Lots of people love playing games, and the students of Culver City High School are loving learning how to make games; the first year of the new game curriculum has been a win-win. The gaming industry, which brings in more revenue than films and sports combined in the United States, will continue to have more jobs than it can fill for the foreseeable future. The CCHS students who are taking the two year course pathway are starting out several levels higher than even college students right now.
Holly Gable, Creative Director, CTE/AVPA Film, at the CCHS Academy of Visual and Performing Arts was the instigator of the game classes. “It got started during COVID, in those zombie-apocalypse days of staying at home. I had not really played video games since back in the 90’s, and so I was kind of stuck in that idea of the first-person shooter format. I was embarrassed to be so late to the party, but once I started to play, doors opened.”
While still passionate about film, Gable noted that the economic opportunities were growing for games, and as guiding students into career success is a central part of her teaching goals, getting classes started to teach game creation became another priority. “There are plenty of intersections with film, and gaming has so many jobs in so many areas – art, coding, designing, producing – If our goal as teachers is to set students up to have a career, gaming feels like the way to go.”
Gable was able to co-ordinate with two-time Academy Award nominee for VFX Kelly Port to get a major grant from Epic Games to fund the class. Heather Moses, CCUSD’s Arts Coordinator, was also able to sweeten the deal with a California K-12 Strong Workforce Grant for $321,000. By making it a Career Technical Education class, they were able to offer it during the regular school day for any interested students. With the combination of the industry funding and the state education grant, they had what they needed to launch.
Kian Darien, who teaches the classes, set up the classroom and the curriculum, and is a game designer. With students learning Maya and Unreal Engine 5 -state of the art, industry standard development software – they have access to tools that are not easy to come by even at university level programs.
“I’m incredibly proud to witness the transformation that the MegaGrant for Epic Games has sparked!” Port enthused. “These students are not just learning, they are innovating and gaining hands-on experience with professional grade tools used in the VFX [visual effects] and game development industries. They are creatively problem solving within the realms of their own imagination.”
According to Gable, the comments from a recent CTE conference were enormously enthused. “They were just blown away that we were doing this. It’s more than any other school in the state is doing; they called the work at CCHS unprecedented.”
CCHS is currently offering an Intro to Game Design curriculum in summer school, and both the year-long Game Design 1 & 2 courses will continue in the next academic year.
Screenshot from original game ‘Glorble’ by Parker Lanum, Dashiell Reynaldo, Mason F., Moses R. and other CCHS students