The Game-Themed Introductory Programming Project

Computing and Software Systems        UW Bothell  

Projects Home

CS1 Workbook

XNA & Windows Phone 7

XGA: XNA Game-Themed Assignments
XGA Latest Release
XGA Details

XGC1: XNA Game-Themed CS1
XGC1 Latest Release
XGC1 Details


Releated Publications
Peer Reviewed


High level overview of our project:

Our project was conceived as part of the efforts in addressing the recent decline in enrollments across Computer Science (CS) departments. It has been demonstrated that teaching CS concepts based on programming interactive graphical games motivates and engages students while accomplishing desired student learning outcomes. When properly integrated into introductory programming (CS1/2) courses, these approaches can build excitement and enthusiasm for the CS discipline and attract a bright new generation of students early in their academic careers.

Most of the existing results in integrating computer gaming in CS courses are based on pioneering exploratory projects by faculty members with expertise in computer graphics and gaming. With few exceptions, these projects are ``student-centric'' where the main goals of study are student engagement and various learning outcomes. Adaptability and generality of the resulting materials are usually not main concerns. For the faculty members teaching CS1/2 courses, most of which are without computer graphics or gaming background, it can be challenging to take advantage of these results.

Our project addresses these issues by conceiving and designing CS1/2 game-themed courseware materials. These materials are self-contained so that faculty members without background in graphics or gaming can pick and choose a subset to combine with their existing materials without modification to the rest of their existing classes. The materials are also limited in curriculum scope in order to facilitate selective experimentation. Finally, the materials include detailed implementation tutorials to assist interested faculty in developing their own game-themed courseware materials. This work can be described as both student- and faculty-centric because it is designed to address the needs of both.


  • To develop Game-Themed materials targeted specifically for selective adoption by faculty members with no background in computer graphics or computer games.
  • To develop supporting materials for interested faculty members building their own Game-Themed materials.
  • To assess and demonstrate the effectiveness of the Game-Themed materials in classrooms.
Our primary targets are introductory programming courses (CS1/2).  


Currently, there are two projects in progress:
  • XGA: XNA Game-themed Assignments:
    • Seven (7) XNA-based game-themed assignment modules that can be transparently replaced into existing CS1/2 courses.
    • Neither the adopting faculty nor the students need to have any knowledge in computer graphics or gaming.
    • Please refer to: XGA: XNA Game-Themed Assignments for more details and download instructions.
  • XGC1: XNA Game-themed CS1:
    • XNA-based CS1 examples, assignments, and solutions.
    • Organized according to typical textbook such that the materials can be used in conjunction with an existing textbook.
    • This project is currently in development phase, please refer to: XGC1: XNA Game-Themed CS1 for more details.

Background Rationale

A proficient computing workforce is essential for maintaining the countryís leadership and competitiveness in the global economy. The recent decline in enrollments across Computer Science departments and the decrease in student diversity pose significant challenges to the continuation of the nationís prominent position in the global high technology arena. An immediate solution is urgently needed. For the health of the national economy, and to sustain successful and vibrant software industries, we must build excitement and enthusiasm for our discipline in order to attract a bright new generation of students early in their academic careers.

In the recent professional gatherings, numerous Computer Science educators have reported that incorporating computer gaming in programming classes creates high levels of excitement and motivations. Independently, we have observed this phenomenon firsthand in our graphics programming classes where gaming components have drastically increased the enrollments and engaged students?interest in challenging physics and mathematics topics.

Integrating computer gaming into CS1 and CS2 (CS1/2), the first programming courses students encounter, is a promising strategy for recruiting and retaining potential students.

For more details: here is the original project proposal.

Microsoft Logo This work is supported in part by a grant from Microsoft Research under the Computer Gaming Curriculum in Computer Science RFP, Award Number 15871 and 16531.

UWB Home 18115 Campus Way NE
Bothell, WA 98011-8246
(425) 352-5000
(425) 352-5303 (TDD)
University of Washington Bothelll
Copyright ©2008, UWB. All rights reserved.
Comments to Kelvin Sung:
Last Modified: February 23 2010 15:32:38. KS