I do agree that optimization is not for the faint of heart, as I have been reading through several optimization guides and most of it is such that you could spend a couple of years learning all the little tricks and proper way to do things, which often change between generations of chips. I am just saying that if there is a newbie who can't find a project that s/he wants to desperately work on, but is willing to spend alot of time on something, that they should learn the optimization as it can be very useful in increasing speed so that when you use some things that are slow in of themselves(such as dynamic loading of levels, which I still havent been able to see as an effective way of doing a game. I am personally inclined to load each "level" in one swoop, as both Dungeon Siege and Morrowind really made me get angry when you would be fighting something then accidently hop a "level" border and then you would be dead when the thing loaded up.)
It is, and you can learn a lot about how the computer works, but this type of optimization takes quite a bit more work than you realize. If you are a newbie, and you are spending all this time trying to optimize your code, then it seems it would have been better to just go and implement something else.