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Can Video Game Testing Spark Interest in Computing Among Black Youth?

By Georgia Institute of Technology

September 11, 2009

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Betsy DiSalvo with Georgia Tech's College of Computing is betting that young African American males' interest in video games can be tapped to generate a greater interest in computer science, and to that end she and her colleagues have started a group in which adolescent African American boys are recruited as game testers.

DiSalvo introduced a dozen teenage students to game testing, giving them experience in working in the gaming industry for about 20 hours a week. The students also learned programming skills using the Alice drag-and-drop programming language, and acquired the ability to manipulate images using the Jython language.

DiSalvo says that the African American students began playing games at a younger age than white youth, tend to play with parents or other family members more frequently, consider games to be competitive sports, and usually avoid using hacks, cheats, or gaming guides.

DiSalvo and colleagues are learning that more than 50 percent of the game testers are now interested in expanding their computer science education. "They saw what computer science is on several levels," DiSalvo says. "First, the workshops showed them they could code. Also being able to be creative by engaging in programming and problem solving motivated a number of students. Others just realized they could work in technology because they were doing game testing work as high school students."

From Georgia Institute of Technology
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