Eastern Canada’s only BA with courses in game design

Game design courses help students create and think critically about video games

Video games might seem to be just entertainment to some, but in the case of Rebecca Goodine, video games changed her life.

Goodine, a fourth-year student at University of New Brunswick, started in the university’s science program before deciding it wasn’t for her.

Unsure where to turn next, she joined the faculty of arts, where a professor recommended she enroll in a game design course.

“I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do basically and I took ‘Game Design I’ and something just clicked,” Goodine said.

“The professors are great, the subject is amazing. I’m passionate about games completely. I want to get more into game development.”

Learning through the game-making process

Lauren Cruikshank, associate professor in UNB’s media arts and cultures (MAAC) program, said right from the outset, students are fully immersed in the game-making process.

In the first introduction course, students are required to make a small game by themselves. After that, there are two specialized courses: one for hands-on game design and production, and the other a more critical game studies approach. A fourth course sees groups of four create an even larger game in a simulated studio structure.

“We’ve had a lot of interest and enrolment in those courses, and a lot of students from around campus coming to take them,” Cruikshank said.

Unique courses within a bachelor of arts offer valuable skills

While games courses aren’t a new idea, they’re rare within a bachelor of arts program. 

Cruikshank said students doing game design courses within a BA program learn valuable critical skills. In the MAAC program, students not only learn how to make media but study media as well – a principle also applied to the game design courses.

“We also teach offer game studies courses where the students analyze games, discuss academic readings on games, and look at them as a medium, as you would with film studies,” Cruikshank said.

New courses taught by seasoned professionals

The courses are relatively new, but the information taught comes from seasoned professionals.

Professor Jeff Mundee worked in the video game industry for 10-plus years, working on big titles such as Sleeping Dogs (Square Enix) and Need for Speed (Electronic Arts). Cruikshank has a PhD in Media and Communications, is the director of the Games and Culture Research Group at UNB and has been teaching in the MAAC program since 2011.

“Our students in MAAC are really impressive as both academic scholars and talented authors of media, a combination of skills that is really quite rare,” she said.

“There’s no other BA program I know of where the students graduate as both critically thoughtful producers of media and technically skilled academic scholars of media.”

And thanks to the supportive and knowledgeable group that greeted Goodine, she found her calling.

“Definitely the games industry in general is where I’d like to work now.”

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