

vrai (521708) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223776)

It's been a few years since I did my CS degree; but shouldn't the first year or so be taken up with the fundamentals of Computer Science: algorithms and many exciting forms of mathematics? The remaining years are then filled with yet more maths, along with specialist applications (compiler design/optimisation, hardware, operating system design, etc) and the occasional bit of coding.

Having a "Games Programming" section of the syllabus seems strange on its own, putting it in the first half of the first years is insane. How did they introduce it? "This is an opportunity for you to put in to practice all of the theory we haven't taught you yet".

Re:Game programming made me leave! (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225108)

You sound like the guy who quit CS because Calculus was too hard.

Not This Again... (5, Insightful)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223408)

"Schools are working to put real-world relevance into computer science education by integrating video game development into traditional CS courses."

Nowhere in the article do I find a statement that supports the claim that traditional CS courses are lacking real-world relevance. Can we please stop taking shots at the four years CS degree? If you don't like it, then don't get it. It's only been five years since I graduated my with my Bachelor's in CS and I can tell you that the course I took are highly relevant. I use it every day when I'm coding and thinking about my algorithms. I need to know what the run-time complexity of my methods and how I can use various data structures to make my code more efficient and what the trade offs are. In fact I do it so much that it's almost second nature. These are things they teach you in the core CS classes, at least where I studied that's what happened. My school was very prestigious but not well known for its CS department so I imagine that my education isn't that extraordinary.

Our CS program offered a set of courses that would have allowed students to create games. In fact, that's what the computer graphics course did. I worked with a couple of students who took that class. They reused those same skills again later during our AI project when we created a simulation where the AI played against itself. We weren't exactly creating the next WarCraft III or Civilization IV but some of the fundamentals are there. Likewise, those same skills could be put to use in other projects. The school doesn't have to have a course called "Game Programming for the Real World" for people to see that its course are relevant to the various sub fields in software engineering.

Also, software engineering is a more expansive field than just making games. Programming an O/S or network programming are both very relevant skills even today.

Accessibility (1)

bazald (886779) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223698)

I think you're misunderstanding the OP. You find these things relevant to your current work. The OP is discussing the possibility that video games are a reasonable way to make computer science immediately relevant to first year students. Most real world applications would be unfamiliar to them. They couldn't be expected to be familiar with anything you've listed when they begin their degree (though some of them may be).

Re:Not This Again... (4, Interesting)

quantaman (517394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223712)

I think the point isn't that the courses are teaching useless stuff, but rather they're teaching the things using examples that the students don't find relevant. A lot of CS assignments consist of fairly contrived tasks that test the immediate task and nothing else. They do the job but the student doesn't have a sense of accomplishment since their program hasn't really done anything useful, just completed a contrived task. Games on the other hand have the objective of fun, so the moment the user has written a game they've written a useful application. This gives them a much greater sense of accomplishment.

Say you're teaching them how to use mathematical approximation algorithms to quickly compute line intersections.

You could use a simple graphing package and have them use their algorithm to draw the two vectors and see how close they get.

Or you could turn the vectors into arrows and have them try to shoot down another arrow in mid-flight.

Which would you have more fun writing?

Games and augmented reality... (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223418)

... I'm kind of wondering why nobody in the game industry has thought of taking User interfaces in games and fully develop them for other software apps as spinoffs for alternate sources of revenue?

I was pretty impressed by Deadspace's in-game UI, now if they could take some great UI concepts and apply them to other applications outside of games the expertise gained in the industry could probably take userinterfaces to the next level.

I've seen things like: [] [] ... and always wondered what some guys in the game industry couldn't do if given the time to develop some kick ass UI.

An example or two.. (4, Insightful)

Beowulf_Boy (239340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223420)

I have a bachelors degree in Game design, and using games was a big part of how programming was taught at my school.

A lot of people are going to say "but how are they going to learn, games are complex, etc etc"

They don't have to be. A few examples from how I learned...

In my networking fundamentals, we covered opening sockets, threading to take care of the sockets, passing information back and forth, etc. At the point in a normal course, you'd probably do something like...make a lame chat client, or an FTP program or something. Instead the professor said, ok, I want you to make a game that uses these concepts to pass information between computers. I wrote a pong game that used a client / server type setup. One computer ran the server and both ran the clients. The server computed all the stuff and returned data to the clients on where to place the ball, paddles, and the score. I also had a lot of fun doing it.

Another good one. For my programming fundamentals class (eg, first class the freshman took to learn programming) they used python. After we covered the basics, such as arrays, if statements, loops, and so on, we got into user input. Then the instructor turned us loose on a simple header he'd made that let you move ASCII characters around the screen and asked us to make a simple game, such as a maze the user had to move through via the directional keys. It was amazing, because the next class students came in with some really awesome games using pretty complex stuff they'd looked up and taught themselves. By the end of the year long series of classes, freshman were making sprite based games on par with Super Mario Brothers 3 and other scrolling type games using PyGame.

I also learned Direct3D and OpenGL and wrote a few simple games with them to learn how to work with a rather complex API. Then we picked up Ogre and a physics engine (I can't remember the name off the top of my head). My final project was a bowling game that head realistic physics, and you controlled the spin and movement of the ball via the mouse. I showed it to my current employeer (I started out as a co-op) during my interview, and it really set me apart. Granted my job requires very little programming, but it still really made me stand out when I was able to show them something flashy, rather than a program that did a lot in the background but not much in the userland end of things. Not that theres anything wrong with that, but people tend to like flashy cool looking things.

Re:An example or two.. (2, Insightful)

Beowulf_Boy (239340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223472)

I do think I should folow this up with a bit more of an explanation of my beliefs as far as where this is heading for universities.

I cringe every time I see Devry's school of video game design add come on the TV. Its two college age guys sitting on a couch, playing a game. something is said like "oh, we need to tweak this a bit more here" and he does something with the controller, then they go back to playing the game.

I was in a game design degree, and it was hilarious seeing the incoming freshman and their beliefs as to what the courses were going to be like. They were convinced they'd get to play games non-stop and not do any real world work. 90% of them game in with the idea they were going to be video game testers and make 100k a year sitting around playing World of Warcraft.

To make it worse, the school got a big grant and spent it on Dell XPS's and a bunch of games for one of the labs. The idea was to get us together, form frienships, and have some fun in between doing homework. It failed miserably and pretty much gave students the idea they could sit around and play games during class. They tried locking the lab down, saying games were off-limits before some time like 8pm. Again, students threw a fit, convinced it was their right to use school property to sit around and play games.

I think games are a great way to teach people how to program. It lets you have some fun while learning the concepts.
But teaching it like a trade, and telling students "oh, you can graduate and go work for Sony or EA" is wrong. Market it as a CS curriculum, not as a video game programming trade curriculum.

Re:An example or two.. (1)

darkvizier (703808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226652)

Hah! I just posted about DeVry's video game design degree. I'm not surprised that it blew up in their face, but it's still hilarious. The students that come in thinking they'll get to play games all day kinda deserve what they get, but on the other side it's not right for the university to lead them on. Welcome to the real world, where money moves to the greatest source of greed.

In my experience no institution can teach you the most important things you need to know. If you explore what interests you and trust your own vision then other things will fall into place. Life should be an adventure, not a mindless drudgery for another man's dream. How you experience that has less to do with your environment, and more to do with your perspective.

Re:An example or two.. (3, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226290)

... but people tend to like flashy cool looking things.

There is no greater truth when it comes to applying for a job. When I graduated from my Object Oriented Software Development courses, it was tough to stand out. Specifically, we had graduated just before the university & college students, so we got a head start on the job hunt, but basically the final exam was a weeklong project of building a Travel Agency website from scratch.

Don't get me wrong, I bedazzled the pants off this project, being one of the programmers more familiar with Flash. But when you go to a job interview, and they want to see a piece of your work in action, and all you have is the same travel agency web site that other students are showing around - you don't shine as bright as you'd like.

I kid you not, the day of an interview I had gone in and sat in the waiting room, and moments before I was to go in one of my classmates walked out. A little nerve racking, knowing that someone YOU KNOW is competing for the same job, but I knew I was a better programmer. Problem was - could I show it? Towards the end of the interview my interviewer said these words, "Your web site is fine and all, but I'm looking for something more. Something to show you're really into it."

To which I curved a half smile and replied, "I've started work on a game, if you are interested to try it"

He was.

He liked.

I got the job.

Not that fun to write (1)

mpim (1685852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223430)

I've written a few flash games and am currently a CS major. From my experience, writing games is really quite tedious and not nearly as rewarding as solving programming puzzles and such. Games that introductory-level students are capable of writing are generally rather boring and not as useful/practical about as sorting algorithms, data structures, etc...

Furthermore, having a class focused on gaming will probably attract more gaming-type people instead of problem-solving type people. The latter generally make better programmers.

Re:Not that fun to write (2, Insightful)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223824)

From my experience, writing games is really quite tedious and not nearly as rewarding as solving programming puzzles and such.

That's your opinion mate. I quite enjoy it, which is why I do it for a job. There is a lot of problem solving if you work on the right games.

Not just games (2, Insightful)

jnnnnn (1079877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223434)

It doesn't have to be a game. Any simulation is fun to create. Especially if it is interactive.

Game design is worthless. (3, Interesting)

Inominate (412637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223440)

Game design oriented courses are a waste of time. It's an attempt to turn a difficult creative process into a trade school education.

That said, appliying game principles to CS is completely the opposite. How better to learn about trig than working with 2d graphics/games? Or more advanced concepts like matrix math and quaternions? Instead of learning abstract math, students learn how this math is applicable to real world applications and how to make it do interesting things.

Re:Game design is worthless. (2, Interesting)

Beowulf_Boy (239340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223454)

Exactly. See my parent post about 3 above yours.

I learned matrix math, working with vectors and 3d points and so on from using it to work in OpenGL, Direct3D and later Ogre. It wasn't something abstract, because I could make a change, and see the result on screen. This helped me to connect together what was going on and what the final output would be, and helped me to grasp a much better understanding of it.

Re:Game design is worthless. (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225270)

It's an attempt to turn a difficult creative process into a trade school education.

There is a need and a place for CS trade schools to train coders. These are the poor saps that get shit hours and work conditions at EA but there is a need for those talents. Houses need to be built by framers just as much they need to be designed by architects (or architectural technologists as the case is for most cookie-cutter houses). The developer market has grown a need for skilled trades people (coders) and trades courses have developed to train them. I have a lot of respect for the trades, coding included, and I don't think that a trades course has less value than a full CS university degree complete with abstract math. Just be sure to know which your prospective employees have.

Re:Game design is worthless. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225344)

I learned to program, aged 7, because of games. We had one class a week that covered programming on the BBC micro (one for the entire class) in BBC BASIC and Logo, but we could use the computers at lunch time or after school if we wanted to. I got the basics of flow control and 2D drawing from the class and then taught myself until I arrived at university for a CompSci degree (I then stayed to do a PhD). The first games that I wrote were things like 'guess the number I'm thinking of,' first where the computer would come up with a random number and tell you if you were too high or too low. Then the computer would try to guess the number you were thinking of (where, aged 7, I worked out the idea of a binary search, and then had logarithms explained to me when I tried to work out how you could find the number of guesses required). I then wrote some graphical games, mostly on my Psion Series 3. When you're using an interpreted language on something with a 2MHz 8-bit CPU (the BBC) or a 3.84MHz 16-bit CPU (the Psion), you really start to think about algorithms; no amount of microoptimisation can make up for poor algorithmic choices.

I also started writing a lot of programs that weren't games, generally things to automate things that I found tedious. Programming these days is a life skill in the same way that reading was a hundred years ago. It should be taught in schools to everyone, not to a few people in university, and games are a good way of doing it. These days, we've moved on from BASIC (thankfully), and I'd recommend Squeak eToys [] as the best introduction to programming. It's a fully object oriented environment and teaches good programming practices from the start (unlike BBC BASIC, which supports them but encourages unstructured programming).

Re:Game design is worthless. (1)

mkawick (190367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225850)

Game design and the creative process in general are trainable processes much like music, painting, dance sculpture, etc. There is creativity in all of these, but mostly it's about technical prowess.

Also, remember this? 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

I am working on an MMO and we have roughly 20 game designers now with plans to double that count. They write scripts, design the levels, gossip and NPC chat, GUI, user interaction, grouping, and all of the myriad of in-game features like trading, trade skills, and repairing weapons.

This is a highly technical field and only little bit creative.

There is also a small bit of management.

Game development is a hard life (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223466)

I develop business software. Insurance and banking (mostly banking now), I'd love to develop games. What I don't want is 80-100 hour weeks as standard (pay for 30 hour weeks), competition with every upstart that thinks playing Quake for 20 hours straight makes them leet, companies that go bust and never pay you, a large percentage of projects cancelled, and fighting a perception that you're not doing anything serious with your life because all you do is play games. It just isn't for me.

By all means add more gaming components to the CS courses. Game programming is difficult and challenging and is an excellent excercise. Game physics is unforgiving and requires a good grasp of science. The creative side requires people to develop some very subtle skills. However don't expect your students to all like it or to become game programmers. That'll certainly be one path, but its not for everyone. I'd rather see this as an elective that can be taken early rather than having it forced as some incorporated part of a CS1/2 course. Access to the tools and mentoring on the methods would be useful to those interested in the field.

Re:Game development is a hard life (1)

mkawick (190367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223612)

It's not that hard. I've been in games for 15 years and some companies do have death-march schedules from time-to-time, but in general, that is extremely rare. Working less than a 50 hour workweek is also kinda rare. About 40% of projects I have worked on have been canceled. The perception that I never do anything serious with my life is met on the battlefield against the perception that making games rocks, and you can can guess who remains the victor in that contest year after year.

Your assessment that game companies don't last too long is correct: about five years on average and very few companies for whom I have worked still exist today. When in between game gigs, I have worked in business software, networking, embedded software, and even defense.

Still, in games, the money is above average, the challenges are far more interesting than you get working in business software, and the core competencies are very similar to RTOS development. Also, many things required in games like hard-core optimization, low-level design, memory management, and so on are mainstay of games which the business world never needs... I love that stuff. Plus, I get paid to do graphics one day, tools in C# another, writing scripting languages another (integrating Lua usually), and implementing a new chat window on another. It is always very interesting.

Re:Game development is a hard life (1)

reallyjoel (1262642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224698)

Wanna work for us..?

Obligatory comic link (2, Informative)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223520)

Rite of Passage []

Making games isn't a bad way to learn. (1)

I!heartU (708807) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223522)

[rambling] For one thing making a game is way more involved then making a website. There are lots of opportunities to work with algorithms (AI being a big one). Usually games don't have much of a framework to work with, as compared to say business apps. So you're left to devising your own systems for data and organization, which I feel is good for learning. The frameworks that are out there will give you nice easy hardware access; which is more gentle then it used to be. As someone mentioned above, making UIs can be a killer, its freaking tedious and in the real world usually you have a designer for this. Although some people have this skill some what naturally, usually programmers end up making the most simple ugly UI possible that is functional, but not obvious to anyone but them. [/rambling]

I'm skeptical about these results (3, Insightful)

Judinous (1093945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223532)

In my opinion, programmers are born, not taught. People who naturally break their decisions down into logic structures will immediately see the usefulness in programming and find it interesting from the start. People who don't think this way will never enjoy or become proficient at programming. Changing the way that you present the introductory material isn't likely to change this. Advertising an intro class on "video game programming" might cause your enrollment to swell, but I doubt it will noticeably affect the number of people who make it through the program. If a student doesn't already intuitively understand basic constructs such as if-else chains, loops, variables, etc. in their own decision-making process before they take the class, they aren't going to be able to suddenly start thinking that way once you give them a lecture on the subject.

Games as examples in CS != Game Design degree (4, Insightful)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223606)

Isn't the editorial a non sequitur? Using gaming based examples instead of Hello World or business based problems in a traditional CS course is not anything like a game design course. I have a problem with doing this though as while it may be good for the university it is bad for the students who get suckered into a career thinking they will be making games (or that working in the games industry is like making a game for an assignment). This is actually a problem infesting nearly all of modern teaching where "student involvement" is increased by making it fun at the expense of helping kids develop a work ethic*. Being able to work even while bored and disinterested with the task is a much higher predictor of future success than getting good grades because the topic was interesting.

The problem with this is that real world work is often rarely fun unless you are lucky enough to be able to achieve a dream job. Most of us have jobs that while they may be fulfilling have substantial portions that are not fun, and indeed are often gruelling*. This kind of tactic seems like a bait and switch to me. If you don't enjoy the maths and problem solving involved in CS it is not the career for you, no matter what kind of shiny veneer they put on it.

* There is a balance to be had. But I find that too often in early schooling the teachers are using this method instead of instilling in kids a desire to learn and to work hard for future reward.
** I enjoy playing games and analysing movies, but doing that as a job would not be the same as doing it for fun.

Re:Games as examples in CS != Game Design degree (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224800)

This is actually a problem infesting nearly all of modern teaching where "student involvement" is increased by making it fun at the expense of helping kids develop a work ethic*. Being able to work even while bored and disinterested with the task is a much higher predictor of future success than getting good grades because the topic was interesting.

I'm sorry I'm out of mod points. I see these same things all the time in a different academic field.

From the instructor's point of view (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223780)

I often use games in courses. As another commenter said: the idea is not to teach people to program game, but rather to allow a bit of fun while doing homework. I would not suggest that one of my students tell an employer: "I wrote this great multiplayer game", but rather "I implemented an interactive network application". Both are true. Some students dislike games, or perhaps find them somehow undignified. Hence, I usually offer a choice, with the other option being something "serious".

Games Design can be fun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224100)

A few years back, after finishing school, I entered University doing Computing Science at a fairly reputable British University. I have and had a strong interest in computing, from software development to computer system and more IT-related information management - everything the course covered, I thought that it would be amazing.

Of course, It wasnt. Either the university was appauling or the course just didn't interest me as much as I thought it was going to. I was ready to quit less than half way through my first year, but I pressed on. After seeing strong exam results from the end of first year, and a prospectus for second that looked more interesting, I thought it would be stupid to leave. A year later, I regretted that. It was even worse, and by the second semester I just wasn't turning up, making token efforts to travel and not attending any lectures or classes.

I left in the summer, and entered into another nearby University's Game Design course. Why? simply because I hated CS, and had no idea what else to do. I did it as a temporary measure, getting into second eyar and spending a few years whilst thinking about what I really want to do. I don't regret it, for the past two years I've really enjoyed this course. It may not be as useful to me CS may be in life, but I'm thankful I left the first course. That would have been one degree I would be setting on fire in fear of ever using it.

So, overall, don't ever do Computing Science at Glasgow University.

This makes perfect sense! (1)

vampire_baozi (1270720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224112)

Computer gaming is already heavily integrated into CS1.5 and 1.6 courses! I fully support expanding professional training to all versions of CS, as to reduce the number of noobs populating the servers.

The downside is, naturally, that the courses focus *too* heavily on games, and thus while it builds incredible enthusiasm for CS, tends to bring about overall slippage of GPA, and a waning interest in actual coursework.

Re:This makes perfect sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225930)

CS 1.5 and 1.6? Pssh.... we'e moved past those days. Now we work with CS: Source!

Studio attitudes will change. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224192)

Right now studios don't care much about game degrees, for two reasons. First, there are a lot of bad game degrees out there. In time, the good ones will push out the bad. Second, studios are full of old-timers who went to school before there were any game degrees, so they don't see the need. When they die off, that attitude will die with them.

At the moment, young employees are learning on the job. That's inefficient and dangerous -- it means they make their mistakes on the job. If they came in with a game degree, it means they will have made their mistakes in school, not on the job. That is what schools are FOR: to train people before they get to the job.

Finally, HR departments have to filter the foot-high stack of resumes they get SOMEhow. They're going to start by throwing out any resume that doesn't have a game degree. This will be sad, as it will eliminate a lot of good people, but it is inevitable.

Re:Studio attitudes will change. (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224808)

At the moment, young employees are learning on the job. That's inefficient and dangerous -- it means they make their mistakes on the job. If they came in with a game degree, it means they will have made their mistakes in school, not on the job. That is what schools are FOR: to train people before they get to the job.

I completely disagree. It's the job of a university to educate. It's industry's job to train.

Re:Studio attitudes will change. (1)

arethuza (737069) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224958)

Yeah, I strongly agree. When I graduated with a CS degree (a 1st) 20+ years ago I was told that no matter how bright I thought I was I would, in reality, be a liability to my employer for the first six months or so until I got some sound commercial experience. Employers expected to have to train graduates as to the realities of the job - which they are far better at doing than any university. And yes, I did have a steep learning curve in my first few months at work - but they allowed for that and I was far better at my job because of it.

Re:Studio attitudes will change. (1)

dcw3 (649211) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224942)

Right now studios don't care much about game degrees...

...because they can outsource to cheap third world sweatshop programmers that you simply can not compete with. Have you actually looked at any available gaming positions? Go to EA's job site now, and you can see that while many positions mention a degree, it's not a requirement.

You're deluding yourself if you believe that any major gaming company's HR will require a gaming degree. And as for people making all their mistakes in school before getting a job, well, as a software manager I can guarantee that you have no clue. I've hired plenty of new grads, and they're great, but always need additional training, and experience. School is about getting the basics, becoming a well rounded adult, and maturing.

Re:Studio attitudes will change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226632)

When did Universities become Trade Schools?

CS and games (1)

Zarnick (1644379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224256)

My CS course did feature games, tough in a very beginning of this in my country (Brazil), so I took it almost in the end of the course, to be perfectly honest, if I would base the course I had on Game Programming to know if I would make this for a living or not, I would say it was a major deception. All that we had was more game theory than actuall programming, actually we had almost no programming, some scripts in some forgoten language that I can't even remember (think of something in the ideia of Klick And Play), it was good to know what are some of the steps involved in making a game (strangely enough, after 2 years I ended up programming some 2 or 3 small games as a profession), but for a CS course I found it very, very disapointing. Later I found out that the final paper on the introduction to programming subject (where they teach C) was to actually make a text-based PacMan, and some other classic games (like Space Invaders for instance), this I think it makes way more sense then to start already with Game Theory if the ideia is actually to hold the student in the CS course, the University usually had a drop of around 50% in the first year, tough this is not official and based solely on my observations, I would say that after this the drop went to 25%, so it's definatly worth it.

Solving a non-existent problem and my experience (4, Insightful)

thenextstevejobs (1586847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224334)

I didn't realize we were all bored to tears with our CS courses.

Personally, I went into the introductory programming course at my school (as a music major) expecting the worst. I was taking the course because it was required for some music technology-related courses I wanted to take later on. It was a very traditional class. By the second week, I had changed my major to computer science.

You don't need to make math and science and technology "fun". That attitude is patronizing and obnoxious. If you have competent, passionate instructors then you can teach students.

Making a game isn't necessarily more fun, accessible, interesting or inspiring than making something else. For example, In my second programming course, which was titled Data Structures and Algorithms, two of our major projects were making a text-based Arkanoid clone, and making a text-based spreadsheet application (all C++, by the way). One of the requirements for our spreadsheet was that it be able to save and load 200,000+ cells of data, in a hash table we implemented ourselves. It was much more impressive to me to create an application that could scale like this than the small, limiting world of the Arkanoid game.

It's my fear that we would be dumbing down the discipline for the sake of accessibility. It's something that requires balance, and a good project and a good instructor are necessary. It should not necessarily be, nor not be a game. It should be appropriate to demonstrate the techniques and theory to build upon to foster an understanding of computing.

I don't know what sort of mind it would take to not be awestruck by the power afforded to one by programming modern computers. It speaks for itself.

You're clearly an expert. (1)

Auroch (1403671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225522)

You want me to take advice from someone who thought Music was a good choice for post-secondary education?

At least in the programming world, you have a chance at making some money even if you're not famous or exceptionally skilled. It is no wonder you switched ... the big question is "Why did you have to? Was your original program choice that bad?"

Which brings me to my original point. How much could you really 'know' if you thought music was a viable option?

Re:You're clearly an expert. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225630)

Right, because the OP wanting to take music technology courses means he was necessarily a music major. And of course he wasn't making any points about the industry, only interest in the material. But you skipped over the points just to bash him for maybe having considered a music major.

Re:You're clearly an expert. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226036)

you don't like music?...gtfo

Don't be fooled (2, Interesting)

badpazzword (991691) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224480)

Yes, in one course in the local IT Engineering degree, we were tasked to create a "game" over the course of a few weeks in Java. No, don't be fooled.

We were told exactly what had to happen when why, we just had to make the Java classes and translate the directions into code. There was nothing about balancing, nothing about making the game actually fun, very little about user training (my nethack-like interface was accepted without any problem)... simply nothing about the actual "game" part.

They just wanted us to make us interact a bunch of classes. The "game" part was just a cloak to make people go "wow" for those couple nanoseconds.

Today... (1)

Lord_Jeremy (1612839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224864)

Heh. When I read the title, I immediately thought of how my CS teacher takes certain days off from the curriculum to have 24-player games of BZFlag across the school network. There are games going on today, in fact, due to it being thanksgiving.

In any case, the CS classes in my school focus entirely on Java in the context of preparing for the AP. After the AP they do a tiny bit of basic graphics work. However for my independent study I'm writing a 2D RTS in Java.

I think video game design is a good way to teach important programming concepts and keep kids interested. For instance, my own forays into game design have taught me a lot about inheritance. I even wrote a heap sort algorithm the other day. I could definitely see the GridWorld (real-world coding example) portion of the AP taken from a game's perspective. You have a bunch of objects moving around on a 2D field and interacting with each other...

Gamemaker (1)

CalcuttaWala (765227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225032)

I use Gamemaker to introduce students to the OO concepts. Some people may find this ridiculous but I have found it to be quite effective.

Non-issue as long as not too intense of a focus (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225120)

Ultimately it's not a big deal what kinds of CS assignments you throw out there in the introductory courses as long as the material is covered well. How intense of a game can you really develop using only the very basics? The key is that the assignments/examples convey the lesson well. If it's exclusively centered on games, then you're obviously doing your students a disservice. It's all about balance early on to help people figure out what they may want to explore within the wide range of possibilities for CS.

Personally, I enjoyed any assignments that could (at least in some conceivable way) demonstrate a practical application rather than a contrived, useless academic problems. There is only 1 game assignment that I recall in my studies which came later on in Software Design. Definitely a good place for it there since there is plenty of room for creativity as you flesh out game mechanics.

Taking a Game Class (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225202)

i'm taking a game programming class at GWU. It's meant to be for non-programmers but i (a non-programmer) am struggling with XNA. In Game Maker i can DO stuff. i can even be creative in it. With XNA, i'm looking at gibberish. i have no idea what e does, or what args are. But i do know that the jump icon makes the lil guy move.

Programming for me is much like trying to demolish a brick wall with my head. i could do it, but the time and pain involved just isn't worth it.

Give me a programmer, a graphic artist and a 3-D modeler and i will give you an awesome game. i've got the story, the game play, the look and feel and all that other stuff. But i guess everyone else does too.

As an undergrad who recently finished a course... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225232)

I'm a 3rd year undergrad at the University of Melbourne.

As an undergrad who recently finished a course on object-oriented software development (in Java), I feel all these old windbags who take pleasure in deriding the notion of games in CS education need to grow up. The major project work all semester was focused on developing an RPG, starting from simple movement on screen (using an existing graphics library), followed by planning out how NPCs, items and the player would be programmed in UML, finally implementing it with abstract classes, inheritance and all that jazz (it felt like it was a very basic course). Many people found themselves comfortable with the problem at hand and got through it without too much trouble.

The previous semester I took a subject called Algorithms and Data Structures. The main project in that subject was a non-robust implementation of Huffman compression in C. We were left to our own devices to write our own tree structures, priority structures and what not. Many of my peers crumbled at the thought of it (I absolutely loved the assignment, far more than the game).

As an introduction to programming and computer science concepts, the game project was great. It was accessible and not intimidating. But that's exactly what it was, an introduction. If it gets students excited about programming and computer science, then mission accomplished. If I find myself writing another game in the coming semesters... then we might have a problem (unless I'm writing a graphics library in a computer graphics subject)

CS/Game Development (1)

runexe (24089) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225514)

I know some other schools have started similar programs - but I thought I'd point out that WPI [] started a new program specifically for game development/design/art/etc.: Interactive Media & Game Development [] . They've also recently redesigned their undergrad CS curriculum [] - although I think that was mainly to be more accessible to non-majors (e.g. ECE's, etc. - WPI being a primarily engineering school).

Not the point (2, Insightful)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225734)

Almost nobody taking the CS Assembly Language course ends up getting a job writing in assembly either. Almost nobody taking an Operating Systems course ends up getting a job writing their own kernel.

CS is not a Vo-Tech program. The point is to understand how things are done, not nessecarily to train you to do that for a career.

My AP Java Class (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226120)

My teacher had us work with this program called Scratch at the end of the course between the time we took the AP test and when school let out, we all made relatively simple online games that can now be accessed on the Scratch website. They essentially turned out like a game you'd see on, mine involved using a H&K G3 if I remember correctly to shoot all of the red, white and blue donkeys that would appear on the screen in various environments. It was relatively simple, but it had stuff like recoil and was actually really fun to make. Integrating this into a CS course really helped the other students and I get interested in the subject, I think this is a great idea. We didn't actually have to write the code, it was more of a drag-and-drop GUI with if-else blocks and loops with math in them but I think it taught us some of the core basics.

It's Not About the Games! (1)

The Infamous TommyD (21616) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226616)

If done right, the game or whatever just serves as an engagement and recruiting tool. The important bit is then using the platform to introduce problem solving and programming learning opportunities and then relating that back to the non-gaming IT world.

In my case, I teach the first course in Computer Engineering, and I use the Wii Controller as the data source. Check out [] to see a lab where students use the wii remote in a foam football to measure the distance it fell in real time in an 8+ meter drop.

This draws on their physics, math, and learning how to structure solutions to a problem nicely.

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