TUESDAY, JANUARY 06
When compiling a list of exciting career options, most people probably wouldn’t rank computer programming very high on the chart. But add the word “game” to the title and see what happens.
A computer science professor at Oklahoma City University is encouraging students to take a look at the profession, even if they’re not the most computer literate people on campus.
John Goulden has created a class for non-computer science majors next semester called Introduction to Game Programming. While he doesn’t expect to see the next Wolfenstein three-dimensional game come out of the class, Goulden says it is very possible for the average student to create something that could capture the attention of computer users everywhere.
“Look at Tetris and Bejeweled. Those games aren’t very complex in their programming or very expensive in their production, but millions of people were addicted to playing them,” he said. “Someone’s going to come up with the next Tetris. Who knows? It could be someone here.”
Besides the actual act of programming, Goulden plans to spend some class time discussing the history of computer games and their societal impact, all within an informal discussion format.
“I don’t want to stand up there and give lectures the whole time. It’s more fun to have the students pull up their chairs in a circle and have a casual conversation about the subject,” he said.
Goulden will also talk about the business and script-writing sides of computer game programming, important aspects of the industry that he says many programmers lack. He said he will group the students into teams in the hopes that someone with good script writing abilities can pair with someone with good computer skills.
“Computer programmers tend to be lousy script writers,” he admitted, “but a good game has to have a good script and dialogue.”
Goulden mentioned a couple of his favorite games some of his previous students came up with. One was called “Island Rescue,” a 3-D flight simulator in which the player must find a plume of smoke to find and rescue some stranded people. Another is “Cup of Coffee,” in which the player moves around a dorm room and interacts with visitors while trying to brew a pot of coffee.
“It was hilarious. The student used his dorm room for the model and he worked his friends into it. The friends would knock on the door and have little conversations with the main character,” he said. “It was simple, but it was fun.”
The class will count as an elective credit, and even those who decide not to become programmers will get something out of it.
“If nothing else, they’ll have a game they designed that they can take with them and show everyone they know,” he said.