November 15, 2013 8:10 pm
Updated: November 15, 2013 10:22 pm

University of Alberta to offer certificate in computer game development


EDMONTON – It’s the first of its kind at an Alberta university: this spring, students at the University of Alberta will be able to receive a certificate in Computer Game Development.

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“We want to make sure we make great university students. We’re wrapping some of their experience in a game design envelope because we think games are fantastic,” says Sean Gouglas, co-director of the Computer Game Development Certificate Program.

“They’re a wonderfully expressive medium for entertainment, for education, for social change, and students are driving this – they love games. But I think that it’s important that they be excellent university students first, and then great game designers will come from that.”

Gouglas, along with co-director Michael Bowling, will lead the new certificate program.

The program will see students from a variety of faculties develop a game on any computing platform. Teams composed of students with diverse backgrounds must see the game through every stage: pitch, prototype, testing and delivery.

Gouglas hopes the diversity of those taking part in the program will help add more variety to the game industry.

“If you look at the number of people who play games, 45 per cent of them are women, and yet, only 10 per cent of employees in a game company are women.”

“There are, of course, great and fabulous game developers who are women, but they’re a minority. We think that if we can create and promote equality in the game design education, we will produce new game developers who can provide a variety of perspectives – more than just, for example, the game experiences that sell particularly well, like Call Of Duty or Battlefield – so that we’ll get new Canadian intellectual property that will develop new small and medium enterprises, and by diversifying the people making games, we’ll diversify the IP that comes out of those game studios.”

Eighteen course credits are required to complete the certificate program, but most of the courses are already being offered at the U of A. The addition of an advanced interdisciplinary course, Computers and Games, has made the certificate option possible.  

“What we wanted to do was give you that deep disciplinary expertise but then to give you experience working with a number of people working across a number of disciplines in the building of a game, because games are fundamentally an interdisciplinary project. There are creative writers, visual writers, level designers, computer programmers of course, modelers, animators, all of them work together to build a modern computer game.”

Gouglas says establishing the certificate program was an interdisciplinary effort between several faculties at the U of A.

“To be part of this sort of intellectual endeavour at the university here is a wonderful experience, and it speaks to the strength of the collaboration between the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Arts, who are building this new endeavour for students, that students are driving, that will hopefully provide wonderful employment for them, or entrepreneurial skills when they come out of university.”

But, that’s not the best part for Gouglas.

“Simply playing the games the students make is amazing,” he shares. “I have been blown away year after year at the creativity of the students that graduate from this course and from this university. They’re amazing, and that’s easily the best part of being a part of this certificate.”

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