Video-game design taken to next level
The Kamloops-Thompson school district is taking its video-game design curriculum to the next level.
What started as a summer-camp program in 2007 and grew into a limited course offering last year is set to assume full-course status — meaning area high school students will have the opportunity to spend an entire semester studying nothing but video-game design.
The program, which the school district is calling its Technology Academy, is a partnership between the school district, Thompson Rivers University and The DigiPen Institute of Technology, a Redmond, Wash.-based four-year college recognized as one of the world’s leaders in training game designers.
“The students that took the elective courses this year, they were only taking one course elective with DigiPen,” said Greg Howard, SD73’s district principal for trades and transitions.
“Now, kids will come in, they will take four courses back to back. It’s 540 hours, all in the same semester. So, that’s all they’ll do.”
The academy will be based out of Sa-Hali secondary, but will be open to all district students at a cost of between $100 and $150 per semester.
Howard said the partnership means the Technology Academy will leave students with no shortage of opportunities.
Not only will the semester count for 16 credits toward high school graduation, but students will also receive 12 computer-science university credits from TRU.
“And, there’s of course the opportunity to attend DigiPen,” Howard said, adding Venture Kamloops is also involved in the partnership.
“They’re trying to get the industry coming to Kamloops,” he said.
“They’re looking at maybe making Kamloops a destination for the industry.”
The limited offering of DigiPen courses this school year has been successful, Howard said.
“They had one course in the first semester and one in the second and it was an overwhelming success,” he said.
“They’re giddy up there.”
Sa-Hali’s video-game design course — called Digital Game Design — is taught by Justin deVries, who shares Howard’s enthusiasm for the program.
“This year, Sa-Hali had about 55 students that went through and took the beginning level courses,” deVries said, explaining those students will then feed into the higher-level offerings beginning in September.
“They enjoy the classes. I enjoy the classes. Everybody enjoys the classes.
“Everybody looks forward to them. When that class is over, it’s like, ‘Oh, we have to do real school now?’”
Make no mistake about the DigiPen curriculum, though — it is real school.
Heavy in math and computer science, the DigiPen Institute of Technology has been recognized in the past by the Princeton Review as one of the top game-design colleges in the U.S.
Howard said he believes the Kamloops-Thompson school district’s partnership with DigiPen and TRU is the first of its kind in Canada.
And, he said, the deal with DigiPen is exclusive among B.C. school district’s — meaning any other school in the province looking to start a similar program has to pay for the rights.
“It does help the bottom line,” Howard said.
“But, for the students, if this partnership takes off, I see this as being a real lead-in for our kids.”