BELTON — It sounds like a teenager’s dream — classes that focus on video games — but rigorous course requirements ensure the program offered at Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow is not all play, no work.

“The perception is that it’s playing video games, but once students get into the program, they’re rudely awakened — it’s very rigorous,” said Mark Williams, who teaches the classes.

“I have stellar students, and we work through problems together. I’m very proud of them, and they get a peek into the video game design process.”

The video game program, which is part of the Belton Independent School District’s Career and Technical Education Department, serves 48 students and is in its second year at New Tech.

“Most kids would say this is the coolest CTE program,” said Ed Braeuer, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“This is only at New Tech, and the students are always active, always busy and always having fun,” said Lori Rockwood, director of Belton ISD’s Career and Technical Education program. “There are lots of career options, including programming, audio, design and quality assurance.

“Not all the students are interested in video game design as a career, but the team-building skills they develop are valuable in whatever they do.”

Those who are interested in video game design can obtain anything from a certification to a master’s degree, Rockwood said.

“The course focuses on problem-solving, working together, planning, design, implementation and even basic reading and math skills,” she said.

Big business

Video game design is a multibillion-dollar business. “The industry is getting so large it rivals the movie industry,” Williams said.

Gaming research firm Newzoo estimated Americans spent $20.5 billion on games in 2013, according to an article published in Forbes magazine online.

Pablo Villanueva is one of the students enrolled in the New Tech class.

“I tried game design as a sophomore and I’m taking advanced video game design as a junior,” he said. “The projects are very involved and can take a month or more.”

Villanueva plans to use his creative talents in the workforce right after high school, he said, adding the New Tech classes prepared him to go straight to work.

“Students can go from these classes right into the industry now and be successful,” Williams said.

Logan Hardin, another New Tech student, spent a considerable amount of time designing a 3-D design featuring Belton’s logo.

“I’m working on 3-D modeling, and it looks like working with clay models,” he said.

Hardin is currently working on a 3-D model of Joan of Arc, and plans to attend the Art Institute of Austin.

New Tech student Timothy Reynolds, meanwhile, is working on an area that drives all other elements of a game.

“The script is the game, and there are multiple layers of scripting,” he said.

Reynolds plans to take a video gaming practicum at New Tech this fall, in which he will have to obtain funding from social media to fund creation of a new game.

“He can develop a game to go to the marketplace,” Williams said.

Job opportunities abound, with job hotspots in Austin, Dallas and Houston, and 155 video game and publishing companies in Texas.

“It’s a lot of hard work but fun,” Reynolds said. “It’s tedious. A lot of little things can go wrong, and you work on fixing them.”

Cooper Ross, a third-year student at New Tech, created a demo that was entered in a Science Technology Engineering and Math Fair in Waco.

“I worked on a 3-D gaming environment using a trial version of software, which was free,” he said.

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