DallasScience, Tech & Medicine

Pixel Powerhouse, SMU's Guildhall Celebrates 20 Years of Crafting Video Game Virtuosos in Dallas

Pixel Powerhouse, SMU's Guildhall Celebrates 20 Years of Crafting Video Game Virtuosos in DallasSource: Google Street View
Margie Townsend
Published on November 22, 2023

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and when it comes to breeding video game gurus, Southern Methodist University’s Guildhall program is living up to that reputation. Celebrating two decades of pixel-pushing and code-crunching, this esteemed graduate program—nicknamed "Guildhall"—has been leveling up digital creativity like no other. From journeying through ancient alien ruins to stirring up psychological thrillers, SMU’s Guildhall has immersed students deep into the art of designing games that captivate and challenge as reported by The Dallas Morning News.

In the middle of such advancement, another SMU initiative is proving that gaming and learning go hand-in-hand at the Dallas Zoo, of all places. Seizing a slice of Thanksgiving break, local kiddos joined hands with the university to prototype MathFinder—an edu-app that would make even Fibonacci proud. "Let them see that math is applied and it's all around them," Dr. Candace Walkington explained, describing the project's mission to make mathematics tangible in the trample of an elephant or the growth spurts of a baby hippo per FOX 4 News.

But let’s get back to Guildhall, where Aiwen “Emily” Zhang, an illustrious alumna, credits her launch into the world of Assassin’s Creed to the medieval playbook she picked up studying Latin and ancient Greek—a truly unexpected joystick to a career in gaming. She landed at SMU with a thirst to master game development, and as she puts it, she wanted to know, "‘Tell me how to get this good, like as good as you are,'" aiming for the prowess of those she admired according to The Dallas Morning News.

It’s not just about hitting high scores in a hypothetical classroom; at the Guildhall, rolling up one's sleeves and jumping into projects such as Hex Rally Racers or the bow-and-arrow-imbued Himalayan adventure Asurya's Embers is the curriculum. "It’s a level designer’s job to make you feel challenged but guided at the same time," Zhang said according to her interview with The Dallas Morning News.

The Guildhall's quest means business. With an eye sharply focused on producing industry-ready graduates, students engage in a GameLab, essentially an experiential incubator where they get down and dirty with conflict management and problem-solving at a professional scale. Steve Stringer, the GameLab director, said, “By the time they’re running in their capstone, they are indistinguishable from a well-functioning, professional game development team” per The Dallas Morning News.

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