The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Gaming called, SMU-in-Legacy answered

Joshua Moore, proudly donning a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt, blares classic rock music as his students eagerly enter their 9 a.m. computer gaming beginner class. Faint laughter and enthusiasm fill the air as the students listen to the music and enjoy a few minutes of free time with their gaming software. Some replay the short shows they created during the previous class and make alterations to the timing, colors and characters.

Parents drop off students, eyeing Moore and clearly assuming he is a student or assistant. Little do they know he spends hours of his own time preparing lessons and setting up equipment so his students can optimize their week in class and walk away with knowledge and projects to show for their experience.

Since joining the staff as a 13-year-old “coach,” or classroom assistant, Moore has spent the last five summers working for the SMU-in-Legacy Summer Youth Program. He took over the computer gaming classes last summer.

“Since I’m teaching a class on gaming, it’s a good thing I’m 19. I got to grow up on great games. Most of my students will get my seemingly obscure gaming references and humor,” said Moore.

He said his students learn to make “old school games” that revolve around simple goals and are usually 2-D with pixel art. His students incorporate animated graphics and their own stories to create shows they can add voices and music to.

“Simple aspects of games led to bigger things that I still carry with me today. Aside from causing me to think in terms of pixels, scores, items and lives, games helped me take my drawing style a lot further. I approached every game’s different art style and thought hard about what made it stand out. That led me to discover those artists’ inspirations, and I ended up learning things about art that are normally taught in college,” said Moore.

As a Summer Youth Program veteran as well as an undergraduate drawing and painting and communication design major at the University of North Texas, Moore has big plans for his future.

“I am going to be designing the graphics you see in video games,” he said without hesitation. “SMU’s 3-D Animation course got me started on what I’ll actually be doing for a living. That’s amazing, and now I get to teach for them.”

Moore holds his own on a team of summer instructors that include professional artists, local teachers, photographers and college preparatory experts, and, ironically, he teaches the most popular classes the Summer Youth Program offers, including Beginner and Advanced Computer Gaming and 3-D Animation.

As a student of gaming himself, Moore said he recognizes that he picked an industry “that’s only going up,” pointing to the career potential for gamers.

Indeed, statistics from the Entertainment Software Association’s 2005 Consumer Survey promise a stable industry for professional gamers and animators of the future. The survey reported that nearly 53 percent of gamers plan to play as much or more in 10 years than they currently do.

Summer Youth Program students interested in gaming or animation may find themselves merely crossing the sidewalk separating the four buildings of the SMU-in-Legacy campus to enter

The Digital Games Guildhall. Established in 2003 by the Linda and Mitch Hart eCenter at SMU-in-Legacy, the Guildhall offers game development education programs.

Typically, the program only accepts students with at least a bachelor’s degree, but the Guildhall considers exceptional students without a degree on a case-by-case basis.

The Guildhall offers a 21-month professional certificate program or a Master of Interactive Technology degree in Digital Game Development with a specialization in art creation, level design or software development.

SMU graduate and Guildhall master’s student Ryan Jenkins noted the academic route the Guildhall provides for gaming students as well as the skills they learn that will directly transfer into the workplace.

“People from the industry create the curriculum,” said Jenkins.

As a prospective Guildhall student, Moore added that the Guildhall exists because the Dallas gaming industry called for it.

“The Dallas area is host to a number of considerable game developing forces, and a lot of them have some part in the program as guest speakers or more,” said Moore.

The ESA Consumer Survey supports the efforts of institutions like the Guildhall. It claimed 47 percent of Americans had purchased or planned to buy at least one game in 2005.

Jenkins addressed the bad press that often comes with the gaming industry because of controversial games like Grand Theft Auto.

He wanted to stress to parents that gaming could prove a rewarding industry for their children, especially for computer literate and creative students, as gaming has both technical and imaginative facets. Moore agreed.

“For me, games weren’t only an escape from reality, they were a big network of inspiring ideas-I think parents are going to see what a chance this is for their children to express themselves,” said Moore.

In fact, according to the ESA Consumer Survey, nearly 63 percent of parents thought games played a positive role in their child’s life.

Between summer courses, undergraduate studies and specialized programs like the Guildhall, students have myriad opportunities to prepare for these fast-growing fields that could ultimately lead to rewarding careers. Among its 60 summer offerings, the Summer Youth Program offers courses in Computer Animation, Web-page Design, and 2-D and 3-D Animation to familiarize beginners and challenge more advanced students.

With the Guildhall just across the promenade, students need only look out of their gaming class window to see what their future could hold.

In 1997, the SMU Division of Education and Lifelong Learning began offering the youth program at SMU’s extension campus in Plano, starting with just 258 students. The Summer Youth Program, offering more than 60 summer camps ranging from Computer Gaming to Exploring History with the American Girl Dolls, now serves some 1,500 to 1,800 students in grades K-12 each summer.


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