teaching machines

CS 491 Meeting 1

January 24, 2017 by . Filed under gamedev for learning, lectures, spring 2017.

Dear students,

Welcome to CS 491: Game Development for Learning!

I was recently reading about a software developer who was trying to teach his 7-year-old to code. I was reading it because I too had a 7-year-old and 5-year-old that I was trying to teach to code. What struck me about the article was that the father seemed caught up in definitional knowledge. Did his son know what a variable was? An array? Or, for goodness sake, a closure? His father had this to say about the success of their learning venture: “Ding, ding, ding! He got it!!!”

The son got definitions, but what can he do with them? (Maybe good things; the article doesn’t say.) My own sons and I have talked very little about the concepts of computer science, and we focus instead on making things. I believe that they will learn computer science on the way to something bigger. Initially we programmed 3D models, but then their school had a science fair. We decided to build games in Unity. Each would develop a game, and I would not touch the keyboard. Here are the results:

I share this with you because I think this is the best kind of learning: making something and picking up what you need to know along the way. This class is not about game development; it’s about making a game.

Making games in a group is how we’ll be spending our time. I will rarely lecture, though I will probably record some videos on Unity that I think will help you.

Let’s briefly discuss the expectations of the class…

I wanted to make this class an opportunity for folks to interact with a real live game development company. Certainly, I was hoping that this would be an opportunity for you to get your abilities noticed and get you recruited as an intern or full-time employee. But also I want us to get feedback from some people that makes games. I don’t make them for a living, and I don’t feel qualified to give the feedback that you need.

Filament Games, therefore, is partnering with this class. We had the opportunity to visit them on Friday. Let’s talk about the trip and what we learned…

The rest of our time today is best spent organizing ourselves. These are the things you need to do:

  1. Form teams.
  2. Submit a piece of paper with the name of your studio and a list of its staff. Turn this is as soon as you have settled on something. The studio name can be changed later.
  3. Read the project milestones.
  4. Argue about what game you will make.
  5. Individually post in your team’s Slack channel a plan for what you will do before our next meeting. Use the Post format, so that you can write longer, media-rich messages and follow up to them later. Create a new post by clicking on + next to the message box.

Here’s your individual TODO list: