Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My "How to Design Games" Continuing Ed class, though the subject appeals a lot to young people, did not get enough students to run. This has really impressed me with the tremendous lack of initiative of young people as a group (there are of course many exceptions).

For example, four students (out of 17 high school junior and senior males) in a college class for high school students I'm teaching say that their aim in life is to design video games, but only one of them managed to make it to the class. As they're 23 miles from our Sanford campus, travel might have contributed to that, but I think also it's a reflection of what a "generation expert" calls the "ambitious but aimless" tendencies of Millennials (Gen Y). They have a goal, but not only don't know how to get there, they may not even be willing to pursue a path to it when the path is available. The expert's example: Millennial says "I'm going to be an astronaut". Well, that's very praiseworthy, but that requires a lot of work, you'll likely need at least a master's degree in some science-related subject, you have to take physics, math, etc. "Nope, I don't do math," says the millennial. Then how can you be an astronaut? "I'm going to be an astronaut". They don't see the connection between where they are and where they're going, but somehow it's going to happen.

One of the 16-year-olds who did come to the class said he tried to get some buddies to come as well, but they were "too busy". I'd bet a lot of their busy-ness amounted to killing time playing video games, but if you think that somehow things will just work out, you're not likely to take the initiative to change the state of affairs.

Moreover, many young people just don't seem to keep track of things. A couple days after, I came across one of our current curriculum students who had said he would be attending (but did not) and asked him about it. "Oh, did that start already?" He just hadn't kept track; and though we have a listserv and ask the curriculum computer students to join it, he had not done so and didn't get the reminders I sent. Another high school student (not in my class but in another at the same place) came to me and asked about the class. He'd had a flier that said when it started, but this was three days after that date.

When we try to run this class again in mid-March, I'll try to make sure every person who's expressed an interest is phoned to remind them when the class is about to start. The ConEd people sometimes do this for folks of retirement age, but it appears to be necessary for millennials as well.

So to expect a young person to have the initiative to actually intend to take such a course, and the organization to keep track of when it starts, is asking a lot, evidently, of the average person.

This has helped convince me that, when we're trying to recruit young people for the two-year computer degrees, we need to get to their parents, as the parents will often provide the initiative that the student lacks. As it stands now, only about 11% of the curriculum students come to us straight out of high school.

I would have enjoyed teaching the class--those who did come and I sat and talked for over two hours that evening--but I can use the time for other things, as well.

Change of subject:
I have been trying to make a combat table (using the sum of two dice for results) that reflects pretty closely the results of fighting the standard Brit way. Because of the probability involved it's slow going. I intended to use it in the Arthur game instead of actually rolling dice, to speed things up. But I may in the end go back to a form of the table I made for MegaBrit, which gives the defense a little edge, and not worry about trying to reproduce Brit combat results.

For relaxation I'm reading Marc van de Mieroop's History of the Ancient Near East. It is much more social history than the usual fare, quite eye-opening in its detail. I expect that one way or another I'll end up with a more or less Brit-like game in this era (2500-500 BC), as the existing ones (Chariot Lords, Ancient Conquest) don't appear to reflect reality well at all.

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