Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teaching game development community.

In Spring 2013, I'll be teaching an undergrad / grad Unity course at Parsons called "Currents: Building Worlds."

The course has a few learning goals -- (a) to gain a broad conceptual understanding of how Unity works across art assets and code, (b) to learn some useful software engineering patterns for games, (c) to develop self-sufficiency for solving Unity problems / "learn how to learn", and lastly (d) to recognize membership in a global game development community.

That last one's probably the most ambitious.

The average undergrad (or grad student), outside of a journalism program, thinks blogging is dumb and useless. And as implemented in many classes, they're right -- these course blogs are usually semi-private or pseudo-public, not oriented towards public consumption. It situates blogging as a learning process where results don't really matter, along with every other piece of writing you write in your academic career. It's a worthless exercise because more often it's just a trick to get you to reflect on a reading. Yet the trick doesn't really work. Students just don't see the value in writing blogs, even though they probably read at least a dozen blogs a day.

But writing is also a product, a commodity. People get paid to write things. Writing is a valuable learning process, yes, but it is also a valuable thing to publish to help others facing the same issues or problems. The content of the product matters.

I'm largely a self-taught game developer. I've probably read hundreds of tutorials, or maybe even a thousand. These were all free, peer-published instructional materials of generally decent or high quality. It's a big reason why some developer communities gain so many members: Google sends you there, then you make an account to ask for help or to comment on a tutorial, then you post screenshots of your work for critique, then the next day you're posting photos of your dog in the general forums. It's a totally democratic, grassroots learning community built on altruism.

When you blog, you are furthering the field of all human knowledge. You can take that responsibility a little more seriously and help other people...

Or you can waste your own time by putting something out that isn't worth reading because you're a cool hip college kid who's above sincerity.

... At which point, I'll give you an F.

(Just kidding.)

(Kind of.)