(TNS) – A group of high school students in Austin don’t just play computer games, they design them.
Their design efforts were given a huge boost this school year after the school purchased powerful computers funded by a $ 20,000 grant from the Alabama Arts Education Initiative.
Beth Bachuss, visual arts teacher and coach for the eSports team, said she used the grant to purchase six desktops with monitors and 10 laptops.
âWe were also able to get controllers, mice, headsets and game design software,â said Bachuss, who is in his seventh year teaching game design courses in Austin.
Computers have enough memory to accommodate the eSports team as well. Last year, the students had to play from home because the old computers weren’t powerful enough.
Bachuss teaches three classes of game design.
âIn Game Design I, students will be working with GameMaker Studio,â she said.
GameMaker Studio is development software for creating games that can be played on multiple platforms, including smartphones, computers, and consoles.
In Game Design I, students design a maze game.
Students create features such as computer graphics, background music, and sound effects. Students will use Mac computers with Garage Band software installed to create music this year.
âIt’s basically computer programming for games,â Bachuss said.
In Game Design II, III, and IV, students move from GameMaker Studio to Unity software, where they learn coding and continue to learn about the features introduced in Game Design I.
Bachuss said Unity is much more complicated, but more powerful and less limited software than GameMaker Studio.
âA lot of the video games they play at home are made with Unity,â she said.
Reagan Atkins, a junior, wants to use the skills she learned in the courses and apply them to the job market.
âI chose Game Design I because I love video games,â Atkins said. “Plus, I want to go into engineering, so I think programming and making games would help me prepare for this career.”
Last year the course was held online due to the pandemic. Atkins was able to work at home on his personal computer to design his maze game.
âEven though I wasn’t in class last year, I still managed to have a good game,â she said.
Atkins is in Game Design II this year and can’t wait to compose the background music for his games.
âLast year we didn’t have time to make music because of COVID, but this year I’m really looking forward to it,â Atkins said. “I’m in the school band here, so I’m actually thinking about pursuing music as a minor in college.”
Some students of Bachuss’s game design courses have gained national fame.
âI had a student last year who designed a game who was a national finalist in the Games for Change Student Challenge,â she said.
This student is currently in college majoring in Graphic Design and a minor in Game Design.
This year, approximately 50 students are enrolled in Austin game design classes.
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