FORT WORTH -- Enter the world of Cupcake Zombies at your peril.
Once in, you've become a lemon that shoots forks. Your mission is to destroy the hungry cupcake zombies because it's only through their elimination that the Food Pyramid can be rightfully reclaimed.
Does this sound like too daunting a mission? Relax. It's just a video game.
Cupcake Zombies was created by 16-year-old Zach Villarreal during a two-week summer program at Texas Christian University that ends today.
The academy takes teens deep into the world of creating video games. Participants tap into graphing, math, storytelling, computer programming and art skills to learn how to create video games.
"It's limitless," Villarreal said of the worlds that can be created for gamers. "I love it."
Villarreal, a junior from Agoura High School in California, was among 21 participants at the iD Gaming Academy held at Texas Christian University this week. Students from several states, including Texas, Tennessee and California, participated in the academy. It is one of several programs offered by a California-based technology camp provider, internalDrive.
The iD Gaming Academy targets students 13 to 18 and events are held at campuses across the nation -- TCU, Stanford, Harvard, Emory, Villanova and Lake Forest College. Students delve into different aspects of videogame-making, such as creating characters using 3D modeling and animation, programming games for the Xbox 360 and adding new levels, complete with storytelling and unique environments.
"It's ideally for students who want a career in this or who want to pursue it in college," said Jessica Brunk, the academy's director.
The courses are set up similar to a 101 college course, Brunk said. Teens can pick up tips that will help them stand out in the field in the future, she said. For example, the students work on portfolio building, and they visit experts in the field to gain insight.
Students stay on campus for two weeks among teens who share their interests, Brunk said. They work, sleep and eat on campus.
Students arrive ready to work.
Instructor David Silverman taught participants how to use tools -- already loaded into StarCraft II -- to create new playing areas and environments. That task involves students coming up with stories they want the gamer to experience and ideas that would keep the gamer coming back for more.
"They are sort of getting inspiration from the game itself," Silverman said. "They also get inspiration from the world around them and their experiences."
On Thursday, Kole Read, 15, a sophomore from Graham High School, used graphing skills to plot invisible walls on a setting he created on a computer screen.
Participants said animating and creating isn't simple.
"People assume it's easy to make games," said Isaac Lien, 16, also from California. "It's really a lot harder than people think."
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675