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From 2 D To Consoles: A Three Semester Computer Game Development Curriculum

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Programming for Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.767.1 - 12.767.10



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Paper Authors


William Birmingham Grove City College

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Dr. Birmingham is the chair of the Computer Science Department at Grove City College. Before coming to Grove City College, he was a tenured associate professor in the EECS Department at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Birmingham's research interests are in AI, computer gaming, mobile computing and communications, and computer-science pedagogy. He received is Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. all from Carnegie Mellon University.

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David Adams Grove City College

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David B. Adams received a BS in Computer Information Systems and a BS in mathematics at The University of Virginia's College at Wise in December of 1997. He moved on to graduate work in Computer Science at Virginia Tech obtaining a Masters (2003) and PhD in Computer Science in August, 2005. Adams is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Grove City College in Grove City, PA. His research interests include parallel and scientific computing, multiplayer client-server models for games, programming languages and computer science education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

From 2D to Consoles: A Three-Semester Computer Game Development Curriculum 1. Introduction

Computer-game development is immensely popular with undergraduate computer-science and computer-engineering students. More importantly, the design and development of computer- games is an excellent pedagogical opportunity: developing games integrates a great number of the subjects students learn throughout their undergraduate experience1. This integration of topics, coupled with student driven motivation to learn, is an important step for students allowing them to utilize tools from programming and graphics to calculus and physics; from data structures and algorithms to computer hardware to name just a few subjects2. From a teaching perspective, computer-game development is great fun to teach as the students are highly motivated and the subject matter, while very challenging, is fun!

At Grove City College (GCC), we have developed a comprehensive three-semester sequence in computer-game development. The sequence is designed to take students from interactive fiction and 2D arcade-style games to sophisticated console game development. The first two courses in our three course sequence stress computer gaming fundamentals in 2D (the first term) and then 3D (the second term). In these courses, we cover a wide range of topics from software architectures for game design to fundamentals of game development including algorithms, data structures, graphics (including OpenGL and DirectX) and techniques for good game play. We have offered the first class twice and we will offer the second course during the coming academic year.

In the third term, our students gain experience with console gaming. Through a partnership with Nintendo and Freescale, our students develop games for the Nintendo Gamecube. Console game development is challenging, as the students not only must use sophisticated game development techniques learned in the previous two courses, but they must apply their knowledge of computer hardware. We are currently running a pilot of the console course with five students.

In the paper, we describe our curriculum, as well as the pedagogical techniques we use. In addition, we discuss many of the issues in delivering the curriculum, particularly at a small college. 2. Related programs

Overcoming a reputation synonymous with wasting time, game programming is being incorporated into academic programs creating new classes and opportunities for students to work on very sophisticated and technically relevant applications during their undergraduate education. Programs, like that of North Texas, incorporate game design with a focus on getting students into the gaming industry and have had reasonable success3.

In contrast, many programs are aimed at simply increasing student motivation to explore current hot technologies and programming techniques on a large project and to work in multi- disciplinary teams. For example, the College of New Jersey offers a design course where students from a variety of disciplines, including the arts, work on a game. Other programs range

Birmingham, W., & Adams, D. (2007, June), From 2 D To Consoles: A Three Semester Computer Game Development Curriculum Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2468

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