Soaring demand continues for joint GAME program

Student works on game project

Brock University photo – 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.

Brock University press release – It’s a nice problem to have. Brock University staff have been flooded by applications in a new program where students learn about the design and production of video games.

The GAME program is a partnership between Brock and Niagara College. When it launched for its debut season in September, nearly 400 applications were received for 50 available spots. And now hundreds of applications are again being received for the program’s second year of classes in September, 2017.

“It just shows how much demand there is from students for this kind of program,” said Assistant Professor Jason Hawreliak. “It’s been going better than we had ever hoped” with students showing immediate investment in the learning material.

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,” he said.

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.

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.”