As director of the new school of video game making at Southern Methodist University, Najjab plans to attract students by using some of the area's game luminaries - including members of id Software Inc., maker of the famed "Doom" and "Quake" games - as teachers and speakers.
But he has plenty of competition from schools around the country.
Formal game education remains a relatively untapped area, but the emergence of video game schools makes sense in the 30-year-old industry, said Jason Della Roca, director of the International Game Developers Association.
Gaming's traditional training ground, a mentoring system where the self-taught pass on knowledge to like-minded tech-savvy gamers, is no longer enough given the myriad of skills needed to create a modern game, Roca said.
Jay Horwitz, industry analyst with Jupiter Research in New York, said making games requires many talents, from art and music to math, computer science and physics. Pulling these disciplines together is increasingly common as the industry matures into a mainstream form of entertainment, Horwitz said.
"It's still a pretty immature media, but a discipline for actual game development is starting to make sense," he said. "Today you have a very rich environment."
Southern Methodist University's new Guildhall school of video game making is an 18-month, $37,000 program that will offer specializations in art creation, level design and software development. Classes begin in July.
Nationally, there are several well-established programs, including the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Wash., and Full Sail in Orlando, Fla.
Even traditional schools such as MIT and the University of Michigan have incorporated game-specific classes and programs into existing curriculum.
The games industry employs about 30,000 in the United States, and demand is expected to grow by about 15 percent, or 5,000 jobs, a year, Najjab said. Salaries vary from $49,000 for designers with a few years' experience to $300,000 for veterans.
Several companies are in the Dallas area, including Ensemble Studios, Monkeystone Games, Ritual Entertainment and Terminal Reality.
Richard Gray, a level designer at Ritual who is known in gaming circles as Levelord, will be teaching at Guildhall.
"Game designing is indeed a dream-job-come-true for me and my contemporaries, but that is because we all share the passion," Gray said. "We come into work in T-shirts and jeans. We work long and weird hours but rarely use an alarm clock. ... And most of all, we get to make games for a living."
By Matt Slagle