Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Game On (Andy)

It's come to our attention that the work we're going to be doing is sort of open-ended. Moreover, the literature the Peace Corps has sent us makes references to self-directed side projects.

I've thought a lot about what exactly I want to contribute. In a perfect world, I'd show up, teach everyone Ruby on Rails, and when I left my village would be full of startups and outsourcing firms. It would spark economic growth, which would lead to improved living conditions, which would lead to me being remembered as a hero forever.

But let's be realistic.

I'll probably end up somewhere with very limited Internet access. The machines I'll be working on? I'm guessing there will be three of them, and they'll all be i386s running virus-ridden Windows 95 installations. I can't count on the people I'll be teaching knowing how to use a mouse, let alone being ready to learn the basics of programming and scripting. In fact, I can't count on them even caring about computers or understanding why they might be important.

So I had an idea. What got me into computers? What made me want to learn more?


I'd like to bring a bunch of classic DOS games with me... games with low hardware requirements that can run on DOSBox. Hopefully, the students will fall in love with the games the way I did. If a few of them then grow a curiosity for how games are made (or at least how to hack and cheat), I can use that as a lead-in for teaching programming. Maybe we could even program a simple game together?

I've recently discovered Abandonia, which has a bunch of classic abandonware DOS games. There are some really good ones that I can't wait to show my future students. "Buck Rogers," anyone?

I'm not sure this is the kind of project that the Peace Corps would find acceptable, or that others would deem important, but I'm very passionate about it. So far, I believe in it. And if it gets nixed or there's no interest, at least I'll have a great way to spend some of my free time.

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