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GamingGollum

Helping Teens Break Into the Gaming Industry (advice?)

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I work for a new startup near Seattle, WA.  We are designing a passion discovery system for teenagers.  The system takes teenagers' passions and interests and builds out a curriculum based on what they love to do merged with what they are naturally good at.  It's a really amazing thing our engineers have built and is getting better all the time.

 

We're doing a lot of testing right now.  My exciting job is to help make the gamer area as exciting, thorough and intensive as possible.  The idea is to take a teen who is passionate about gaming and show them everything they need to know about the gaming industry.  Our system "cracks" their talents, passions, and interests, and then merges all of that into a very addicting learning platform for teenagers from 5th to 12th grade.

 

(scenario: A teen passionate about gaming begins to explore our system.  We "crack" two areas he is interested in: gaming and law.  Our system leads him down a path of extensive learning videos on both of those focus areas.  By the time the teenager hits high school they know they want to be a copyright lawyer representing video game publishers, where to go to school for the right degree, and how to get a job in that field.)

 

Where I need help:

 

  • Choosing categories in gaming for teens to explore. (design, 3d modeling, marketing, writing, etc.)

 

I've been building a list but I need some advice on areas associated with gaming that teenagers should learn if they are going to eventually join the gaming industry.  Please give me some ideas to add.

 

If you know teenagers that are interested in gaming, send them to Empower.me for Gamers to signup.  The accounts are free for teens and it will help us to troubleshoot, grade, rate, and make the system better.

 

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I'd be cautious about the way you're scoping things.

 

Civilizations advance, generally speaking, in a cyclical manner. First, you start with generalists: people who can do everything they need to survive. Then you introduce specialization, and increase this until people become exceedingly good at laser-focused subjects and are more or less unaware of the rest of the world's intricacies. This is where the cycle begins to repeat, and it's fascinating to me that a lot of famous thinkers have failed to observe this pattern (c.f. Adam Smith in economics, for just one high-profile example).

 

Once you have a society of specialists, the next breakthroughs come not from people doing extremely focused research or highly niche exploration, but from [i]synthesis[/i]. It is the generalists who again come to reign: people who can look at dozens of fields, find fascinating correlations between them, and invent new relationships between formerly rigid taxonomies of knowledge.

 

Every now and then, a synthesizer will arise and introduce what we typically think of as a "paradigm shift." Generally these come in bursts; for relatively recent history, look at the 20th century in the US alone. Industrialization was hitting diminishing returns so we started moving towards an information economy. That went through several cycles of general-vs-special before we hit the present situation; it isn't entirely clear where we fall on the continuum right now, but I will bet a very nice beer that we'll see synthesis becoming increasingly important in the next few decades.

 

 

My encouragement for your project is to resist the urge to categorize and pigeonhole subjects. Reducing someone's interests to specific [i]pre-existing[/i] relationships like "games" and "law" forces people down the path of specialization. Instead, I think you should encourage the next generation to look into synthesis. Don't look for ways to combine your preset categories into some kind of amalgam that your students find palatable; challenge them to invent their own subsets of knowledge, their own fields, their own disciplines - and, most of all, their own combinations of those things.

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I think one of the problems you'll find is that a lot of people will be more into making or designing their own games than really looking at focusing on one of the disciplines involved to become an employee of an established studio. The problem, I think, is analogous to what you might expect to (stereotypically) see in Hollywood where everyone has an idea for the next greatest movie. In both cases, you have an alluring medium where a high degree of expertise is necessary to produce a product that does its best to hide the complexities that went into producing it.

So my advice would actually be to have a discussion with the individual that's responsible for the "movie area". The movie industry is well established and studied and I think there would likely be a large number of categories that would be in common that you could draw inspiration from.

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IMHO a teenager who hasn't even started highschool yet hasn't finished developing as a person yet.  They should be adding new interests to an array from which they don't try to choose a career until later.  Many of the things young teens are highly enthusiastic about will be things they aren't interested in at all by the time they are finishing their teenage years.  And the game industry isn't exactly a reliable and bountiful source of jobs with good working conditions, I personally wouldn't encourage kids to aim for a game-related job unless they didn't have any passions related to better fields.

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What makes you think its a good idea to socket late elementary and middle to early high school students into career tracks? Based on my experience people often don't stay in the degree they originally went into college for anyways.

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Great points to everyone.  We're actually on the same page, I may have just approached the subject wrong on this forum.  Our system isn't designed to pigeonhole a teen into a specific micro-niche and try to talk them into that career.   The system is designed to do exactly the opposite.  We are attempting to create a new technology that will help teens expand their areas of interest and see all kinds of possibilities with the ability to explore all of them as in-depth as they want to go.

 

The example in the scenario was one where a teenager loves video games but, through the system, realizes they love law just as much.  Through the process of exploring all kinds of different aspects of gaming and law (and anything else they are interested in, like music, science, theatre, etc.) they make an informed decision when the time comes to pursue a career in that field.

 

One problem we are trying to eliminate is teenagers who graduate high school and have no clue what they want to do.  They end up having sub-par or even depressing careers where they live for TGIF rather than enjoying what they do with their life.  Another aspect is the college students that either wander for a couple years with no direction and those who drop out after a couple years feeling like nothing is worth pursuing.

 

With our system a teenager can explore everything that gets them excited and see how their life path could possibly be if they followed those passions or even merged several passions into a life path.

 

The reason I am building a gamer-focused area is to give teens from hardcore gamers to those interested in gaming a full view of the entire industry.  From the janitor that mops the studio floor, to the salesman who sells the game, to the head of the studio, to the guy who designs the game package... we want them to be able to explore all of it and, if they are interested in it, be able to learn all they can about it.

 

Categories I currently have:

  • Marketing
  • Game Design
  • Art in Games
  • Music in Games
  • Sound Design
  • Producing Games
  • Programming
  • World Building
  • Scripting
  • Creative Writing
  • Voice Acting
  • Animating
  • Quality Assurance
  • Law (gaming industry)
  • Games in Education
  • Careers in Gaming
  • How to make a game
  • iOS programming
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What makes you think its a good idea to socket late elementary and middle to early high school students into career tracks? Based on my experience people often don't stay in the degree they originally went into college for anyways.

 

We believe one main reason for this problem is because they aren't passionate about the degree they chose.  Very good point and one of the main reasons we are working to create this.  I have worked with teenagers for a big portion of my life from high school to college years and one of the main issues I see them face is not knowing what they really WANT to do.  We're trying to help teens "crack" their passions and learn about them and how they can follow those farther in their lives.

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Ok, if you're going to talk about anything game programming related (although most jobs in the gamedev industry seem to follow this criteria), please be sure to mention the amount of math skills needed. Many teens who are passionate about gaming don't realize that game development is a completely different thing than playing games.

 

I can't even count the number of times I've heard pre-teens talking on forums about how they are going to create "the next big thing", yet have no idea how to do simple algebra and blow off math as a pointless subject. The main reason why the game development feild lacks recognition and respect from a lot of people is because few realize the amount of math we have to do.

 

Letting these middle schoolers know this will help them to set realistic goals and work hard in math. That's the one thing I regret about my early teens.

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JungleToe, Great advice!   Math should be a major part of the programming section.  I also think that if they're interested in programming and really want to get into it, learning math might not be so "boring" to them.  Thanks for the reply.

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I took a general game development overview course for people who knew nothing about anything (meant in that it was a 100 level course, so it was filled with first year CS students and 1st year artists) in which we designed a game and dealt with lots of the pieces of the puzzle. I would not recommend it. The danger you fall into is that you try to do everything and in doing so fail at all of it. 

 

Making a game takes a lot of skills that are not trivial to learn. If you want them to make games, then have the focus on honing the skills to make them. If you want them to learn about games, then focus on teaching them about the process of making them in a real environment. You probably won't have time to do both meaningfully.

 

Maybe it had to do with the fact that I already knew what I wanted to do so I didn't really care about the other stuff, or maybe to do with that I knew most of the other stuff (a good amount of information is just available on the internet via gamastura, altdevblog, or tsloper's site).

 

If I could recommend something I think doesn't get enough press, have them design board games. A lot of lay people don't realize how easily board games extrapolate to video games, and they require far fewer technical skills but keep a lot of the similarities everywhere else (game design, testing, law, publishing, etc).

 

edit: on second recollection it was a 200 level course, but it had the same problem.

Edited by way2lazy2care
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