Old Man Zack

I had the opportunity to do a “teach in” at a local high school this morning. It’s basically a Career Day. I figured that kids would really be jazzed that a game designer was coming in to talk to them. One of my coworkers noted “We’re like the guy-from-the-zoo-that-comes-in-with-the snake of the 21st century.”

First off: good God, who gets up at 6am? I don’t want to be one of those people!

The presentations went well. I split my talk between stuff about being a game designer and stuff about how to figure out what you want to do for a living and then achieve it. The kids (9-10th grade, I think) were mostly attentive, but you could tell who the gamers were in the audience because they were the ones asking questions in the end. Everyone wanted to know how to be a tester (until I explained fully what a tester did, that is) – that was asked in all three sessions. Another question that was asked in all three sessions was about motion capture. That surprised me. I guess a lot of people have seen “making of” sites and such that they they at least know that the guys in Lycra and Ping Pong Balls are doing something interesting. The other question that was asked  in each session was what my favorite game was. I caught myself realizing that they probably haven’t played anything before Halo because I didn’t want to look like an old man who thought games were better back in my day, so I just said Oblivion.

A great question I had with the last session was “Why do games have so many bugs?” I explained the development process and deadlines and how you have to prioritize between quality and quantity of features and hit somewhere in the middle. Another kid butted in and told the original asker “They have to release at the start of the season because that’s when people want those games.” The kid then retorted, “Then why are there so many problems with games that don’t have to release at a specific time?” I explained how much it can cost per month in salaries, benefits and overhead and did some quick math on how many thousands of units you have to sell based on the improvements of an additional month. I thought that was a pretty good exchange that showed some of them were actually paying attention and thinking.

I honestly thought people would be a lot more enthusiastic. I made a presentation with lots of images and jokes, but they stared at me blankly through most of it.

Man, I feel old. These kids can drive.

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