Aug 272022

Top-down Design of a CS Curriculum for a Computer Games BA
Nuno Fachada e Nélio Códices

“Computer games are complex products incorporating software, design and art. Consequently, their development is a multidisciplinary effort, requiring professionals from several fields, who should nonetheless be knowledgeable across disciplines. Due to the variety of skills required, and in order to train these professionals, computer game development (GD) degrees have been appearing in North America and Europe since the late 1990s. Following this trend, several GD degrees have emerged in Portugal. Given the lack of specialized academic staff, not uncommon in younger scientific areas, some of these degrees “borrowed” computer science (CS) programs and faculty within the same institution, leading in some cases to a disconnect between CS theory and practice and the requirements of GD classes. In this paper, we discuss our experience in adapting the CS curriculum of a three-year computer games BA in accordance with GD requirements. We used a top-down approach, where the game engine used for GD informs the choice of CS topics and programming languages lectured in the CS curriculum. The discussion is centered around the choices taken and the theoretical and empirical rationale behind our decisions. Preliminary empirical results indicate a substantial increase in GD project quality and a clear improvement in the students’ technical skills, as well as in their experimentation and adaptation capabilities.”

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