Southern Methodist University is quickly becoming ground zero for video gamers. Not the couch-potato types who rapid-fire button-punch, but rather the kind who want to create and design video games. Last summer, the Dallas university launched The Guildhall School of Video Games, an 18-month graduate course that teaches three concentrations of study — art creation, level design, and software development — to aspiring employees of the $10 billion — and rapidly growing — gaming industry. The academic program was built with lots of input from local game companies, such as idSoftware (Doom and Quake) and Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires). And while the tuition tab is a staggering $37,000, the first class has 32 students who will graduate in December 2004. The goal is to graduate about 100 students every six months, says Guildhall managing director Peter Raad, PhD. “We want our graduates to be immediate practitioners, but also tomorrow’s innovators,” he adds.