By Anusha Aijaz
Dr. Umair Khan has always been passionate about computer games. His enthusiasm made him explore the domain of computer science and programming which led to his eventual PhD in the field of Planning Graphs and Artificial Intelligence. His PhD thesis was about using planning graphs to help NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) in making decision in a self-contained environment of a Role Playing Game (RPG).
His recent paper, ‘Genetic Algorithm (GA)-Based NPC Making’ included in the Springer’s Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games. This paper explained how games can produce large populations of non-playable characters (NPCs, the ‘extras’ of video games) based on social, ethnic and cultural considerations.
Dr. Khan’s work has made the games unbelievably more interesting for gamers by enhancing the depth of detail in computer games. He mentioned about the lack of guidance in our general population, the harm that is being done by the educational system and most importantly, how you can be a game programmer. “Game programming has become extremely simple now”, he said, “and I believe that even a 5th grader can pick it up and start working on it.” In addition, he explained that nowadays countless parents hand over their tablets to their kids so that they remain busy. It was his recommendation that kids should be given the tools to make their own games which will make learning a lot of fun and will keep the kids busy as well, not to mention the amount of creativity that they will start to exhibit.
Dr. Khan is planning to make game development easy enough so that anyone can create games. As Habib University gives much importance to the social sciences, he is also aiming to make games that are not only fun to play, but also cover major social issues to spread awareness.
He concluded the talk by explaining that making games is fun, enhances creativity, and improves self-learning capabilities. Kids should always be learning something new as it enhances their thinking and problem solving abilities. We should not wait around to receive help from anyone to learn programming, but rather jump into it using the various tools that are available these days over the internet. The only thing that is blocking our capability is the belief that game programming is difficult. Once you believe that anyone can do game programming and put in the necessary hours into it, you too will be creating your own mobile games and be considered a game programmer in no time at all. It will improve your logical thinking and you will gain a euphoric sense of accomplishment after completing a project.