The best little video game in Texas

Richland game design team wins state competition at SkillsUSA

Jesse Serrano, Staff Writer

Dallas College Richland Campus can claim the title of having made the best video game in Texas.

It was quite the whirlwind of events to say the least. When Christopher Curra sent an email to us students searching for volunteers for a SkillsUSA competition in Houston, it was the first time anyone had heard of the event or association. No one had any idea of what to expect, advisers included.

The team of six students that won the SkillsUSA Texas competition in the game development category. (Photo Courtesy/Yasmin Cuevas)

Most of the students that joined viewed it as perhaps a fun way to learn some skills on the side, and us few older members hadn’t learned how to say no yet. I personally viewed it as a head start for one of the reasons I had started college, which was to finally be able to experience what game design was like in a team environment.

What we found behind the curtain was that we had one month to create a game from scratch. This included a game design document, video trailers, logos, assets. Everything.

Game jams often happen o

ver much shorter time periods, but to college students that only have a few months’ experience in game development and are taking six classes at the same time, it’s a very difficult thing to ask.

I had almost a decade’s worth of experience in creating video game assets already, but I had never worked in tandem with others, and especially not in a leadership position. Making the game alone would prove nothing, and the criteria for success would be the participation and growth of all that were involved.

The first half of the month was spent figuring out who each of us were through the pinhole lens of online interaction and figuring out what we actually wanted to do.

We had to use assets that already existed to meet such a short deadline, and I offered a robot character that I was planning to use for my own first game. Once we picked that as our spearhead, the playing field expanded to the goalposts I had set for the character awhile back. The challenge became personal at that point, and success had become a vendetta. We had a vision, but it could only be uncovered through process.

It took a great deal of effort on all our parts to bring that vision to fruition. It was a rough few weeks of back and forth work – planning, blueprinting, worldbuilding, animation, effects and design. We learned all aspects of game development as we went, as well as contended with our jobs and coursework at the same time.

Everyone in the team helped in more ways than one. Kate Duke coordinated for us to have team meetings in person at the Thunderduck Hall. Shayna Albert, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, still made efforts to be there for the meetings and offer everything they could do to help. Angel Ruiz, Daniela Maldonando, and Nathan Hawkins did their best between classes and Esports tournaments to learn and contribute what they could.

It was my responsibility to make sure we would walk that stage with gold medals. Five days of work without sleep led to me almost being left behind on the bus for Houston, but the team went above and beyond to make sure I’d get there and claim the gold with them.

The experience is something we won’t soon forget, due in no small part to the pain it required, but also through the skills we picked up, the comradery we gained, and the incredible amount of lessons we earned.

I believe in learning through doing, and when given an opportunity to do something on the path towards your ultimate goal, you give yourself to that opportunity unreservedly. SkillsUSA was a perfect platform for that, and we stand both united as friends and stronger from it.

We will be flying on to Atlanta for nationals in June. That will give us some time to make the game even better, and hopefully not have to rely on any more last second heroics.