Games courses suck
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Games courses suck



Games courses suck... but perhaps not for the reasons you think.

Games courses suck... but perhaps not for the reasons you think.



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  • For info: The big '40%' refers to the typical class pass mark in a UK university - you can graduate with a degree (Third class) without ever being able to score better than 40% at anything.
    For students who are only concerned about passing the course - and not too worried about learning - they might be able to graduate but without much mastery of the skills we want them to learn.
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  • Thanks David, your slides are going to be so useful :)
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  • Also quoted as 10,000 hours, see
  • Peter Norvig has told me that it takes 10 years to learn how to program properly, and I only have one year of teaching on a four year degree. Holy cow, do games courses suck or what?
  • With one year of teaching there are real limits to the amount of content that can be squeezed in. Giving additional study/practical work to students extends the amount of content, and amount of practice and skills development that can be achieved but still has limits. Students generally have part time work. If we decide we need to add something, it is often at the cost of removing something else.
  • Another challenge is the 40% pass mark common in UK undergraduate qualifications. Even from the best courses, students who scrape through with a bare pass might not be well prepared – and students can easily focus on passing a degree instead of focussing on learning. It also means that if you do overload students with content, then more and more students might see learning all of the material as an impossibility, and focus their effort at the pass mark rather than on learning – which is a behaviour we dont want to encourage
  • It is important to encourage participation in competitions – though most are limited in the numbers that they can accept. What about students who don’t get into the big competitions? Can also encourage students to self-publish – perhaps easier for courses which focus on casual/web games or which use XNA/C# in the curriculum. More challenging for programming focussed courses based on C++ Global Game Jam logo TM Global Game Jam (check?) Dare to be Digital... Real Time Worlds logo TM Real Time Worlds Ltd. App Store icon TM Apple Computers Xbox Live Arcade logo TM Microsoft Kongretate logo TM Kongregate Steam logo TM Valve Facebook icon/logo TM Facebook
  • Even here, some students and may need to work in paying jobs over the summer to support themselves, and paying industry jobs for students at an early stage of their studies are quite limited in number.
  • Games companies want ‘the finished product’ – the student who is ready to come in and work, and doesn’t need to spend all their time learning how to work. A productive employee. I think we can do that, but we have to be realistic about what the finished product is. It is not someone who has no further need of learning. Professional programmers are still learners, are still learning on the job. As new technologies, techniques and ideas percolate the industry, even veterans are still learning. One of the reasons for conferences such as GDC and Develop

Games courses suck Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Games Courses Suck!Daniel LivingstoneUniversity of the West of
  • 2. Why do games courses suck?
  • 3. It used to be so much better...“The knowledge with which programmers come out of college and university is so different to what it was 10 years ago.“Back then, programmers knew all the low level stuff: assembler, bit twiddling, fixed point vs. floating point arithmetic, memory cache usage, branch prediction, sorting… to name a few. I can’t ask these questions anymore as I always get blank looks (try it!).“So I started to ask more language related questions such as those that anyone who knows C++ should get. What are the 5 ways in which the keyword ‘const’ can be used? What is the difference between a struct and a class? What class can access a ‘protected’ variable? The blank looks disappeared thankfully, for a while, but not for long.• Andrew Hague, Blitz,
  • 4. (Mis)Conceptions Parents see Prospective students seeTraditional academics see But industry wants to get
  • 5. Things Graduates Say“I learned so much more in my first year in industry than I did in my degree”- Why didn’t you teach me all this great stuff?“At my company we use X. You really need to teach folk X.”- Really how can anyone graduating expect to get a job if they don’t know X?
  • 6. Things we should do better – according to some of our graduates• We should have more – audio programming – networking/concurrent programming – high level OO design – debugging, profiling and coding standards – cross-platform development – code reviews – game design – HCI• But we might have too much – graphics
  • 7. How much can you learn in a four year degree?4 yearsminus 3 long summer holidays = 3 yearsminus other vacations, exam periods, ‘non-contact’ periods = 2 yearsup to 16 contact hours per week = 1 year A four year degree has one year of teaching
  • 8. Squeezing More In
  • 9. 40%
  • 10. The Finished Product?• A programmer who knows how to do everything? – Clearly not – So why even try to teach ‘everything’? – Instead, we need to help students to become better learners and develop adaptive expertise: the ability to apply existing knowledge in new contexts• The finished product is a better learner, equipped with core skills, knowledge and expertise – Good programmers are always learning
  • 11. Even John Carmack is Still LearningFabien Sanglard - So far only .map files were text-based but with idTech4 everything is text- based: Binary seems to have been abandoned. It slows down loading significantly since you have to idLexer everything....and in return I am not sure what you got. Was it to make it easier to the mod community ?John Carmack - In hindsight, this was a mistake.
  • 12. A reply to graduate commentsG: “At my company we use X. You really need to teach folk X.”Me: Can you guarantee that X will be required by most graduates, and that X will still be required 5 years from now?G: “I learned so much more in my first year in industry than I did in my degree”Me: So you should. That is a great start to your career as a professional learner
  • 13. Games Courses Suck• ...if students limit themselves to learning what is explicitly taught• ...if employers confuse gaps in knowledge with inability to learn or lack of ability• ...if they don’t encourage students to look beyond the university walls, to engage with and learn from the wider game development community
  • 14. Image credits:• Gamers image CC BY-NC-SA Wlodi• Toddler in ball pit CC BY-SA Larry D Moore• John Carmack CC BY Drew ‘Prognar’ Campbell• Suitcase image CC BY-NC-SA your poll results: