- At first, many bright-eyed hopeful students want nothing more than to make the next generation of AAA games. In their spare time, they play certain games obsessively, and it is these games in particular (or others just like them) that they'd like to make.
- Some of these students graduate, get into industry and enjoy it for a time, but eventually get frustrated. They're a small cog in a huge machine, going from one crunch period to another, with no end in sight. In their spare time, they play short games because that's all they have time for, and they secretly wish they were Jason Rohrer or Rod Humble or Jenova Chen.
- Some of these frustrated developers leave the industry for academia, and are frankly amazed at how much of an opportunity the next generation of students has. Why, they could use their talents to make the next big art game that has all of the professional developers collectively salivating at its brilliance! These students have the time, they have the skills, they've got the drive... but all they want to do is make a clone of their favorite AAA titles. Oh, the tragedy of wasted opportunity!
And then the cycle repeats.
I do my best to describe this to my students. In a few cases, they get it. Most of the time, it's like trying to describe working in an office job to a second-grader: the life experience necessary for total comprehension just isn't there yet.
I see other teachers forcing the issue. I hear at GDC of class assignments that involve having students create games that teach, games that inform, games that enlighten, games that have a positive social impact, games that make the world a better place, games that express an emotion (other than power fantasy or adrenaline rush), and so on. These kinds of assignments are a reflection of the instructor's agenda: these are the kinds of games that the teacher wants to make.
If you're a student, looking at the game design assignments heaped on you will give you a clue as to the kinds of things you might really want to make yourself in five to ten years (even if they seem arbitrary or meaningless right now). If nothing else, it shows you how your instructor -- the same person who wanted to make nothing but AAA games back when they were your age, if you can believe it -- has changed over time.
But it is a real shame that a lot of students today won't figure all of this out until it's too late. George Bernard Shaw's quote about youth being wasted on the young is ringing true.