New program will model not mirror

Unique Game – Design advanced diploma includes focus on equity, diversity and inclusion

Mohawk College’s new Game – Design advanced diploma launching in September 2023 will break down barriers with the idea that a more diverse industry will be a better place to work and will produce content that better reflects society.

The three-year advanced diploma program will cover multiple aspects of the industry – design, technical and artistic skills, along with ethics and psychology.

“The program will model rather than mirror the gaming industry,” says Dr. Angela Stukator, who joined Mohawk as a special advisory in June and has joined a team of female academics driving the development of this program.

“We don’t want to do just more of the same. This is a model of game design and the gaming workforce that takes a leadership role from the get-go.”

Ethics and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) will underscore all aspects of the program, including recruiting of students and faculty, the substance of the courses and how the program is marketed. Students will study games created by women and racialized groups.

“EDI is the elephant in the room. The fact is that the industry is dominated by mostly white men. But it just takes a commitment to reflecting diversity because gaming doesn’t have to be that way. Games don’t have to reinforce misogynistic or racist views of the world. They can confront them.”

Violent shooting games are only a small part of the industry, says Dr. Lisa Funnell, Associate Dean of Creative Industries. The program will cover board games, too, and the gamification of things like education, social and political activities, consumer interfaces and training.

The game design program will draw on other Mohawk programs, including virtual reality, animation, music, and graphic design.

“Video games and games in general are played by every kind of person in the world so it’s important to create content that is as open and inclusive. It also just makes business sense,” says Funnell.

The gaming market is large and growing rapidly. A recent analysis found the digital gaming market is projected to grow to $160 billion by the end of 2026, up from $104 billion estimated for the end of this year.

To compare, the global movie industry is pegged at about $77 billion.

As the gaming culture has shifted from the fringe entirely into the mainstream, now is the time to fully address what holds the industry back, Funnell says. Embedding EDI with intentionality from the outset will make this program one of a kind.

“There is great responsibility in being a creator. The conversations we are having in game design will be happening across the range of our creative programs.”

Funnell, whose academic background is in EDI and representation in film, says in addition to examining gaming content through a diversity lens, students will learn to work on teams with people of different cultures, races and belief systems.

“Students will develop that global competency. It’s in those spaces of diversity and equity that the greatest creativity emerges.”

The game industry should be as varied as the people who play, says Cathy Feraday Miller, co-founder and art director at Rocket 5 Studios, a micro game studio in Toronto.

“The greater the diversity of game makers, the more games will reflect our actual human experience, and the better the games will be,” she says.“Mohawk College’s Game- Design program map is excellent. There is a strong focus on ethical game design practices and critical thinking. There are some very exciting leaders in current game design theory involved.”

And the College has a strong connection to industry leaders, including at Ubisoft, Hamilton’s animation studio Pipeline and to small indie developers.

Hamilton is perfectly poised for a game design program, says Stukator.

“The city is emerging as a cultural and technology hub. This program will feed that. Small and medium companies are the pulse of the industry.”