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Students pushing Alberta game design to the next level

Students pushing Alberta game design to the next level

Edmonton Game Discovery Exhibition connects U of A students with industry leaders.

The Edmonton Game Discovery Exhibition (GDX), hosted at MacEwan University this past May, garnered an attendance of 1,300 people, all coming together to celebrate and explore the work of local game developers.

GDX helps game developers connect and network, allows students and aspiring developers to receive f


eedback from the community, and seeks to expand and support the game industry in Alberta.

Those involved in planning the event included Deanna Dombroski, co-project manager of GDX and fifth-year student at the U of A; Derek Kwan, director of GDX and U of A graduate; and other members of the U of A’s Video Game Art and Design Club.


GDX began as a small project that was expected to take place in an afternoon and have 40 – 50 attendees. The “Indie Game Showcase” would allow U of A computing science students in video game courses to showcase their work to other students and faculty.

Kwan said that the initial idea “evolved very quickly,” as many people expressed an interest in the event.

“We all like to build games. That’s what has motivated us throughout this process—how do we build better games?” said Kwan. “As computing science students, it’s been hard for us to find people who do writing, art, and marketing. We wanted a way to be able to reach artists.”

Kwan said that his group met with many professors, who encouraged the group to make the event city-wide. GDX soon partnered with eHUB, Startup Edmonton and TEC Edmonton.

By expanding their network, Kwan and members of the Video Game Art and Design Club successfully planned and created GDX. The event attracted approximately 650 attendees last year and 1,300 this year.

Highlights from this year’s event included a keynote presentation by Aaryn Flynn, Studio General Manager of Edmonton’s BioWare, panel discussions and presentations, and an exhibitors hall featuring the games of indie developers from the Edmonton area.

During the keynote presentation, Flynn discussed a 2015 report made by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) that showed that 19 million Canadians are gamers – 54 percent of Canada’s population. Furthermore, ESAC found that the video game industry contributes three billion dollars to Canada’s GDP.

Kwan said that the event was initially about their post-secondary context; however, “people in the community saw a need for this event, and it became bigger.”
The success of GDX displays the dedication and hard work of many U of A students who are passionate about game development.

GDX allows students who are interested in the gaming industry to connect with professionals and get feedback from local audiences.

“GDX provides a unique allowance for students to get one-on-one time with industry professionals,” said Robert Cassidy, a GDX volunteer and third-year U of A computing science student.

Cassidy said that indie developers can see how their audience reacts to certain elements with free play testing. “For students, this exposure into the industry in invaluable.”

Dombroski, co-project manager, said that it is important to realize that game development is interdisciplinary.

“People sometimes assume that games are only made by programmers. Games need artists, writers, musicians, actors, directors, managers, producers and developers,” said Dombroski.

“A lot more goes into games than people think.”

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