U of S aims to fill void in Canadian video game industry

A new graduate program at the University of Saskatchewan aims to fill a gap in the $3 billion Canadian video game industry.

Computer scientist Regan Mandryk with the U of S recently received a $1.65 million grant over six years from the Saskatchewan Waterloo Games User Research Initiative for a graduate program in game-user research.

Mandryk told CBC News that Canadian video game companies are starved for qualified candidates to hire in Canada, which is the world’s third-largest video game producer behind the U.S. and Japan.

“The big gaming companies we have are all trying to hire people but they don’t have access to the people with the right skills,” Mandryk said. “So we’re creating this graduate training program to try and supply the right people to the industry.”

The graduate program is aimed at attracting computer science majors familiar with software development. Ultimately, the program will train masters and PhD students in the area of game-user research, which Mandryk said will build experience-driven design principles into future video games.

“The research part of it focuses on how we can try and understand, measure and analyze that experience so we can apply it back into the game design to make the game better,” Mandryk said.

How do they measure this? In very different ways, she said.

“You can imagine hooking someone up to a bunch of physiological sensors like a lie-detector and then having their data analyzed with mathematical models to create an index of frustration or an index of enjoyment all the way through to doing something that’s quite casual, like displaying a mobile game to people waiting in line at a coffee shop and getting their subjective opinions about it,” Mandryk explained.

According to the U of S, the Canadian video game industry has a growing hunger for new talent, with 40 per cent of companies projecting 25 per cent growth in the next two years.

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