Demand continues for joint GAME program

First-year student Mehran Mansour Feizi works on a project in the recently-remodelled lab used for Brock University’s GAME program. The four-year program, which launched last September, runs in partnership with Niagara College. A new Brock University Humanities program continues to be in high demand, scoring with students and faculty as it approaches the finish line on its first year.Applications have been pouring in for the GAME program, which launched in September 2016. The program is a partnership between the Centre for Digital Humanities and Department of Computer Science at Brock University, and Niagara College.Nearly 400 applications were submitted for the video game program’s 50 spots in its initial run and hundreds of applications have again been received for the coming fall term, said Assistant Professor Jason Hawreliak.“It just shows how much demand there is from students for this kind of program,” he said.“It’s been going better than we had ever hoped” with students showing immediate investment in the learning material, he added.GAME’s unique structure has students earning a university degree and an advanced college diploma in four years.Students choose their stream at Brock, either aiming for a Bachelor of Arts in game design or Bachelor of Science in game programming.It was the collaborative approach between the two institutions that drew Ivy Truong to the program.The first-year GAME student was enticed not only by the ability to earn a degree and diploma in four years, but also by the program’s focus on theoretical and practical learning.Hawreliak said the program aims to turn students into experts on the tools of the trade while also focusing on the principles, design and theory behind gaming.“What we’re really excited about is students are really getting the best of both worlds here.”Games are a complex medium, Hawreliak said, with many design components, as well as art, sound, programming and narrative.Gaining an understanding of each of those components can be difficult, but it’s what the program strives to provide.“Students are getting as much as we can give them in four years,” Hawreliak said.Truong said the program quickly taught her that she still has much to learn about the gaming world.She came to Brock with a career path in mind but said her eyes have been opened to directions in the gaming field she didn’t know existed.The program, nearly a decade in the making, is closely linked to the local game industry with experts providing feedback on student assignments and participating in workshops on campus.“This is very much a living program,” Hawreliak said.“We’re always speaking to students, always speaking to the industry to see what’s up and coming.”Students will also participate in internships once they enter their third year.Linda Roote, Associate Dean in Niagara College’s School of Media Studies, said the program’s content has helped to keep students engaged from the first day.“We’ve had a terrific retention rate,” she said, adding she’s been impressed by the student investment she’s seen.With a small cohort of students and many applications coming through the door, those who are accepted to the program are “destined for success right out of the gate,” Roote said.“It looks like we have as many applications this year as we did last year. They’re literally pouring in.”Expansion has already entered the minds of program facilitators, but growth will be limited by capacity restrictions in the newly-renovated labs.Renovations were completed in the summer of 2016 in the Interactive Media Labs in the Centre for Digital Humanities to support increased enrolment through the Interactive Arts and Science and GAME programs.New state-of-the-art computers were installed in the GAME lab, which students have 24-hour access to in order to work on their projects without owning the expensive equipment.“We tore down the instructor’s podium at the front,” Hawreliak said. “This used to be a typical lab focused on top-down instruction and now it’s a more collaborative space.”The renovation was tailored to fit the needs of the students, he added.Students have been busy putting their skills to work in the first semester, creating games right off the hop.Being able to make a tangible product so early on has been a strong motivator for Truong.“I enjoy being able to take what I learned in class and turning it into something I can interact with, using what we learned in a way that’s different than writing an essay.”Seeing that finished product provides students with a sense of satisfaction and ownership, said Assistant Professor Alex Christie.“They’re building expertise as creative people. As a teacher there’s nothing more satisfying than to see a student make something that is a reflection of who they are.”

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