The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How to play computer games, Ainan's way.

Ainan, my 12 year old son, has his own approach to computer games playing.

A week or so, ago, he remarked to me: “I have been editing the lightwarp in Team Fortress 2.”

That sounded rather technical to me.

“How do you do that?”

He looked at me, with mild surprise, as if I had asked “How do you count to ten?”

“It’s simple Daddy. You just open the vtf file and change the colour strip.”

As an explanation, that rather failed to allow me to understand how to do it. Clearly, however, he knew how to do it.

Ainan has been doing this for some time. Whenever he finds himself dissatisfied with a gaming experience, he opens up the code for the game – and recodes it to his satisfaction, producing a game that looks the way he wants it to.

When he first revealed what he was doing, I asked him:

“How did you learn that?”

“I taught myself. It is easy. You just open the code and it is very obvious what to do.”

I am not sure that this “obvious” task, would be that obvious to most.

Ainan has a sense for these things. He seems to have an instinct for how computers work and what to do to make them work the way he wants them to. This, it strikes me, should prove a very useful skill in a future world in which computers are going to become ever more dominant. What is particularly good about this interest of his, is that it is self-directed. He is teaching himself how to do these things, because he enjoys it. It is something which arises naturally out of his own curiosity and joy. This, of course, is the best way to learn something and the way most likely to give rise to productive fruit.

So, Ainan likes to play computer games, at home. However, his computer games tend to have been customised to his own, inner vision, of what they should look like. That he does this, makes me much happier that he is spending valuable time playing such games – for I know that, for him, they are a lesson in computing, as much as anything else. He has managed to turn computer games into a somewhat creative hobby and one that is teaching him a lot more than one might suppose. I have written one snatch of his conversation regarding computer games and their coding. I have only written this quote because it is one that I remember. Quite often, however, his comments are beyond recall, because they are beyond comprehension. They are just too technical to be readily understood, by someone outside the field, like me. I am content, however, to listen and admire his enthusiasm. That is the best thing a parent can do in the circumstances. I enjoy his enjoyment, even if I don’t understand the fullness of his comments on his interest.

It gives me great pleasure to see Ainan deepen his interests, in this way. If, sometimes, those interests become so technical as to defy ready understanding, then I am even more pleased – for it implies that his understanding has gone beyond that of an intelligent, but uninitiated layman.

Anyway, Ainan’s example has shown me that there can be unexpected lessons to be found, even in the most unpromising of places, if the child, in question, is resourceful enough to see something interesting to do with the material at hand. In this case...reprogramming the computer games, rather than just playing them passively.

Carry on gaming, Ainan...and coding, too!

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:30 PM 


Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

So the colour strip is red, green, blue and then alpha?

(And it's in Alpha mode that things really happen).

What a wonderful way to customise games and expand interests!

4:45 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Adelaide

Hmm...I don't know anything about the colour strip or how it works. Sorry...though I agree it is a great way to customize games, make them one's own and learn new things. I am happy he has found this way to relate to games.

6:24 PM  

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