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Teaching game development with the Western Care Association

This week I began teaching a game development course in Mayo. I was a bit nervous, but this quickly melted away as we got stuck into the course material. The class size was small, which was great, as it meant I was able to give each student my focussed attention.

Nik Kemski was their previous tutor, so there’s a high standard to live up to! I will do my best, and I am enouraged that the students all seem very interested in the topic and engaged to learn.

The first class covered the initial setup of the development environment – the boring stuff – just to get that out of the way and ensure we are all on the same version of Unity to avoid any headaches later. I also covered a little Game Design and got to learn more about each student, the kinds of games that they enjoy.

The game we are making

The game that we are making on the course was outlined in our first class, based on the feedback of the students. The course is 10 hours long, and we have only 8 hours left! So while the scope is super small, I want to add as much as I can into it.

I will demonstrate a bunch of things Unity can do. I hope to cover some great tools to play with like the Terrain tool and Shadergraph. I want to complement what they have already learned also, so we will likely make a similar game. There is a good chance that we will be covering some of the same material again. Which brings me to some musings – how do I measure the value of learning? How do I ensure that the students are getting as much value out of the class as possible? How do I cultivate a positive learning environment? I have some answers for these, but I guess we will find out as we progress through the course.

The design of the game will compliment what they have already covered. It will be a basic First Person Shooter. I also aim to include assets, and perhaps a game mechanic or two, based on what the students share about themselves and their interests in class. I want to re-create these interests or game design elements that excite each of the students about their favourite games.

I will be helping the students get to a “complete game” experience by getting some premade assets for the game. I will use the Unity Asset store to show them some good free assets. However, if I have time outside of class (I don’t really, with my own game in development!). I hope to also create an asset or two myself using Blender, for each student, so that they can import it into their project. Even if it is just for decoration, I think that would be a nice way to show that games can be made for people, much like the way songs or poems can be written for people. (In fact, the most eye-watery smooshy heartfelt thing I have heard of a game being created for was to use as a way to propose marraige, just wow, the feels!)

Repetition

I was initially concerned that I would be retracing steps with the class that they have already taken. I want to provide the most value so I was afraid that repeating things would cheapen the experience. However, I will likely do things slightly differently to their previous tutor, so it is not a waste of time, it should help broaden, or reinforce, their understanding.

You can accomplish the same outcome in myriad ways using Unity. So if we do re-thread the same path, it is no harm to reinforce an approach – it might even be a conventional approach! When I think about it, repetition does wonders to help reinforce learning and understanding. Repetition can also build confidence in the students as they experience more “I know this!” or “I get it!” moments. So perhaps I was just being anxious about teaching, rather than be anxious about the content! Anyway, it seems like I am past that anxiety around teaching the new calss and just love it now!

Outcomes

The aim is that each student will have a playable game at the end of the course, with some of their own content in the game. It should be playable in the Unity Editor.

Additionally, if we have time, I aim to guide them through self-publishing their game on the itch.io marketplace. This would be a huge benefit to the students later, as they will be able to tell themselves that they are game developers – check out their itch.io page and see!

I am already really enjoying this, though there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work and a long commute. If I can help make any one of these students more confident and more fluent in their game development skills, then for me, I think it is worthwhile!

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