Intel Developer Forum: It's All a Game

Last week at IDF, I had the pleasure of being on the panel - "It's All a Game" with Contra Costa's Professor Tom Murphy, and Intel's Brad Werth. One subliminal - or may be not so subliminal - message that I continued to evangelize (even at this panel) is the suitability of Games as a vehicle for education.

Sure they are complicated, feature many lines of code, involve frameworks, engines, and systems spanning various facets of computer system. But that's what makes them the most appropriate vehicle for education. Let me elaborate.

- What's an effective mechanism to demonstrate multi-core, or Amdahls law to computer beginners?
- What's the best mechanism to explain basic tenets of parallelism - task and data decomposition?
- What makes an exhaustive case study to migrate from native threads to managed threading - like Threading Building Blocks?
- What makes an effective tool to teach a profiling tool (say, like Intel Parallel Studio)?
- What plays a cross-curriculum role being suitable in variety of courses like Algorithms, Data Structures, Graphics, Operating Systems, Gaming?

My answer is Games. Sure there are other simpler problems that make a good case study. Matrix Multiplications, or Fourier Transformation, Fibonacci, or many others. But Games are 'cool'. It's easy to capture attention of A.D.D. infused audience. It is fulfilling for a student to see the benefits of their work when they can be measured by an improved gaming experience.

One interesting discussion we had in the room, was the risk of confining students for gaming industry by introducing them to games - thereby potentially oversupplying the gaming industry with talent. My stand is utilization of games in curriculum is not only for those students who want to have a career in game industry. Games are cross-cutting in nature. A student with game background is equally suited in any job role that may feature Animation, Graphics, Performance, Technical Computing, even the basic software design.

So lets not get paranoid by the mindset that Games are for an advanced audience, or for very focused/specialized class. Yes - they definitely are but they can also be generalized for a plethora of curriculum and usage scenarios.
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