I hate it when I hear an adult, (especially a teacher!) react to a kid passionately playing a computer game by saying, "go outside," or in some other turn of phrase, squash their passion.
Good move adult role models. See passion in a kid, squash it.
Sure, it might be good advice, but I think it's a mistake to give it because it doesn't usually work. Kids play more if adults react first by
trying to stop them. They know the adults haven't given them the respect
they deserve of trying to find out more about what games they are
playing? Why? What's so fun about it? Now, they also know games are
addictive, and they will need help balancing their play. But an
uneducated response from an adult isn't the way.
My suggestions is to respect and redirect.
Also, respect the valuable technology skills it takes to be a gamer. To be a gamer is to be good at computers. Gamers instal software,
hardware, are often part of online communities and spend a lot of time
reading, writing, and researching games. These are valuable skills in
the workplace. Gaming is not vegging out on the couch with TV.
Consumption to Creation
- Scratch web based game development form MIT
- Scratch Jr. for tablets/phones is a great starting point when young.
- Minecraft.net, especially Minecraft Edu.
- Roblox.com. Development environment for older kids and adults.
- Unity game engine. Development environment for older kids and adults.
- Recent Article: Varsity Gamers: Making History and Dumbfounding Parents.
Redirect to a Career Game Industry
My main source is my step-brother, Ocean Quigley.
Ocean has been working in the gaming business since we both got started in technology in San Francisco in mid-1990s. He started at the bottom as a 3D modeler and has risen to be the art director and creative director for a bunch of very famous games, some literally in the top 10 of all time, including Spore, SimCity and the Sims. He's also a painter who regularly has showings. Ocean is his real name by they way, and yes, his parents were hippies.
I talk to Ocean often about the industry, and I refer to a write up he wrote a few years ago often: Breaking into the games business.
Ocean's main advice in any area where you are involved in creation, is that you have to be able to demonstrate a valuable skill. You have to show you can do the work, better then most, in some sort of digital portfolio.
Moving into the industry as a project manager, accountant, HR person, etc. is probably a bit more resume oriented, but you'll need some relationship to the gaming industry, and some passion about it.
I'll also add to Ocean's advice that college for game design is more and more an option. Even the small state of Vermont has a great bachelors degree in game design at Champlain College. College is a good option for some people who might need the structure, because it allows
one to have time to learn, and time to create actual proof of a skill by
doing projects and documenting them in portfolio.
It's only one way though, Ocean in fact has, "dropped out of several prestigious colleges," as he says. While I observed him learning valuable skills in colleges, he was and is very, very disciplined and self-taught in art and computers since early in high school when I used to watch him do graphics on a Commodore 64 in the 80's while he taught himself to draw and sketch on paper. He carries a sketch book to this day, everywhere.
Ocean started in the industry making rent for a little room in a
shared warehouse in San Francisco by working in Photoshop making images
for game manuals, while he drew and painted. Then some new software came out for 3D modeling (3D Studio Max) and was just becoming the main tool
for making models for games. Ocean was in the Bay Area where lots of
game companies are, in a deadend job, and he had always dreamed of making worlds.
Ocean ended up breaking into the industry by teaching himself to use that new 3-D
modeling software. then he created an amazing virtual trip through an art
gallery from the point of view of a house fly. On the walls of this
virtual art gallery were photos of oil paintings he had done! It worked, and got two major offers. He took the one from Maxis and started working on SimCity 2.
Here are two other good lessons. One, know when to move
to the right city, and two, know what software is hot. But remember, Ocean also aligned
all this with his passion, not just because it was hot. Passion is paramount.
The fact that Ocean knows how to paint and draw has also been key. He married classical training in art with amazing skills with software. Many young people can, and do, learn how to use advanced software, but they don't know about timeless skills like color theory, composition, light, and art history. That means they usually end up working for someone like Ocean. Not a bad thing, as the pay is great on his teams, but if you want to go to the top, you need to go deeper then knowing which buttons to push.
So, if you ever see a gamer who seems like they would like to become a game creator, don't tell them to get outside, encourage them to bring gaming more into their life, their homework, careers, writing, research, and to try and create games, not just consume them.