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Games Entertainment

Games in High School? 813

Joe Griego of Bishop Union High School, CA asks: "I'm the Director of I.T. for a small school district, and we've implemented a 'Game Night' for our kids. We open the lab once or twice a month, and let the kids sign up for the lab computers (we have 34 of them), and play LAN games until the wee hours. It's a lot of fun for the kids, and I enjoy seeing them use the computers for recreation, as opposed to purely academic purposes. However, my question would be - do other high schools even do this?" Judging by the post-Columbine reactions from the government, parent's groups, school systems, and the media, if a school is doing this, it's probably on the QT. Personally, I think this is a great idea, it keeps kids off of the streets and their parents know where they are. What do you think?

"I'd like to know what sorts of games would be best for this activity? We play Age of Empires II, Starcraft/Broodwar, and MechWarrior IV. I would have liked to include first person shooters (for the gameplay), but I'm limited by parental concerns, and perceptions in the community. As a school administrator and parent, I understand these concerns in a way the kids perhaps do not.

Are there other games that would be suitable for a school sponsored event? I'd love to hear about experiences at other schools."

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Games in High School?

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  • Sort of (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EdMcMan ( 70171 )
    That is really cool! At our school, we have a Cisco networking class, and we do something similar, except it's out of school. As long as they have parent permission, I think it's a great idea. Unfortunately, around here it isn't possible.. as we live in a very conservative area.
  • by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw.snkmail@com> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:23PM (#3646725) Journal
    How many schools actually have computers that are good enough to play Unreal Tourney or Age of Empires?
    • > How many schools actually have computers that are good enough to play Unreal Tourney or Age of Empires?

      More than you may realize, actually. The school board I worked for has recently upgraded board-wide to IBM PII 400s, and are slowly upgrading labs towards and beyond the 1GHz marker. The older machines have, typically, generic S3 video chipsets onboard but the newer models are shifting through S3 Savage, Trident, and eventually to nVidia chipsets.

      The Cisco programs for high schools are dandies; the government loves the media hype, local companies (small to corporate) like the initiative, so funding often comes in large amounts from strange sources (while the rest of the school resources are mis-managed and lacking, of course ... ), so Cisco labs would probably be at an advantage.

    • Even low-end cards can run UT and Q3 not bad...

      In the university I go to, we have some standard vid-cards yet Q3 gameplay is really not so bad. Sure it is choppy, but who cares when u can release some study stress by fraggin other students...
  • Civilization III (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mesozoic ( 134277 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:24PM (#3646726)
    It's less violent than most games kids play these days, it requires a fair amount of real thinking (as opposed to just running around and shooting anything that moves), and it's more addictive than heroin.
    • Too bad it isn't multiplayer.
    • by eam ( 192101 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:30PM (#3646805)
      As a parent, I can say that "more addictive than heroin" may not be considered a selling point.

      Nevertheless, I have to say (as I did further down) that Civilization is perfect!

    • Plus it is a great teacher of military tactics. Probably better and more efficient than any history teacher could. Plus kids actually learn themselves from experience.

      Don't know how accurate this story is, but a friend told me that one of the history classes back home play 'Axis and Allies' as a test to see if they learned how to apply some of their course material. You can take it with a grain of salt, but it's a good idea.
  • by spotter ( 5662 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:24PM (#3646728)
    or at least the CS dept.

    The local ACM chapter sponsers gaming events every so often where we take over one of the labs and have people play lan games. usually tournament style.

    we even take pictures. here are some from a starcraft tournament we held.

    http://www.cs.columbia.edu/acm/pictures/gaming-S C- fa01/
  • AUP? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rainmanjag ( 455094 ) <joshg@ m y r e a l b o x.com> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:24PM (#3646735) Homepage
    I think the tricky thing would be merging this gaming session with your institution's Appropriate Use Policy. Most educational institutions consider non-academic work to be misuse of computing resources. Examples being playing games and getting pr0n. If you drop the barrier and allow school resources to be used for games on this night, you probably would want to make sure that you find some way to emphasize is that playing games is not acceptable the remainder of the time. But again, depends on your institution's policy.
    • Re:AUP? (Score:3, Funny)

      by eam ( 192101 )
      On the positive side, by dropping the barrier & allowing games to be played on school machines, you improve your chances of eventually getting porn permitted!
    • I wouldn't consider this to be a misuse of computing resources any more than I would consider the chess club a misuse of resources. Or football, or baseball. But then again, we're talking about administrations that would rather die than let their favorite sport get cut, and they're willing to cut funding to music and science classes (usually the most expensive) to prevent that.
    • Re:AUP? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TweeKinDaBahx ( 583007 ) <tweek.nmt@edu> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:48PM (#3647045) Homepage Journal
      Schools support atheltics and model legislature programs, why no LAN gaming?

      How hard is it to add the line "Authorized Games may only be installed on designated workstations and may only be used during sanctioned activities" to an AUP?

      Sure, the games are violent, but so is football. Supporting one but not the other is both hypocritical and outdated. There are no studies which state that these games acutally make people more violent (as opposed to wholesome martial arts programs that are often found in schools...)

      Schools have the (underused) resources, what difference does it make?
    • AUP Problems (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ethidium ( 105493 )
      This is a big problem that I have with a lot of school AUPs. Prohibiting pornography is certainly understandable -- legally mandated, even, as a sexual harassment issue. But, as a previous poster pointed out, playing UT (or Yahoo! Chess) on a lab computer is no different than playing chess on a library table -- which is nearly always allowed. Schools should learn to prioritize rather than ban. Simply say that Academic use always takes priority, and if the lab is full of people playing games, an academic user may boot somebody off. That was the policy at my high school, and it worked beautifully.
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:25PM (#3646738)
    ... And see if you can't get USARMY to sponsor multiplayer 'America's Army [americasarmy.com]' nights.
  • Stragedy Games... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DigiWood ( 311681 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:25PM (#3646739)
    I believe that stragedy games would be the most accepted all around. As a parent I think that some of the more violent first person shooter type games should be limited to the home and not at a school sanctioned game night.
  • we didn't have "network games." Heck, we didn't even have a network. But in college... this sort of activity would get you booted from the lab.

    That is, if the lab admin ever looked up from his network game.
  • This is a great way to make use of idle resources to provide students with a safe after school activity. It even provides for more human interaction if you assume (probably correctly) that these kids would be otherwise playing alone in their rooms.

    I'd suggest Civilization (which ever version is the latest). I always liked that...used to play in the computer lab at college when I was supposed to be watching the front desk.
  • not at all (Score:2, Interesting)

    At the public schools in my area (Ontario, Canada) this is highly uncommon. During normal hours you get in trouble if you are caught playing games and the admins would probably laugh at you if you proposed the idea for doing it at night because people would be messing around installing DirectX and loads of other stuff on their carefully configured boxes. Besides, people kept stealing the mouse balls so the admins super-glued the mice shut. The balls stay in there but you can't clean them, thus the mice get clogged with crap and are no use for gaming.
    • Well, Ontario is pretty big and has a lot of school boards, and some of the computer usage poilcy tends to be set by the school, not the board or the government...

      I'll still throw in my $0.02 CDN.

      At my high school, we were allowed to play games - with one catch. Had to be something we (we meaning the students in general) had made.

      Actually had a decent number of cool little homegrown games. Nothing commercial quality, but more entertaining than sitting there with nothing to do.
      • "At my high school, we were allowed to play games - with one catch. Had to be something we (we meaning the students in general) had made."

        Now THAT is a smart idea. It promotes fun at the cost of learning.

  • by feydakin ( 161035 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:27PM (#3646759) Homepage
    We didn't have a 'game night'.. But I did have 3 seats set aside purley for hacking and experimenting.. They were allowed to try to break the school network, write their own code, and generally be geeks without fear of getting in trouble for violating the school code..

    The only rules were that you had to use those 3 seats (where I could easily see them) and if you cracked my network security you had to show me how you did it, and no DoS attacks on the school servers..
    • My high school actually let the computer club take over the computer lab all night for a massive gaming session. This was back in the day when Marathon and Quake II were the games of choice. (We played on Macs, by the way.) They also let us hook up the digital projector to the screen in the theater. That was awesome.

      This was in exchange, in some respect, for all of the work that we put in creating and maintaining the web site.

      I think the new system administrators don't give the computer club much access to the web site anymore, and the all-night gaming sessions have gone the way of the dot-com.

      Ah, well.
    • When I was in high school, a "friend" of ours was the son of the intermediate school's computer teacher. Because of this, he was able to get us into the lab to play games. This was basicly the only reason most of us ever talked to him.

      Well, one day, he was in the lab alone, in a hacker forum somewhere on the net where he told everybody how l33t he was and how they should all bow before him. In about an hour the real hackers had the school networks shut down.

    • I had the same sort of thing in my high school. I became real good friends with one of the computer teachers (ok, I had a crush on her, she was hot! :-).

      She set up an open lab night for me and several others who wanted to use the computers for hacking. Security cracking was allowed on the basis that you showed the attending teacher how you did it. Back then none of this was even a violation of school policy per se ... there was no policy. :)

  • I helped to set-up/maintain a small (6 computer) LAN in a classroom which we use to play Quake, AvP, and CS beta 7 at lunch time. Sometimes we'd stay after school and play too. The computers wern't used for much else.

    It got a bunch of us into LAN gaming big time, and we held lots of off campus labs...

    Ahhh high school, where I never went to class because there were always computers to fix because the distric couldn't afford to hire techs with IQs greater than 3...
  • Why not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cluge ( 114877 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:28PM (#3646787) Homepage
    Sounds like fun, and the school gets double use out of the computers. Sounds like one hell of a LAN party. The people that say no, and hell no are just upset that they are
    • Out of High School
    • Don't live your disctrict

    I think it's nice to see somone that says "do something for the kids" as opposed to "Blame the video games, TV, blah, blah blah". Tie game night to grades. You get good grades you get more LAN party time! How's that for an idea??

    cluge


    • > Tie game night to grades. You get good grades you
      > get more LAN party time! How's that for an idea??

      Proposition 1. Popular kids don't play computer games, and kids who play computer games aren't popular.

      Proposition 2. Smart kids get good grades.

      Proposition 3. Smart kids are inherently unpopular.

      Thus, tying playing computer grades will either be meaning less, or keep out unpopular stupid kids. The latter of which need all the help they can get.
  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:28PM (#3646788) Journal
    It's going to be fun watching Jon Katz's brain melt when he reads this article.
  • FreeCiv! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Olinator ( 412652 ) <`ude.ssamu.sc.xeh' `ta' `tods+clo'> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:28PM (#3646789) Homepage
    This is a perfect opportunity for FreeCiv [freeciv.org], which is not only a helluva lotta fun, but also
    • somewhat educational/thought-provoking in a how-did-the-world-get-to-be-this-way kind of sense, and
    • free (speech and beer.)
  • I organized an event like this for my high school. We did the fps though. Half-Life, Quake2. Quake3 was in beta at the time, so we played that. A lot of racing games, some starcraft. It was good fun, and as long as it was supervised the administration was relatively cool about it. We never made it abundently clear we were doing the fps thing though.
  • by mrgrey ( 319015 )
    I work for a rather large school district in Michigan, and the sysAdmin here came up with the idea of having LAN games for fund raisers. We had everything worked out: projectors, machines, security, etc. Then, of course, the administration shot the whole thing down. Too violent. And I thought all they thought about was money.....
  • by Phoenix ( 2762 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:30PM (#3646814)
    When you consider that these kids are going to do this anyway, it's better IMHO to have them do this in a social setting where they are actually talking to each other face to face in the lab between sets.

    You can develop good social skills when you get to talk face to face over the pizza and trade "How did you do that" stories.

    And if you are really worried about the blood and gore, use the paintball simulators...a FPS where no one gets hurt, or the Nerf Game based on the Unreal engine.

    If they sit at home and play these games, there is very little interaction, but in a lan party, it's more akin to a RPG session where at the seventh inning stretch you can talk
  • I think a great game would be Army Men RTS, it's like starcraft, but you play little plastic army men. It is the COOLEST thing! Sure there is violence, but no blood, just blobs of plastic! Check it out here [3do.com].
  • Back in the late 80's, my first High School used to open up the labs for whatever. Although they didn't have PC's, they did have a VMS Mainframe upon which many thousands of hours of Moria were played. It got a LOT of kids interested in programming (myself included).

    When I moved to a Voc-Tech high-school, and I became the student sysadmin, I got the school to open up the lab after hours, and to allow students to make their own curriculum during the last 2 years of computer science.. Some great games came out of those minds, and a lot of great games were played.

    So the short answer is: Yes, if they are progressive enough.
  • My highschool (Score:2, Insightful)

    When I was in highschool, we used to play games during free periods and after school on the network and we had a lot of fun. Eventually, they started banning games on school computers because they felt the computers should be used for academic reasons and didn't like having games installed. I feel, that in moderation, gaming should be allowed at school as long as its at a reasonable time.

    Look at it this way: If you allow gaming once in a while, they won't view your rules as hardball. Even students need some time to unwind, and (at least back when I was a highschool student) the only place you could play multiplayer networked games was in school because that was the only place the connection was good enough.

    I don't see how it can hurt. You aren't running a prison camp ;-)
  • Most lan party centers buy their own games to make sure they have enough legitimate versions. High schools won't buy games as they are "misappropriation of funds" and they won't let kids (officially) install their own games, as that would be misappropriation of resources.

    My HS allowed us to play doom2, and fully knew we were doing so (during class even); but I very much doubt any place is doing this sort of thing "officially"
  • Develop SimSchool and let the kiddies play that in the comp lab. Maybe one or two of them will catch the irony and go out into the real world and do something real, like go out on a real date instead of SimDate. (Wait, geeky high school kids, dating.... input does not compute!)
  • we had this (Score:3, Funny)

    by mosch ( 204 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:35PM (#3646879) Homepage
    when i was in high school we played doom on the school network. except we didn't call it 'game night', we called it 'AP Comp Sci'.
  • We do this at our private college. At first it was on the down low, but now we actually have it put on by the Student Activities Department.

    Tons of fun and way cheaper then a bar.
  • I think so. Instead of folks retiring to their castle walls, this gives them a chance to put a face to their competitors, and that alone is important. When you frag some guy, and you can see him wince, there's that satisfaction, but you also learn humility when you get fragged.

    Besides, its just easier to tell someone to lay down a supressing fire rather than type it. ;)

    But who says kids have to play violent FPS? Why not something constructive? This is one of the few if only multiplayer markets that is untapped. The typical multiplayer game centers around killing and destroying. Why not something less zero-sum?

  • The kids would really enjoy a game [3dactionplanet.com] of Hitman [3dactionplanet.com].

  • By doing this, you are interfering with the Federal Government's Midnight Basketball [aynrand.org] program started by Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

    Seriously, I would like to see kids get off their collective asses and do some physical activity outside of gang banging and skin slapping. LAN parties promote the opposite of physical activity. Now with so many kids suffering from adult diseases due to obesity and societal cost of obesity outpacing smoking, I think forced physical exercise would be better than fraggin' their classmates.

  • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:36PM (#3646900)
    RTS games like Starcraft, Total Annihilation, and so forth are always popular, and shouldn't raise too much concern with parents. As for choosing the games themselves, why not just let the students vote on it? Buy a new game every Christmas for the lab, either with school funds or by "game-lab dues" paid by the students.

    Simulation games will be moderately popular too, but multi-player games are usually nicer.

    I actually think that adding a few select FPSs (like Tribes) that emphasize wouldn't be a bad idea, but I agree that that probably wouldn't fly too well with the parents.

    As a third option, you can load SDL on all of the programming course machines and encourate the students to write their own game(s). This wouldn't replace store-bought games, but would be a neat side project that the students would be enthusiastic about and would learn a lot from. I know I had a lot of fun doing this in my high school days (wrote a Tetris clone and a version of Battleship that worked multi-player by using files in a shared directory to communicate).
    • "Teamwork". (Score:3, Insightful)

      I actually think that adding a few select FPSs (like Tribes) that emphasize teamwork wouldn't be a bad idea

      Figures I'd screw up the one time I decide not to preview :).
  • Write to Play (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bpfinn ( 557273 )
    I did have one teacher in high school who would let you play games that you wrote.
  • Forget this after hour crap. My Senior year in high school was spent playing Rise of the Triad in 4 player deathmatches in a lab of about 20 computers (5 groups, each group on 10Base2).


    Of course, this is what we were doing when we weren't using an "Interent Simulator" to learn how to use IE and Netscape. Living in poor Mississippi sucks.

  • BZFlag [bzflag.org] is a fun and simple network game that is a essentially a first-person shooter, but simply involves tanks - very much like Battle Zone, so parents shouldn't mind. It runs on Windows and Linux.

    Just make sure the kids turn on the UDP option so they don't lag the other players out!

  • I think this is a great idea! It may even promote computer games to those who wouldn't normally be interested, and promote social interaction. The fact that you CAN play games like Mechwarrior 4 is a blessing in itself, and a completely foreign concept to the joke known as British Columbia high schools (unless you were in a very wealthy area!)

    While FPS is the preferred network game style of choice, it may be unpopular with parents (who like to blame their child's violence on someone other than themselves), so I would avoid them. I think Mechwarrior 4 is a great choice, but as a Precentor in the Mech Lord League [mechlord.ca], I'm probably biased in that regard. MW4 is a good mix of 'shooter' with strategy, with a small tad of design too. Civilization 3 is amazingly addictive, but I have no idea how it plays multiplayer.

    Alpha Centauri maybe? It's not the NEWEST of games, but that doesn't preclude quality. Actually, one of the Star Control clones (may I suggest Timewarp [star-control.com]?) would be really good, since matches can be fought in minutes, and is both addictive and extremely enjoyable to play multiplayer.

  • Why not also have games like Diplomacy, Risk, Axis and Allies, and other strategy board games for groups of people as well? It might be low tech, but a full game of Diplomacy is more fun than almost any computer game still.

  • We open the lab once or twice a month, and let the kids sign up for the lab computers (we have 34 of them), and play LAN games until the wee hours.
    ...
    We play Age of Empires II, Starcraft/Broodwar, and MechWarrior IV.

    Wow, who paid for 34 copies of each of those games? Seems like that would have bought a fair amount of teaching supplies...

    Wait, you didn't pirate those games, did you? Probably not a good idea to mention it on Slashdot, then. That's okay, I'm sure Microsoft will understand.

    -Mark
  • We did it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:39PM (#3646929)
    At my workplace, which is a private K-12.

    It was a class even.

    Title: The Jollity of the History of PC Gaming
    Synopsis: Promoting learning of games through looking at how games have
    evolved in terms of development (wads replaced with pk3), what goes into
    game creation (gameplay, AI, graphics, multiplayer, etc.), and explore
    the mirth of the games themselves. We will look at multiplayer games in
    these terms, as well as in terms of game genre, to better organize the
    learning experience.

    * Exploring the evolution of game development and what games are
    compossed of (WADS to PK3, sprites to models, etc.)

    * Looking at how game series have progressed and changed betwee
    each sequal and the kind of thinking that goes into early stages of game
    planning (gameplay, graphics, multiplayer support and the like)

    * Discuss how game mods have helped progress game development and
    help shape the gaming industry, as well as how game modifications occur

    I and three student leaders worked on the structure, and we did it for 4 days. Quake3, UT, some Red Alert 2.

  • by clark625 ( 308380 ) <clark625@yahoo.cPASCALom minus language> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:40PM (#3646943) Homepage

    I personally don't have a problem with this, but my neighbors would. I think it's wonderful that your school can do this, but understand that it may only be temporary. Parents can threaten everything inside a school, no matter how good the intent or results.

    The current political climate doesn't bode well for schools (no, I don't mean vote for Reps/Dems/Greens/etc). Schools are constantly being told what they can't do by parents, by the board, by courts, and by state and federal governments. It sucks. Much more time gets spent on what is wrong with our current education system than what's right and what will work in the long-term. Those are big political issues.

    You are likely going to soon face some disgruntled parent who wants your gaming (with his/her tax dollars being used) to end. This person could be quiet about that, but likely the principle will get a phone call. And then if it doesn't end, the board of education will consider the matter. And they will kill it because by this point the initial parent got 100 other parents upset because the games being played are "evil and detrimental" to kid's development.

    Mind you, the initial parent upset won't have ever let his/her child go to one of your gaming nights. Actually, this person is a terrible parent but likes to believe that he/she is a wonderful parent and thus has the right to tell every other parent how they should raise their own kids. That's just how these things work.

    Really, though, I'm supportive of you. I wish we could do something like that here in my hometown with the HS kids. I think this could even be a neat way to get kids to interact with college students in CIS, engineering, etc as well as others in the tech industry. But it won't ever happen here--not on public grounds.

    Oh--and you might want to find a few other games that are considered "non-violent". All the ones you listed involve some type of guns/missiles/bombs and the destruction of other's in the game. Obviously, first-person shooters are out--but maybe Civilization or Starcraft? Yeah, I know these have war as part of the game--but the goal could be considered as more constructive than simply shooting others. Heck, even silly computer card games could be "options" but not played--so at least students would be given a choice (might help when that parent complains).

  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:40PM (#3646946) Homepage
    Another use for programs such as this one:

    At the private high school i previously attended, they had something kind of like this. Every friday afternoon after school, the lab administrator would stay a few hours late and allow the "game club" to meet. "Game club" basically consisted of, they set up a special NT user named "games" that could only log in to the school network between 3 and 8 PM on a friday and that had special permissions to run nonstandard programs. The kids would bring in games and leave disk images of the CDROMs on the games account's network drives.

    So, when game club started, all the kids that liked computer games would come in to the computer lab, install the game they decided to play that day off the network drive, have a little LAN party for a few hours on the school's really very fast computers, then delete the game off the hard drive and go home. It was fun. (They usually played Counterstrike.)

    Why did they do this?

    Because before the creation of games club, they had a real problem with kids coming in to rooms with school computers that had been left unattended, or the terminals in the corner of the library, and playing computer games. So the lab admin guy decided to implement a no-computer-games rule, and set up the game club as a safe-zone time the kids could just cut loose and play whatever they wanted.

    The trick was, his condition was that he would only run game club if everyone agreed to follow the no-computer-games rule the rest of the time. Game club was the kids' reward/bribe for ensuring compliance.

    This turned out to work beautifully. The lab admin guy couldn't be everywhere at once and police every computer, but now suddenly he had the game club-- which consisted of the school's most computer-saavy users-- doing the policing for him. If some new kid came in and started playing games, the other kids would notice and make him stop, because they were afraid of losing game club.

    Unfortuantely, the year after i left, the lab administrator guy was moved to the local middle school and replaced with some new guy. The new guy didn't like the idea of game club, and ended it. I am told that in the time since then, it has become invariably true that if you go into the non-monitored computer lab during lunch, there WILL be kids playing networked computer games.. :)
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @01:44PM (#3647000)
    Personally, I think this is a great idea, it keeps kids off of the streets and their parents know where they are. What do you think?

    Here in Peoria, IL, we had a dance club for teens called Revelations -- up until last year. The name isn't suggestive; the owners were Christians and their motive in providing the club was exactly that. Dancing, peers, and no alcohol even available. But the community had concerns about adults being allowed in and dancing with teens, as well as the subtle nuances of curfew violations for different age brackets.

    Eventually the place closed, although this year a different group of Christians -- teenagers, this time -- organized a replacement called Club Saturn. It takes place in a building on the riverfront intended for private group meetings once a month, charges admission to cover the cost of renting the place, and has plenty of chaperones on duty to make sure the dancing isn't too lewd and that nothing unconscionable happens on location. Curfews are enforced.

    Nevertheless, the city had a bone to pick with them, too -- this time about the money issue. It seems to be cleared up, at least for now, and Club Saturn continues.

    However, it makes me wonder if there's a general stigma about teens in this city having any kind of publicly-advertised party. I'm not even sure it's parents of the kids involved that are concerned; it's probably parents and adults without interested kids who make the noise. Then again, that's just the way people are.

    My point here is that if you want to have a LAN-party club at a high school, you'll probably have to observe a few rules:

    • No "until the wee hours" business, not even on Fridays when there's no homework to worry about. You'll almost certainly have to observe curfews where teenagers are concerned.
    • Pick any games you like, bloody or otherwise -- as long as they're not rated M-17. Turn on the "no gore" controls for the sake of the parents. Advertise that you're doing this.
    • Encourage the kids to form a club for this sort of thing, and hand management and promotion of it over to them next year if it's a hit. Let them nominate games they'd like to play. If they can bring their own copies of the game, so much the better. You'll have per-copy licensing issues, obviously, and you'll have a tough time explaining twenty $50-copies of Civ III to the school board.
    • Free pizza and pop. Duh.
    • Allow and even encourage parents to drop by and see what games are being played. All the posters and reassurances in the world won't substitute for letting parents see what's going on themselves. And how could the kids object? They'll be engrossed in the screen all the time, anyways. Make this a policy for every meeting, student-run or not.
    • Keep a sign-in sheet for kids, and require student IDs to be shown (for proof, and so that kids don't bring random friends to school labs). Police the game room and keep "trouble" students from coming back.
    • Don't forget to set things up so you can wipe the computers clean afterwards and reinstall a Ghost of all the software when you're done. (Hopefully the lab does this anyways.) Do not, ever, trust those kids not to put sneaky crap on the machines.


    The best way to avoid any "Columbine" concerns is to keep it open to parents, monitored by adults, and free of profanity and virtual blood. You'll probably still catch flak, but at least you'll be able to deflect it.
  • We never did this at my school unfortunately.

    But I agree with the other posters who've recommended strategy games. I suppose since this is a school you should try and set a good example - that is, use the facilities for education purposes. Strategy games are educational in a lot of different ways.

    I'm partial to anything involving sci-fi so my recommendations are:
    Stars! [crisium.com] - this is even play-by-email meaning the players wouldn't even need to be in the lab at the same time.
    Master of Orion II [geocities.com] - it's old so you should be able to find it on the cheap.

    Btw, though not multiplayer, Orbiter [orbitersim.com] is a great game that could be very education since after all it's based on realistic physics.
  • Personally, I think this is a great idea, it keeps kids off of the streets

    Personally, I want my kids on the streets.... playing hockey. You haven't been a kid if you haven't yelled "CAR!" to get the hockey net moved out of the way.

    :-) Seriously though, gaming at school a couple times a month is a cool idea. I'd rather him game with friends than gaming with a bunch of strange folk online who could be stalkers, pedophiles, or even /.'ers!
  • ... Five of us who were in AP Computer Programming played fun LAN games (Novel Netwars, registered Descent and unregistered Doom) after school, with the permission of three of the admins. We stayed until 4 or 5 PM about two days each week.

    When we got a second computer lab -- with high-speed 486's -- a bunch of other people wanted to play games in that lab. Unfortunatly they were a rowdy bunch. They brought in pirated versions of all kinds of network games. They infected the lab with several viruses, and messed up several computers so the admins had to rebuild the entire network. There was an official ban on computer games because of this.

    The admins -- who knew the original group of us five because we always got permission and played games with them, even let them win sometimes -- told us that we could hang around doing AP Computer Programming stuff in the 386 lab on the days we had class there. We did all kinds of fun stuff with the teacher, like build fractals and even built a ray-tracer that wrote to screen (in VESA 256 colors). 45 minutes after school ended, they would let us play games. This was with the school's permission -- but under very specific rules for 5 kids.

    Now that I have a MS and am looking back at those schools, I think they were right on both counts -- the should have banned the games that they did. The games they banned were violent, stolen warez. They allowed games when: (1) both a teacher and administrator were DIRECTLY responsible for the students, (2) the students had already done their homework for one class, and even did extra work for fun, and (3) the teacher was present and ensured that all software was legal.

    That was 8 years ago, but I think their policy was reasonable.

    If you make sure the software is legal, make sure that network problems don't happen (viruses, hacking) and have a little supervision, it can be a great thing
  • 5 years ago when I was still in HS, they had a quake tourney... don't know if it got canned or not.
    rock on. if I ever work at a school, I'll be sure to push for something like this.
  • Sure did... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jellisky ( 211018 )
    ... way back in '94-96. We had a small cluster of 386-33's in the library that were used for research. There wasn't any internet access on those at the time, but they were networked via Novell to a small server that had all the library researching programs.

    I was the resident computer nerd at the time and had gotten addicted to TradeWars on a local BBS. So, with some sweet-talking of the librarian in charge of the server and a promise to help out even more than I already was (I was the only one around that whole district at the time who could even remotely fix any of the Macs that were in some of the labs), I had TW set up on the system. For the two hours after school, a small group of us would play that. It was fun setting up the universe and all that and it got us talking and enjoying those dull hours between the end of school and dinner. (Except the nights some of us had to work on the school newspaper...)

    We tried a bit of Doom and some of the other BBS network games, but the afternoons of TW will always stick in my memory. :) Ahhh... the joys of having 5000 turns a day, alliances and backstabbings, maxed ships. :)

    We did that and also used the printer-networked Mac Classics to play Bolo... LOTS of Bolo. :) Bolo was a big drawing point to our little group. One of us would make a new map every month or so and we'd all play on it. Dang it, you're bringing back all these fond memories.

    So, yeah, keep the games nights. Make sure to enforce fair play and decently long breaks for socialization. And keep the gore to a minimum. There's plenty of fun games out there. And also don't be afraid to do contests with single-player games... for example, we'd have Sim City races... first one to 10,000 population and $5000 wins. The Sim games can be good for those. Just be creative and don't fall into the same game every time. That keeps the minds fresh and the options interesting.

    -Jellisky
  • This will last right up until the school district's attorneys find out it's happening.

    All it will take is a single jackass parent to turn this into a huge expense for the school, which means a huge expense for anybody paying taxes in that district.

    Until the problems with America's courts get fixed, I wouldn't recommend this.
  • If the school had computers back in 1985
  • There are a number of games similar to what you are already playing. I think the RTS games in particular are very good.

    Some that I enjoy:
    Empire Earth [sierra.com]
    Think AoE but with somewhere around 12 ages to go through.
    Cossacks [cossacks.de]
    Again, similar to AoE but a much more limited time period.

    Jedi Knight was a game I always had a lot of fun playing over a lan (any of the three versions). I spent way too much time playing JK with my roomates in college. One of the nice things about this, though it is a FPS, is the jedi powers. They add a whole new level of strategy to the game. Having a badass gun isn't near as useful when someone can just rip it out of your hands. :)

  • Personally, I think this is a great idea, it keeps kids off of the streets and their parents know where they are. What do you think?

    Hmmm... I have no idea what the Slashdot population might think about school-sponsored computer gaming. I also wonder what members of the NRA think about gun control laws and what members of Planned Parenthood think about a woman's right to choose.
  • Back in the early 90s when I was in High School, we formed what we called the "Bolo Club". (For those not familiar, Bolo was one of the first network multiplayer games ever written... look here for more info [duke.edu]). What we learned in creating this club is that the games would draw people who would otherwise avoid learning any more than necessary about computers. Through this club, we were able to create additional volunteers to help in the regular computer classes, as these people had to use basic problem solving skills to troubleshoot the game environment.

    One of the most important things our schools can offer to their students is applied learning, and computer games make that happen. Bravo!

  • Depending on your hardware, I'd recommend:

    Descent: FreeSpace

    FreeSpace 2, which I cannot recommend enough, I love this game.

    Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator (yeah, yeah, I hate Microsoft but that's still a fun game)

    Any EA Sports games, NHL 2001 gets high personal recommendations

    Heroes of Might and Magic 2 and 3

    And on an encouraging note: What a great idea to do this. Maybe more schools will follow suit.

  • Licensing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geojaz ( 11691 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @02:00PM (#3647173) Homepage
    Unless you are playing free as in beer games, who pays for the licenses? Do the students bring in the games and delete them when they are done? Have fun but watch your back :)
  • I would have liked to include first person shooters (for the gameplay), but I'm limited by parental concerns, and perceptions in the community.

    Simple just use Textmode Quake [mr.net]! I'm not sure if it's multiplayer but I don't think the parents will complain about it being too graphic!! (sadly enough that pun was intended)
  • That's a great idea, certainly better than those traditional gym lock-ins where you are off the streets but hurling a dodge ball at the geek's face. Of course, you don't get as much exercise.

    Have you considered taking this one step further and having your kids play against others on the net as well? Perhaps a our-high shcool vs. your-high school game night?
  • What hypocrisy!

    Everyone thinks someone ELSE will have a problem with it. Well what if they put up some Christian games or Jihad games in Arabic? Is that cool. What about a game like GTA3 where you get to mow down people and beat them with a bat. Is that cool? What about a pack that modfies Quake where all the bad guys are Rabbis. Good so far?

    "It's not that I have a problem with your anti Canadian grafitti, but I have to give you a ticket because it's supposed to be in French too - - " (Eugene Levy in Canadian Bacon)
  • Licenses? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BWS ( 104239 ) <swang@cs.dal.ca> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @02:54PM (#3647636)
    do you have liceneses for all the games? or ensure that the students bring them? otherwise you're up a shit creek (sp?)
  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @02:54PM (#3647637) Homepage
    We play Age of Empires II, Starcraft/Broodwar, and MechWarrior IV.

    These are clearly bad games for high school students to be playing, here's why.

    Age of Empires II:
    This causes kids to think they can become a King and run a monarchy. Eventually they will build farms, trade pottery with other local towns and gather up hoards of archers and sailing vessles to take over the world.

    Starcraft/Broodwar:
    This will make high school students think that breeding hoards of zerglings or refining their psionic attack powers will be a solution to all their problems.

    MechWarrior IV:
    I shouldn't even have to talk about this one. The last thing we need is 15 year old johnny thinking that jumping in the 10-story-tall 2 legged family war machine is a good way to vent daily frustrations.

    Instead you should be teaching kids to play things like football. Kids need to be taught that they will never be able to accomplish anything in life if they can't physically tackle someone to the ground or body slam another student. Also, kicking an oblong sack between two vertical posts is the only way a kid will know that he will be someone important someday...
  • by madmancarman ( 100642 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @03:10PM (#3647801)
    My first two years of teaching, we had a group of kids who loved Quake, Quake II (especially Action Quake), and Half-Life (especially with the Opposing Forces add-on and, to a lesser degree, Counter-Strike). My first year (1998-1999), we let them play in our Writing & Research Center, which is a general-purpose computer lab with MS Office and internet access on about 20 P/166's and 5 P/233's at the time. Needless to say, Quake II only ran well on the 233's, so the kids would try to get there quickly after school to snag a good computer. I used to play them from time to time, and even though I can hold my own at fps's, they loved it when they "0wn3d" the teacher. They even pooled money together to buy a legit copy of Quake II to run as a server (because I wouldn't let them run pirated software on our computers - they brought in their own legit licenses). It was a great way for kids who were otherwise social rejects to get together and have a good time.

    After Columbine in April 1999 (I think), we quietly put a stop to the games for the rest of the school year, and the kids were surprisingly understanding. They really didn't protest much, and a couple of them really agreed with us putting a hold on it, because a number of these guys fit the Trenchcoat Mafia profile, if you know what I mean.

    That May, we passed a $40M bond issue and immediately upgraded that computer lab to 40 Dell P3/450's running NT with 128 megs of ram. Of course, we didn't get the machines until June, but it was a pretty high priority to the district to get that lab up and running so they could show it off to the taxpayers (smart idea). Instead of hiring some consultants to come in and set up the lab, and instead of doing everything with my dad (who's the building tech coordinator), we contacted these kids over the summer and told them the machines were in. About five of them showed up at nine in the morning (which is a serious accomplishment for any male high school geek in the summer) and spent the next two days setting up machines, throwing away packaging, illegally dumping cardboard in nearby recycling containers... willing to work their asses off because they knew, when the lab was set up, they were going to have an unbelieveable LAN party on machines that were (at the time) much better than anything they had seen before. And we did, and it was great.

    What we (my dad and I) realized is that not only can high school students have incredible technical abilities (which we already knew), but many of them are willing to bust ass for the benefit of the school if they have some sort of ownership in the situation. Our school's tech support is largely done by students from my tech classes during periods when they'd normally have study hall, and not only do we save unbelievable amounts of money (we have over 600 PC's running the whole variety of Windows - our tech support issues are constant and almost overwhelming), but the kids who are doing the work are learning skills they can actually use at home and quite possibly in a job some day.

    So, to get back to the original question - I would recommend making sure that if you let these kids play games, get some work out of them in return! The best way to justify letting them play games is to tell your critics, "Hey, I'm letting these kids play Unreal Tournament because they spent the last week fixing machines and installing software for us, and that saved the district time and money." If you play it off as a reward, you can do a lot for those kids (our principal at the time bought a new motherboard for the kid who programmed our attendance system) and few people will complain. Also, always get the blessing of your principal before you do anything, and you might want to consider having another teacher or even a parent chaperone around so you don't get accused of being a pedophile trying to keep young boys at the high school until the wee hours of the evening.

    Incidentally, we tried to put together a Quake II tournament in our high school two years ago where the kids would have to pay a couple bucks, and half the money would go to the winner while the other half would be used to purchase new equipment, but we couldn't get enough kids that were willing to put up the money (like $5), and a couple higher-ups balked at the idea of students participating in a "deathmatch" tournament. So, it didn't happen, but I bet I could have pulled off a StarCraft tournament this year if I'd had time.

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Gandhi

  • Did this in 1987 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @03:46PM (#3648129) Homepage Journal
    15 years ago, the C64 was still king. Every classroom in my elementary school had one. Many kids had a stack of games that their siblings/cousins/parents had "copied" using Renegade or whatever, but no computer. We would trade disks and hop over to a friend's house to play.

    The school held an "activity" period three days a week in which children were allowed to stay after class. Those activity periods became our game time. Soon as classes were over, we'd hunt for a free machine while another group of kids would find the school's joystick. Soon as we found them, we'd LOAD "*",8,1 and start playing. Summer games. GI JOE. Airwolf. We got so many kids staying after that teachers set up reserve sheets for the activity period and we would assign different games to the machines.

    Sure, we were playing stolen games. Sure, we probably shouldn't have been doing it in school. But the enthusiasm we had for the computers continued into adulthood. One of our charter members runs a Windows CE contractor in Georgia.

    I'm a big supporter of games and their ability to teach. You want to play UT? Well, it'll help you a lot if you first learn how to network some computers, and to know a little about hardware. Playing games encouraged me to learn how to program -- in fact, my first program ever was to make a couple animal sprites dance in a piece of software called "Logo."
  • by Bodrius ( 191265 ) on Wednesday June 05, 2002 @11:14PM (#3650344) Homepage
    Make sure the parents are not only allowed to come in anytime they want to see what the kids are doing, but that they can sit down and play with their kids if they want to.

    It may not be very "cool" for some of the kids, but it will get the parents on the good side ("quality time") and they will almost never really do it anyway.

    And get games that parents would be hard-pressed to disapprove.

    Civilization and Alpha Centauri have already been recommended, but that cannot be emphasized enough. Show any sane parent the Civilopedia and he will fall in love with the game.

    Chess is an obvious necessity. Partly because of legitimacy, and partly because if you get some kids interested into chess you will have them competing over the network and improving in no time. Hard to disapprove of that.

    Playing chess (or Go) with the adults may prove to be an event that involves the parents and actually doesn't suck for those involved (there would be some Freudian satisfaction in defeating your parent at chess, and those adults willing to play chess with their kids will probably be respectable opponents).

    SimCity is also a great game to encourage. Almost any good Sim-style game is a good idea, even Tropico (as a Latin American, I find it hilarious). RailRoad Tycoon is a very good Sim-business game with a historical background...

    Sports games are usually accepted by parents even if they don't understand or encourage strategic games, simply because they are an extension of real-life games they approve. It's also a good way to get kids unfamiliar with computers to look at them without the geeky label.

    The idea is to get parent support for the stuff the parents don't understand, through stuff they do understand.

    An exmaple of things they don't understand but would be a good idea:

    Install level-editors/scripters/whatever for all the games you can find them for.
    If you let the kids play with Mods or whatever, you can get some of them familiarized with programming, 3D modelling, graphic design, or all of them combined. This is a good thing.

Just go with the flow control, roll with the crunches, and, when you get a prompt, type like hell.

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