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Game Development in Computer Science Education


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Title: Game Development in Computer Science Education

Game Development in Computer Science Education
  • Dr. Michael Katchabaw
  • Department of Computer Science
  • The University of Western Ontario
  • London, Ontario, Canada

  • Introduction
  • Why Study Game Development?
  • Building Game Development Curriculum
  • Classroom Resources
  • Conclusions and Looking Forward

  • Worldwide, there has been a recent growing
    interest in video game studies in education
  • Many disciplines are looking into this
  • Media studies
  • Education
  • Psychology and sociology
  • Art and design
  • Music
  • And, of course, computer science

  • Each discipline has its own interestsin studying
    video games.
  • For example, media studies look into thecontent
    of games and their impact onsociety.
  • As another example, many educators are
    investigating the applicability and usefulness of
    games as classroom learning tools.
  • In terms of computer science, interestis
    typically focused on the issues surrounding the
    development of games.

  • Most interest in video games in computerscience
    curriculum has been at the university and college
  • Developing games of commercial scale and
    quality often requires a great deal ofbackground
    and expertise.
  • For example, game studies at Western.
  • Nevertheless, we are starting to see a move
    towards the secondary and elementary levels as

Why Study Game Development?
  • Why study video games in general?
  • Why study game development in a computer science
  • Why study this at the secondary and elementary
  • There are a lot of good reasons, actually

Why Study Game Development?The Challenge
  • "Game programming is without a doubt the most
    intellectually challenging field of Computer
    Science in the world."
    - André LaMothe

Why Study Game Development?The Challenge
Why Study Game Development?Good Computing
  • Since game development builds on nearly all areas
    of computer science, games can be a good
    mechanism to teach students about computer
    science in general.
  • Problems are entertaining and involve creativity
    and ingenuity.
  • Yet, they also teach students about programming,
    data structures, datamanagement, algorithms, and
    so on.

Why Study Game Development?Good Computing
  • Studying game development can also provide rich
    experiences to students
  • Working in teams.
  • Interdisciplinary studies.
  • Providing a creative outlet.
  • Working on concrete, real-world problems and
  • Consequently, these can be very good computing
    problems to investigate.

Why Study Game Development?Industry Drivers
  • The video game industry is a significant
    component of the software industry
  • Several billions of dollars in sales each year,
    and growing very rapidly.
  • More units distributed each year than virtually
    any other category of software product.
  • Last year, the gaming industry pulled in more
    revenue than Hollywood.
  • For the last several years, video games have been
    selected as the most fun entertainment activity
    of all North Americans according to surveys.

Why Study Game Development?Industry Drivers
  • Canada has a growing game industry.
  • Ontario, in particular, is home to a
    growingnumber of game companies.
  • To stay competitive, these companieswill need a
    number of things
  • A skilled workforce to rely upon.
  • New technologies to improve their products.
  • New development tools and techniques that allow
    their products to be built cheaper and faster,
    without sacrificing quality.

Why Study Game Development?Student Interest
  • Students are definitely interested in game
  • Since it provides an interesting, stimulating,
    and educational experience, why not include it
    more in their computer science course work?
  • Perhaps it might help attract studentsto
    computer science

Building Game Development Curriculum
  • Building game development curriculum can be quite
  • What topics should be presented?
  • How should it be delivered?
  • How should students be evaluated?
  • Do tests and exams make sense, or is project work
    all that is needed?
  • We will take a look at the answers to these and
    other questions now

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
Game Design
Software Infrastructure
Technical Elements
(Graphics, Artificial Intelligence, Animation,
Physics, Networking, )
Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • Technical elements
  • These compose the core technologies and
    foundations that are used to support the game.
  • This includes graphics, animation, artificial
    intelligence, networking, physics, and so on.
  • While each technology is relatively independent,
    they must work in unison to provide a complete
    gaming experience.

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • Software infrastructure
  • A good software design pulls the various
    technical elements together to form a functional
    software base to support the game.
  • This layer must keep in mind the best practices
    of software engineering, including abstraction,
    modularity, encapsulation, portability,
    reusability, dependability, testability,
    localization, robustness, maintainability,
    correctness, scalability, usability, and so on.
  • We must also follow standard software engineering
    processes during development.

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • Game design
  • With good software and technical design, we have
    all the foundations for a game.
  • Having good foundations, however, is not enough
    to produce a good game.
  • Good games require careful and thoughtful design
    of the structure, content, and approach to
  • Without this, the game might be technically
    sound, but just not enjoyable to play.

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • Games in general
  • Motivators and typesof players
  • The evolution and history of video games
  • Game genres
  • The game development process
  • Principles of game design (generic and
  • Interactive storytelling
  • Level design
  • Puzzle/obstacle design
  • Software lifecycle models for game development
  • Technical issues (graphics, artificial
    intelligence, animation, sound, networking, )
  • Real-time software
  • Engine design and implementation
  • The game asset lifecycle
  • Tools and supports
  • Ethical/social issues

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • While appropriate for a college or university
    curriculum, some of these topics are too advanced
    for a secondaryor elementary curriculum.
  • Quite a few, however, are appropriate for a
    secondary and elementary curriculum.
  • They would be quite suitable for computer science
    courses, especially multimedia.
  • Some might be good topics in other subjects.

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
Photo from the Space Pioneer Learning Adventures
Game Design Camp. 40 boys and girls (5th and 8th
graders) came together for two weeks to work in
same gender groups (with a teacher facilitator)
to design space related educational games.
Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • Game concepts and examples can beused to support
    a traditional core computer science curriculum as
  • Programming.
  • Software design.
  • Algorithms.
  • Data structures and management.
  • User interface design.

Building Game Development Curriculum Topics
  • The International Game Developers Association
    (IGDA) has developed itsown curriculum framework
    for game studies, and runs a discussion
    e-maillist for this purpose as well.
  • Information can be found online at
  • http//

Building Game Development Curriculum Evaluation
  • In a college or university curriculum focused on
    game studies, student evaluation typically takes
    the form of assignment or project work.
  • Students, alone or in a group, complete a small,
    medium, or large sized game.
  • Tests and exams are relatively rare,but are not
    unheard of.
  • Testing students on game studies can be
    surprisingly difficult.

Building Game Development Curriculum Evaluation
Screen shots from game projectsdeveloped in
Westerns game development course.
Building Game Development Curriculum Evaluation
  • In a secondary or elementary curriculum, tests
    and exams could be more common, but are still
    hard to construct.
  • Assignments and projects involving the
    development of games would still play a key role,
  • Especially true in courses where games are
    studied for their own sake (like multimedia).
  • But, this can also hold true in courses where
    games are used as examples of computing problems
    (like programming).

Building Game Development Curriculum Evaluation
  • Assignments and projects in developing games must
    be managed carefully.
  • Scope is likely the most serious problem.
  • Complexity is also a big issue.
  • Collecting content and game assetscan be
    incredibly time consuming, andgenerating it
    might not be an option.
  • Tools and resources must be in place first.
  • Good progress tracking is a must.

Building Game Development Curriculum Project
  • Before developing a game, it is important to
    first consider just how much of the game will be
    built by the students.
  • Scope and complexity are definitelylimiting
    factors here.
  • There are several key parts to a game.
  • Some may be acquired for use with minimal
    difficulty and huge gains.
  • Others will need to be generated by the students
    no matter what.

Building Game Development Curriculum Project
Content Creationand ManagementTools
Game Contentand Assets
Programmingand Support SDKs
Game Code
Building Game Development Curriculum Project
Content Creationand ManagementTools
Game Scriptingand Logic Tools
Game Contentand Assets
Game Engine
Programmingand Support SDKs
Building Game Development Curriculum Project
  • A really good approach might be an
    interdisciplinary approach.
  • At a secondary school, there are many disciplines
    of study so why not use them?
  • Visual arts for artistic assets.
  • English for story creation.
  • Drama for voice acting and motion capture.
  • Music for, well, music.
  • Teaming up like this is a great way to have
    really interesting and rewarding projects.

Building Game Development Curriculum Project
  • Another interesting interdisciplinary approach
    involves teaming up secondary and elementary
    students together.
  • Elementary students design the game, while
    secondary students build the game for them.
  • This allows for some new and interesting dynamics
    and collaboration.
  • It could also inspire elementary students to
    study computer science further when they reach
    secondary school

Building Game Development Curriculum Project
Screen shot from Neomancer, an interdisciplinary
action/adventure/RPG projectbetween computer
science students at Western and art and design
students atSeneca College. Nearly 50
participants are involved in the project.
Classroom Resources
  • There are a variety of good resources available
    to assist in class game development activities.
  • Software tools and programming environments.
  • Books.
  • Websites.

Classroom Resources Software Supports
Game Maker. Available online at
Classroom Resources Software Supports
KlikPlay. Available online at
Classroom Resources Software Supports
Adventure Game Studio. Available online at
Classroom Resources Software Supports
RPG Toolkit. Available online at
Classroom Resources Software Supports
3D GameStudio. Available online at
Classroom Resources Software Supports
BlitzPlus and Blitz3D. Available online at
Classroom Resources Software Supports
  • Other tools/engines/environments
  • OGRE (http//
  • Irrlicht (http//
  • Popcap (http//
  • Blender (http//
  • Alice (http//
  • MUPPETS (http//

Classroom ResourcesBooks
  • Several publishers are now publishing books on
    game development.
  • Some are getting to be appropriate forclassroom
    use as textbooks.
  • A few of the more active publishers
  • Thompson Course Technology (took over and
    expanded Prima Tech/Premier Press series)
  • Pearson Education (through Addison-Wesley and
    especially New Riders Games)
  • Charles River Media
  • Wordware Publishing

Classroom ResourcesWebsites
  • Industry-oriented
  • Entertainment Software Association
  • ESRB (http//
  • IGDA (http//
  • Game development news
  • Gamasutra (http//
  • Slashdot (http//
  • And do not forget google!
  • There are far too many good sites to list here!

Classroom ResourcesWebsites
  • Do not forget our course website
  • http//
  • There are course notes, sample exams, and lots of
    links to games-related material available on our

Conclusions and Looking Forward
  • Moving forward with games in acurriculum
    involves careful consideration
  • Sometimes negative perceptions of gamestaint the
    study or use of games.
  • Being taken seriously by peers, parents,
    thecommunity, and sometimes even students.
  • Issues in gender balance and inclusiveness.
  • Will there be the support and resourcesmade
    available that are needed?

Conclusions and Looking Forward
  • That said, games and game studies have been
    successfully integrated before.
  • At the college and university levels.
  • And at the secondary and elementary levels.
  • With the growing acceptance of game studies at
    all levels, the time is right to pursue this

Conclusions and Looking Forward
  • Studying game development in a computer science
    curriculum has many interesting and exciting
  • Interesting and engaging problems to solve.
  • Opportunities to express creativity.
  • Enriching experiences for students.
  • Experience in working in groups.
  • Possibilities for interdisciplinary studies.
  • Studying games does not need to be limited to
    computer science either!

Conclusions and Looking Forward
  • Many resources are becoming more readily
    available to support this.
  • Software tools and environments.
  • Textbook-grade references.
  • Websites on the Internet.
  • It is becoming easier and easier to add
    games-related lessons and course work to a
    computer science curriculum withgreat success!