EppsNet Archive: Video Games

Teaching Computer Science: The Phones Aren’t Helping You

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes. The way the classes are taught, via an online curriculum, provides a great temptation to kids to get off-task, which they do, usually by entertaining themselves with their phones. They get off-task in other ways too — web surfing, doing homework for other classes — but the main distractor is the phones . . .   “As I mentioned before, I worked with another CS class a couple years ago. No phones allowed in the classroom. “I remember one day the assistant principal was in class observing . . . a student had a phone out, looking at it . . . he was holding it under the table so no one could see it, but this guy, the assistant principal, he did see it. “Oh man, did he hit the roof!… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: Asking for Help

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes. This morning, in AP Computer Science Principles, the teacher went through an explanation of the hexadecimal number system, then gave an in-class assignment for students to convert their cell phone number to hexadecimal. Not in two parts, 3 digits and 4 digits, but as a 7-digit number. It seemed pretty obvious from the interaction and the body language and the looks on their faces that a lot of students didn’t get it, but in a class of 25 students, only one student asked for help. Until the teacher finished with that student and asked “Does anyone else need help?” and eight more students immediately raised their hand. I asked the teacher, “Can I address the class for a minute?”   “First off, doing a 7-digit hex conversion is not easy. I know… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: The Last Day

On the last day of class, I gave students the code for a partially working Space Invaders game, along with instructions for adding collision detection and completing the implementation. The instructions didn’t leave too much to the imagination because I wanted to give everyone a chance to finish out the year on a successful note. I estimated it to be about a 30-minute activity. It didn’t occur to me that that students would do anything but finish the program and spend whatever time was left over blasting aliens. What they actually did was, they finished the program, tweaked the firing interval so they could shoot faster, changed the speed of the sprites, added more aliens, changed the program to shoot two bullets at a time instead of one, changed the program to shoot five bullets at a time, enabled the aliens to drop bombs, had the game recognize that when… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: Mindset

I’m not comfortable giving people advice that they didn’t ask for, so I usually preface it by saying “Feel free to ignore this . . .” That being said, I want to talk about the mindset I think you should have for this class, maybe for other classes, maybe even for things outside of school. Feel free to ignore this . . . Education has allowed me to make a living doing things that I like and things that I’m good at. A lot of people are not able to say that. Most people, I think, are not able to say that. Most people are like “I hate Mondays” and “Thank god it’s Friday” and that sort of thing. I have had jobs where I spent the day doing things that I don’t like and I’m not good at and it’s painful. And the amount of money you get paid… Read more →

Why Aren’t Women Interested in Computer Science?

According to this recently published research paper, women aren’t interested in computer science because of media portrayals like “The Big Bang Theory,” in which technologists are depicted as socially awkward, interested in science fiction and video games and physically unattractive. If that seems like a compelling line of reasoning, you can read a more complete write-up in this WSJ.com article. What I’ve never been able to figure out is why people are so interested in why women aren’t interested in computer science . . . Read more →

The Game Blame Game

My boy is playing NBA 2K12 and points out that my Where’s Waldo shirt looks like the Washington Wizards (nee Bullets) throwback uniforms. “Where’s John Wall-do?” he says. Ha ha. I get my comeback opportunity a few minutes later when his game player passes to a teammate, who scores, but his player doesn’t get credit for an ssist. “HOW CAN THAT BE ANYTHING BUT AN ASSIST FOR ME?!” he shouts in disbelief. “That’s bad programming.” “Oh I doubt that,” I say. “The people who program video games are a lot smarter than the people who play them.” Read more →


How inspiring is it that the 99 percent have $4 billion to spend on Call of Duty video games? #getajob

Matchup Problems

My 15-year-old kid has created a custom NBA 2K9 roster consisting entirely of 7-foot-11 point guards. “It creates some real matchup problems,” he says. Read more →

Twitter: 2009-06-24

Stop masking passwords? http://bit.ly/xv7xt # RT @tweetmeme Stunning Illustrations of Female Game Character (CAUTION: They are HOT!) http://tinyurl.com/lfloru # Read more →

Rated M for Mature

My son and I are watching a TV commercial for the Resident Evil 5 video game. “Rated M for Mature,” the commercial says. “Is anyone who plays video games really ‘mature,’” I ask, using finger quotes to emphasize “mature.” No reaction from the boy, a video game player himself. “You see what I mean?” I ask him. “No,” he says. Read more →

Check Your Facts

It’s 7 p.m. and my son’s ready to make a deal . . . “If I study for an hour,” he says, “can I go play basketball at 8?” His mom is skeptical. “You just played Xbox for five hours,” she says. He shakes his head vehemently. “Four-and-a-half hours,” he says. Read more →

An African-American Name

My son needs an African-American name for a character he created in NFL Street. “How about Kareem of Wheat?” I suggest. He decides to go with Delondre McWreck . . . Read more →

Blame Roger Goodell

My son’s explanation to his mom on why he can’t turn off Madden 2008 like she asked him to: I can’t stop in the middle of a game. Roger Goodell has not sent me a notice that we can do that. Unless there’s a weather delay or fans throwing things on the field, which there isn’t, so that can’t happen. Read more →