Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Computing Science and Games Programming

I caught a report on the radio this morning about the UK computer games industry. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are finding the same recruitment problems as the rest of the Computing/IT sector and are complaining they can't get enough suitably qualified graduates.

BBC NEWS | Technology | UK games industry needs brains

Franci plays maze
Originally uploaded by nico.cavallotto
What the radio clip I heard included and what is absent from the video clip above was a conversation with a university person. The university lecturer said that applicants to the course needed a good A-Level Maths to get in. "You need maths to make computer games?", the reporter exclaimed with obvious shock and amazement! I then did my grumpy old man bit and shouted at the radio expressing my own surprise at the reporters surprise. :-)

At the risk of flogging a dead horse long after it is a greasy spot... I wonder if the reporter's incredulous response is caused in part by the confusion between ICT and Computing. If you see the two as equivalent, it could lead to the following wrong thinking:

Computing can't be all that hard, can it? I mean everyone can do it already. You just press a few buttons and the computer does it all for you. Why a three year old child could write a computer game! Now maths... maths is hard. Are you sure you need to be able to understand something as complicated as maths to produce a game?

Perhaps I'm being unfair to the reporter but the amazed response to the idea that you need to understand maths and physics and make use of a whole range of other complex disciplines seemed to show a lack of understanding of what computer game creation, and perhaps more generally what Computing Science is all about.

We really need to do a better job of explaining Computing Science. We need to make clear the complex, inter-disciplinary nature of Computing Science and the intellectual challenge and rigour that is needed to be successful in Computing. Also, we need to make clear the huge skills shortage that our Computing/IT industries are facing unless we get our act together soon.

What do you think? Have I misrepresented the reporter? Are most people clued up on the complexity and challenge of Computing? Or is schools ICT making Computing seem low-level, boring, unchallenging and unrewarding?

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Anonymous said...

Since I know nothing about computer gaming design I do not feel qualified to comment allthough even I wonder if A level maths is really that important?

David said...

I don't know much about computer gaming either but I can see how Maths could be jolly useful.

That's one each. Anybody want to break the tie by adding a comment?

Andy McSwan said...

Computing does not exist without maths.

having done some games programming in the past at university and having friends who have done it in more detail than me I understand how important both physics and maths are in programming for video games.