As of yesterday September has officially begun, and that means time is running out for me before I start university. In fact, I start my second year on September 28th. There are quite a few anxieties I can feel as I draw closer to this date and I can absolutely expect things to be harder for me in this coming academic year, but if there’s one thing I am looking forward to the least, it’s the prospect of group blaming. Seriously, nowhere else have I encountered an environment were the whole group can be put at fault for the incompetence of the few, or when the few who don’t commit atrocious actions can be viewed as just as bad of those who do, especially after one of the students slips up and says something stupid about another. Although I recognize this would not happen in all university courses, and would be likely to happen only in courses where group work is a certainty, I swear it feels like it can only happen in university.
Let me try to give you a concise description of the group blaming I’ve experienced at my course during my first year, or at least how bad it can be: For the first year, I studied in a class of 12 people (we briefly had one person transfer to our course, which made it a class of 13 for a while, but it didn’t last long and I never heard from that person again), which after Christmas became a class of 10 (one person dropped out and the other was probably kicked off for frequent lack of attendance), and by the end is now a class of 8 (one of the students dropped out right before the end of year presentations and the other basically failed). Before the end of the first semester (first out of two, each one consisting of each half of the academic year) we got into to teams did two main projects for two of the modules. After the group presentations at the end of the first semester , it was deemed that the two projects were handled poorly for various reasons, and for the second semester we all worked as one group on a single main project spanning three modules. For this project, we decided to combine elements of the previous two projects and put them into one new project. It was quite a shake-up, and we had to decide what elements of the background, game world, character design, and level design we wanted to keep or introduce and we all had to come to an agreement, and it didn’t come easily or quickly. In fact, about three weeks in, we all had an argument that I remember started with a discussion about designing the two main characters we were creating, and unfortunately that discussion escalated into a rather nasty argument that eventually devolved into people slinging insults and words of discord at each other in typical Internet fashion, but I began distancing myself from the conversation early on in order avoid becoming part of a petty argument, let alone a degrading mess. One student even tried to end the argument by shouting down everyone, but that just made things worse because he also called one or more people a “bitch”. The argument lasted a couple of days and eventually died down, but one student soon began to feel like quitting because she began to feel intimidated what she felt was a hostile atmosphere, and the tutors could not allow that to happen. So one day our usual lecture became devoted to the whole sordid mess, and it was a disaster. We all got chewed out, except myself and at least two other students who did not involved, and the tutors were trying to get to the bottom of who started the argument and who were the main belligerents. There was even concern about abuse and cyber-harassment, which would have led to expulsions, so they wanted to figure if anyone was hurling abuse as well, and they made it very clear that the university does not look kindly of such conduct, and neither would pretty much all potential employers. Despite my lack of involvement in the whole debacle I feared the worst would come and one of us would be expelled from the university for being, but thankfully it did not come to that. However, this foul business was not forgotten, certainly not by the tutors, who made it clear that this was the only year in which such a state of affairs had to be dealt with and (as I recall) expressed the possibility of monitoring conversations on Facebook (which as I recall has since not come to pass, but if it did and I became aware of it, I would probably leave the course because such actions, regardless of intent, conflict with my moral/ethical views because I would definitely view them as a form of policing conversations that previously happened independently). What I remember is that I was present in the whole chewing out, despite my lack of involvement in the affairs, and even though my lack of involvement was acknowledged, I felt like I was part of this mess, and it was a disgrace. Months later, about a week before the end of year presentations, one of us slipped up and referred to three students as “vanishers”, in reference to their frequent absence and their association with each other, and then the tutors began to tell us that we were all in the same lot as them, and that during the arguments those who were not involved were just as bad as everyone who was for not doing anything to try and stop the argument, which was insulting to me because this included me and devalued my sense of good judgment, all without any satisfying modicum of reason and good ethical sense behind it in my eyes. Nowadays, I come to a point where I feel like it’s entirely possible I could have stopped the argument or led it to cool down sooner, but let me tell you; that’s NOT how it should happen! I shouldn’t be forced to come to any conclusion regarding my role in things, no matter how sound, based on guilt or group blaming. Good work should be rewarded and failure should be punished, but that must be based entirely on individual actions and merit, meaning no one must be blamed for the actions or words of the incompetent and malicious but the individuals who proved incompetent or malicious by said actions or words. In my opinion at least, a situation/environment where people who are good or competent find themselves punished or put at fault for the actions of the few who were malicious or incompetent, regardless of their own actions, is morally (and logically) inexcusable!
Anyways, alongside all that, I just know that the course is going to get harder, for reasons I have described before, but one of the reasons I’ve already mentioned smells a little rotten as well. Basically, from what I have been told by the tutors, from the coming academic year and onwards we will all have to hand in assignments before we break up for the Christmas and Easter seasons respectively, and given the time in which we start. However, the reason this is happening is because there has been a problem with students not doing any work whatsoever during the holidays, and then trying do three weeks of work that could, and should, have been done sooner during the last few weeks before the deadline, resulting in students handing in poor-quality (often unfinished) assignments, as has happened in the end of our first semester. But I was not one of those students, I spent time over the winter and spring holidays doing some work, and I can bet a good number of fellow students were in the same position. Once again, I find that an entire group of people is now put at fault for the poor efforts of the incompetent, and sharing in the fruits of their mediocrity. But this time it doesn’t just apply to my class, but if I’m correct it could apply to everyone, including the first-year students, and now this means everyone is bearing the fruits of the incompetence of students from my class, which in my opinion is simply wrong, illogical, and unjustifiable. I am now in a position where I feel that, even if I finally graduate and earn a career in the games industry, if I find that the games industry generally abides by this pattern, I would give up on being a games designer completely because I can’t continue to participate in such practice and call still myself an honorable man who abides by his principles in spite all odds and perceptions. Not to mention, as the course gets harder, I feel like it’s only a matter of time before we all argue again, and I will be expected to stop it, but I feel even if I try, it could easily get out of hand and with the distinct possibility that I will simply get tired of it, with the result that before long we’ll all be chewed out for it again, and I will receive blame for the things I did not do or endorse, which will substantially demoralize me.
Through all this, I want to continue the course and do as much of the rest of it as possible, quitting only when I am fully demoralized about my course and never at the end or beginning of each year, but I’m not sure I’m going to survive this course, and even if I do survive the second-year It’s likely that the best I can definitely hope for is that I don’t have my first heart attack and/or die from stress, but that’s quite a morbid thought for the rest of what is still my summer break. All’s I know is I don’t have long, because once I complete the second year and transition to the third year, I feel it will be too late as there will be little point in quitting as I will be at the peak of my course.