Video gaming is the new language that crosses age and cultural barriers, says Bryan Fendley, director of academic computing at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
“It’s how many people already interact, communicate and relate to each other; it’s really not about playing games – it’s a culture shift,” Fendley said.
With that in mind, Fendley has developed and will teach an online course in video game development this fall. The course, which has no prerequisites and is open to students in all academic disciplines, is designed to teach the fundamental concepts of programming to create animated movies and simple video games.
“Video gaming has a lot of different applications,” says Fendley, “and frankly, it’s a skill that is becoming necessary for a number of professions. Video gaming is great for people in the sciences who want to develop simulations. In marketing, it helps people to be able to interact with products before they buy them. For educators, it’s a helpful teaching tool. If a teacher has a student who doesn’t understand a concept, the teacher could learn to develop a video game designed to address that particular student’s need.”
The course will use Alice, a free 3D programming environment developed by Carnegie Mellon University that makes it easy to create animated games and simulations. Three dimensional objects such as people, animals and vehicles populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.
Fendley developed the course after presenting to educators at different conferences about video games and learning.
Fendley thinks educators can learn a lot from the video gaming industry.
“In traditional classroom settings, we don’t encourage students to learn laterally,” Fendley said. “In video gaming, once a player learns a concept, they can branch out and learn more before moving forward. In traditional educational settings, we teach a concept, then we ask them to move on to the next level without letting them branch out in this way. Failure is also accepted in video games. It’s part of the learning process. When a player fails, they try again and again until they get it right.
Fendley says his course is really about interactivity rather than playing games. “The hook with video gaming is, when a player gets on line, he or she becomes actively involved. This course will teach students how to create media that does just that”