Canada’s First Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design at Sheridan College

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Sheridan College, well known for developing leading talent in animation and illustration, is getting set to welcome the first cohort of students this September to Canada’s first four year Bachelor Degree in Game Design.

Filling a Void

“Gaming is a rapidly growing cultural industry in Canada and one that’s maturing in complexity and sophistication,” observes Ronni Rosenberg, Dean of Sheridan’s Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design. “We have a wide range of players from young start-up studios to multi-national companies who tackle everything from traditional console games to games for mobile devices or social platforms. Yet Canada lacks a comprehensive educational program that can prepare the high tech, high touch game designers and artists needed to sustain the industry’s future.”

According to a 2012 report by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, our country’s video game industry generates $1.7 billion in direct economic impact and it ranks third worldwide based on number of employees. The report states that there are 348 companies operating in the sector and suggests that 77% of companies expect to hire new graduates.

More than Entertainment

Students in Sheridan’s new degree program will learn to create compelling content for multiple gaming applications, including triple-A, serious, casual, and mobile. “But gaming is about more than entertainment,” says Avrim Katzman, Program Coordinator for the new degree. “It’s already being applied to help seniors combat memory loss, to make learning more immersive, and to drive behaviour change.” Mathew den Boer, a graduate of Sheridan’s Classical Animation program played a leading role on the visual design for Pipe Trouble, a game that allows people to construct pipelines while balancing social, economic and environmental consequences.

“By offering a broad education that’s based on fundamentals, we also won’t limit our students to any one particular platform or render them obsolete by the time they graduate.” – Ronni Rosenberg

Where Creativity, Technology, and Business Intersect

“Sheridan’s new Bachelor of Game Design also responds to a clear call from industry for individuals who can produce game art assets while being conversant in the language of programmers and developers,” adds Katzman. Sheridan’s students will study the historical, cultural, sociological, and psychological aspects of computer games so they know how to engage with an audience. By designing within the framework of an overall narrative structure, they will learn to create interesting plots, subplots and gameplay to help people develop an affinity with the characters. Students will also take courses in mathematics, physics and artificial intelligence to satisfy Sheridan’s emphasis on computation and technology. By managing the production of a computer game from concept to distribution, students will equally gain important business skills such as scheduling, budgeting and project management.

Setting the Degree Apart

While the University of Ontario Institute in Technology offers a Bachelor of IT with a stream in Game Development and Entrepreneurship and the Vancouver Arts School offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a similar concentration, Sheridan’s Game Design program will be the first fully dedicated Bachelor Degree in Canada. Its content is aligned with highly successful programs of its type in the US, UK and Australia. Over 600 students applied for the program in a process that included a presentation of their portfolio and two short essays on design. Seventy-five students have been admitted for September.

Photo credit: Patrick Hoesly / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Patrick Hoesly / Foter.com / CC BY

“Sheridan has a number of things in its favour,” adds Rosenberg. “It’s no secret we’re building on our success in animation. About 40% of those graduates enter the game design field. We also run a successful post graduate certificate in Game Level Design. Having this track record has earned us partnerships with companies like Ubisoft who have joined the Program Advisory Committee for our new degree. Students will also be required to complete a 14-week industry placement after their third year of study, so partnerships like this one are absolutely critical.”

Adds Rosenberg, “By offering a broad education that’s based on fundamentals, we also won’t limit our students to any one particular platform or render them obsolete by the time they graduate. We want them to leave Sheridan with the skills and knowledge they need to create their own opportunities as well as to be able to help define where the industry is going next.”

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