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Tori Hepler just graduated from Upper Dauphin High School and is a budding video game artist designing the lead character and monsters in a supernatural quest to defeat the Lord of Shadows.
She is one of 14 students attending Harrisburg University of Science and Technology’s three-week summer Gaming Academy launched last week, an intensive course designed to introduce students to the world of game design and programming.
The camp gives high school students a crash course in digital media, where they learn from industry experts and create their own games.
“We focus more on the process of game making rather than the final product,” said Hepler, 18. She’ll be attending Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in the fall, where she wants to expand her skills of animation and artistry, and land a job with DreamWorks or Pixar.
The course also includes special instruction from industry veterans. Thursday’s speaker, who spoke to the class through a live video feed, was Joshua Seaver, a Pixar artist who worked on the film “Toy Story 3.”
Charles Palmer, executive director of the Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technology and associate professor of multimedia, said the course works toward “taking all of the creative talents and bringing them together” to create an engaging game.
Students are responding to the challenge. This session, three students are returning after completing previous sessions, and two will attend both sessions this summer, which run from June 21 to July 9 and July 12-30.
“It’s a great camp for anyone who wants to get into game design and pursue a college degree,” Shane Fleming, a programmer, said.
Fleming, 16, who attends Central Dauphin East High School and lives in Swatara Township, wants to get a degree in computer engineering and work with software or design.
Anthony Ortega, production coordinator and lead game design instructor at the academy, said students learn the fundamentals of game design by getting back to the roots of gaming, starting with core concepts and building new games for each step.
“Students are looking for the game that’s the most fun possible, not the most beautiful,” he said.
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