August 22, 2013
DALLAS (SMU) — North Texas Boy Scouts have an opportunity to pursue the new Game Design merit badge with one of the nation’s premier game design programs.
The Guildhall at SMU will offer a first-of-its-kind merit badge workshop in Game Design on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 at The Guildhall facilities at SMU-in-Plano.
Invitations to the inaugural workshop were distributed to local Scout troops, and the 50 available spaces were filled within 72 hours. Guildhall organizers have started a waiting list for future workshops.
The Guildhall’s Game Design Merit Badge Workshop is the first in the nation to be created by a game design school or university-affiliated game design program. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced the Game Design Merit Badge at the 2013 South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin on March 6.
Requirements for earning the badge “bring Scouts through the process of analyzing games they enjoy, learning game terms, investigating related concepts, and progressing to the design and testing of a game of their own,” says Frank Ramirez, staff advisor, Merit Badge Maintenance, at BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
Using workshop sponsor Paizo Publishing’s Stonehenge: An Anthology Board Game™ as a starting point, participating Scouts will discuss everything from the history of gaming to careers in the industry. They will also create and test their own game with guidance from Guildhall faculty. Completion of the six-hour workshop, plus a brief list of pre-workshop preparation requirements, will satisfy all requirements for the badge.
“I am so excited for Scouts to learn game design from the same faculty who teach in the SMU Guildhall graduate program. My sons will have the opportunity to be mentored by professional video game developers with years of industry experience,” says Gary Brubaker, executive director of The Guildhall at SMU and a certified BSA merit badge counselor. His own sons are Scouts in North Texas’ Circle 10 Council.
Brubaker, a longtime gaming-industry veteran who has worked with organizations ranging from Atari to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that projects like the merit badge workshop are at the heart of The Guildhall’s educational purpose.
“The Guildhall was created at the request of the game development community in the DFW Metroplex. Our mission is to train the future leaders of the industry,” he says. “A huge part of that goal is finding and empowering talented students. This is just another way to engage the community with opportunities to learn about designing games.”
In addition, the workshop will provide an invaluable experience for students who are considering careers in game design, Brubaker says. “A common question from the youth I meet is, ‘How do I make my own game?’” he says. “A screenwriter once told me his advice to aspiring writers was, ‘Write!’ It is much the same with games – you learn from doing. This is an opportunity to do that with the mentorship of industry veterans.”
“I’ve always been interested in teaching and helping kids, so I jumped at the chance to work on this,” says the workshop’s designer, Michael McCoy, an 18-year game industry veteran and lecturer in level design at The Guildhall. McCoy was the original instructor in the popular Guildhall Academy game design summer program for teens and helped teach that two-week workshop for three years.
He also remembers learning valuable life skills during his own time as a Boy Scout. “Summer camp with the Scouts always had workshops like this, and one in particular stands out: a Fingerprinting Merit Badge class,” he says. That early introduction to criminology led to McCoy working as a sheriff’s deputy for three years while attending college. He believes the Game Design Merit Badge workshop could have a similar impact for a new generation.
“It exposes Scouts to logical thinking, and it shows them the value of studying hard while in school,” says McCoy, whose own game design credits include Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 series. “You can’t become a game developer without an education, and this puts their studies in context.”
McCoy adds that he “can’t wait” to see the types of games the Scouts design. “In my experience, new and enthusiastic game developers always come up with the most ingenious ideas – and that makes them essential members of even the most advanced team.”
About The Guildhall at SMU
The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University is the premier graduate video game education program in the United States. Many of the school’s founders are industry icons, and classes are taught by industry veterans. Since 2005, the program has graduated more than 400 students, and alumni are working at more than 140 video game studios around the world. SMU offers a Master’s degree in Interactive Technology and a graduate Professional Certificate.
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