Game Making 101: Keeping it simple

I am teaching a game making class this fall.  Nothing fancy, just letting the kids explore Unity and Blender.  Since I have never worked for a game making outfit I cannot really dive into the actual non-coding process that game making entails.  So we have some fun making some simple games following YouTube and printed resources I have. The course really is not about making a game, it is more on how to learn to use a game engine.  In that idea I usually have the kids look at GameMaker to see a different approach to making games. Being less than impressed with GameMaker I am always looking for a better second game engine to include in the course.  I have looked at Unreal Engine (a bit more than I want to bite off right now), Amazon Lumberyard (short on support material and poor ratings) and Cryengine (mediocre ratings). Yesterday I was just looking to see if there was anything else out there of interest when I found Godot Engine.  Good support material on the website, some good YouTube tutorials (this is critical), easy to install, good ratings as a beginner engine and similar enough interface to Unity that some of that knowledge with transfer over. It apparently will publish directly to an Android device which makes it more fun for the kids.  They get to play their game. I am going to give it a try.

This game making class is one of my hardest to grade.  I have students who really enjoy it and spend hours at home getting things to work and I have students that only work in class and even then they tend to wander.  The kids that are really into it obviously produce a better product but the kids that are just surviving do produce. I do not feel right giving the overachievers a better grade, after all, this is their hobby.  So I have to grade on effort which can be a bit tricky. How hard a kid is “trying” is really hard to measure. Part of that “trying” involves how long they can sit in front of a monitor without going buggy. I am good for about 15 minutes (unless I am really getting into it) before before I have to go wander around.  I have a couple of students that can sit there for an hour and a half and be happy as a clam. I have some that are only good for ten minutes before they have to wander mentally and physically. I simply cannot bring myself to grade a kid on how long they can listen to a YouTube tutorial or my lecture before they need to do something to clear their head.  Right now my grading is based on one of my favorite criteria, that ever useful, but a bit undefined, “warm and fuzzy”. Try and you get a decent grade. Do not try and the grade is not so hot. If there is a deadline then how close did you come and how hard did you try to make it? Luckily I have very small classes. I do not think this would work with more than ten students.  Right now my class sizes are five, eight, one and one. Warm and fuzzy works.


8 Responses to “Game Making 101: Keeping it simple”

  1. Alfred Thompson Says:

    I hate grading. I wish we could do without it completely. That would require students who care about learning for it’s own sake and not be motivated all (or mostly) by grades.

  2. gflint Says:

    I think you and I are lucky. We actually get a high proportion of students that are self motivated and like to learn. I do not think I could go back to a public school again. I have friend in public school. Regular horror stories regarding students, teachers who should not be teaching and administrators who are glorified book keepers.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I have problems with the statement “I do not feel right giving the overachievers a better grade, after all, this is their hobby.” You make it sound like good grades can be earned by working hard at something you hate, but not by working hard at something you love. That seems really messed up to me.

  4. gflint Says:

    That is sort of unclear. I just wanted to compare those that work hard but do not consider it a recreation and those that do consider it recreation and therefore do it at home for hours extra. I think I have to set a limit on expectations that can be met by the typical student and yet still encourage the “overachievers” to overachieve. How to grade that blend is what gets me. I have the kid who spends hours on his own, I have a kid who will work on it for the whole 1.5 hour class and not take it out of class and I have the kids who work for 10 minutes and then need a 10 minute break from the screen. All are working within expectations but with different levels of interest. They are all putting in the effort I would consider needed to meet my course goals. Should the overachiever receive a better grade even though they are way beyond course goals? This is where I think grading becomes tricky. I do not have an answer. I give all three types of students good grades for their work, I just do not want the overachiever to quit what they are doing because they see students doing less work getting the same grade. So far it is not an issue. Those exceeding course expectations are doing it for fun and not to get a better grade.

  5. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I guess grade inflation has gotten to the point where a student putting in half effort during class gets an A, and there is no room to recognize levels of effort past “meets expectations”. To my mind, “meets expectations” is a C, “good work” is a B, and “overachiever” is an A.

  6. gflint Says:

    I can see your point. I was referring to my expectation for an A. I have an idea what I want for different grades. If a student goes well beyond that does than mean I should slide the scale and do a complete reevaluation of my grading criteria? Yesterday during class one of my Games students spent an hour designing his own sprites for the project they are working on. This was not a required part of the assignment but they look really really look sweet. This student will have time to do the extra and still accomplish the assignment at a high level. I had not even thought of including building sprites as part of the assignment. How do I grade that? It is really difficult for me to decide what is a realistic point to stop on where the expectation for the “A” ends. With my math classes grading is pretty cut and dried. There are nice test scores to use. With the games course and the programming course the cut and dried just is not as good.
    With my Python programming class I encounter the same general issues. I grade on a working program that is well commented. I take points off for “clumsy” code but sometimes that is not easy. I have a solution in mind and often the kids will come up with a coding solution I had not thought of. It may not be as clean as my solution, it may be cleaner. If it is not the solution I expected does that mean it is wrong? Not in my book. The other programming teachers I talked to seem to have the same grading struggles. Oh well, if teaching was easy anyone could do it.
    These are great comments. They make me think about what I am doing in my classes.

  7. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    My students sometimes complain because I rarely give As (on the flip side, I rarely fail people either). I reserve the A grade specifically for students who go beyond the expected—for those who really do more than I ask for or come up with better solutions. Someone who does the standard assignment perfectly but doesn’t go beyond can get an A-, but the usual grade for very good standard work is B+. No major errors, but somewhat awkward writing results in a B. Errors in the content drop the grade to B-, C+, C, … depending how serious the errors are.

  8. gflint Says:

    I will have to look at my grading schema. Luckily I am at a school that grades by percentage, not letter, so it is easy to slide things up and down. Am I inflating grades? Now that you have me thinking about it I might be. Hmmm.

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