[game_edu] An Introduction and UK BTEC National Diploma
ai864 at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 6 12:59:33 EDT 2011
I don't teach in the UK, but for game design, I like the books you mentioned (yeah, no bias there ;-) and also Koster's "Theory of Fun", Schell's "Art of Game Design: a Book of Lenses", and McCloud's "Understanding Comics". If you're looking at things from less of a "how to make games" perspective and more of "how to analyze/study games" then Salen&Zimmerman's "Rules of Play" is still my one go-to book for that area.
For game programming, I hate all books I've seen with a passion. They all read like identical clones of each other, and seem to all fall into one of three categories:
1) Beginner-level books that use "games" as a selling point but never really teach the parts of programming that are game-specific (graphics, realtime input/output, game loops and the game state) and instead just have the reader doing text-based stuff like Tic-Tac-Toe and Battleship.
2) Paint-by-numbers type books that walk the reader through creating specific games by following step-by-step instructions. The problem here is that most students just follow the instructions without really thinking about what they're doing, so they end up unable to apply the knowledge to make original games of their own.
3) Expert-level books that give specific hints on how to optimize. Great stuff, just not suitable for an entry-level class.
In fairness, writing a programming text is really hard, because really what you want the student to learn is a complex form of computational thinking, and the only way I've ever seen anyone "get it" is through lots of frustrating practice of writing their own code and then debugging it, and eventually building enough experience to start making original stuff. So the learning process requires either a lot of dedication and perseverance on the part of the student (most students that have that, come to you knowing how to program already :), or a lot of coaching from a human instructor who knows what they're doing (so the text you use doesn't really matter anyway). On the bright side, if you're teaching games programming, it'll be really hard to outsource your position to a textbook ;-)
My advice for game programming (and game design) has always been this: learning how to program games is hard. Learning how to design games is also hard. Trying to do both at the same time is a recipe for failure; do one at a time, then when you master both, start combining them. This means:
* When learning game design, do not include programming as much as is practical. (This is why I love having students design board games. No compile errors there :)
* When learning game programming, do not require students to design. Have them make clones of existing games that they already know how to play, so they can concentrate on the programming part. (I do like to include a small amount of design, but it takes the form of something like "...now add one feature, and you get bonus points if the feature has a high bang-to-buck ratio -- in other words, if it adds a lot to the gameplay AND was EASY to program!")
* Add a capstone or other project-based class later where the students are programming games of their own design. But they should be comfortable with both design and programming before being allowed to take this class.
Of course, that's all just my opinion, and I know others have differing opinions :)
From: Darren Christie <darren at bagend.org.uk>
To: game_edu at igda.org
Sent: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 2:24 AM
Subject: [game_edu] An Introduction and UK BTEC National Diploma
Relatively new to the list, just wanted to ask are there any others on here teaching the BTEC National Diploma in the UK, and in particular the following units:
Mathematics for IT Practitioners
If so which language are you using? What text books?
First time I'm teaching the units above, and I'm trying to give them all a gaming bias. We are using C# and XNA 4.
For the game design I'm using the Game Design Workshop, Level Up! and Challenges for Game Designers.
For the games programming the main book I am using is Learning XNA 4
And for the Event and OOP using C# for Students.
I have some others I am using for ideas for just certain chapters which if folks are interested I will list. But so far the above are my main go to books.
I would really love to swap ideas with those teaching these units, or similar ones on what they have found works well in the classroom.
One of the ideas I had for the Games Programming for the game they have to produce was to give the students a theme to base their game round, abit like a game jam. Thought this would get round the "I don't know what to do a game about, and hopefully avoid a lot of zombie based games".
Well thats a lot for an opening email to the list. Hope to hear from you
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