I've recently mentioned the lack of passion I've seen in teachers, compared to that of game developers. It occurs to me that the same complaint can be made of students.
Admittedly, this is largely the teachers' fault. How hard is it to get excited about something when you're learning from someone in the field who just isn't excited about their own work? Still, it's a bit of a surprise for me, coming from a job where everyone is working together as a team to make games... and seeing students working in a totally different way.
In the game industry, at least on the projects I've worked on, most people care about the project. Sure, if you work really hard to finish the work on your plate, your "reward" is to get even more work piled on you. So if you're cynical, you could say that the best "strategy" is to just do the bare minimum you need to not get fired. After all, you're salaried, so it's not like working harder actually means more money or rewards or anything. And yet... that almost never happens in practice, because the real reward is that your game is better. And if you care about the game, and you want it to be a good game, then you'll do whatever you can to make it the best game you possibly can. If you don't care about the game... well, there's a whole big software development industry out there that has nothing to do with games, which will pay you more money for less work. So people don't tend to become game developers unless they have this drive to make great games.
You'd think that the same would be true of game dev students, wouldn't you? Put a group of students together to make a game, and you'd expect them to all work insane hours and do everything they can to make it the best student project ever. After all, it's not like students can't do amazing work.
But in practice, you don't always see this. Sometimes you get an outstanding student team (usually the result of a single outstanding student leader who pulls the team together, and if you removed that one student the whole thing would collapse). But I'm seeing a lot of cases where this isn't happening at all. Some students don't show up for meetings and don't do any work at all -- as if they wanted a free ride, just a grade, and they don't care that this project is something that could go in their portfolio and get them a job (among other things). Students make excuses about why their work is late, when I know full well it's because they were just goofing off and procrastinating, a sign that they don't really care much about their project (they just see it as classwork, not an original project).
I'm still trying to find ways to make sure students get it, that game projects are an opportunity to create something experimental and new and different and original and really really cool (possibly the last opportunity they'll have for the next ten years of their career), and that they should really care about it. But I feel like it's an uphill battle sometimes, like I'm fighting against a dozen years of "education" that teaches students to jump through hoops for a piece of paper with the attitude that the real stuff comes later after graduation.
And it's a bit of a shock for me, even now, because I don't have to deal with this in the industry. I don't have to ask the programmers on a big-budget game to show up to work and give their best effort, because they already do.