Video game enthusiasts can put down the controller and pick up a gaming degree in the Fraser Valley. Trinity Western University has announced a new Bachelor of Arts degree in Game Development which officially launches this September.
The four-year program was spearheaded by TWU’s Dr. Kevin Schut, who authored the book Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games in 2013. He had been teaching theoretical and cultural criticism classes on gaming when he saw the potential for Christian courses.
“Gaming is a big part of the cultural landscape – but Christians don’t make up a big part of the industry,” Schut said. “I love gaming but there is a lot of dark and negative stuff in both video games and the games industry. We want to prepare students to take their faith into the workplace so they can change culture for the better.”
TWU is a Christian university of the arts, sciences, and professions that offers 42 bachelor’s degrees, 17 graduate degrees, and adult degree-completion programs. It was founded in 1962 in Langley and enrolls 4,000 students on an annual basis.
Schut recalled several one-off classes in 2008 and 2011 where students were able to develop their own video game projects. He described those projects as the new program’s initial start.
“Those games were playable but that was about all that they could really do,” Schut explained. “But it was evidence that there is an interest in game development.”
After the release of Schuts’ book, game development courses were put in development themselves for the past five years. Now, the 2019/20 school year will welcome the first intake of students.
“There will be four different streams – art design, music and sound, software development, and then design itself which is a little more broad. It looks at the actual rules and play of a game; there’s also writing courses as well,” Schut said.
The new program is making use of TWU’s current facilities but plans are to expand their space on campus as interest grows.
“Right now there is a visual design lab,” Schut explained, “and we’ll have five to 10 part time instructors. We are looking at renovating spaces and having a new academic building for Game Development.”
At the end of their degree, graduates will come out of the program with a portfolio to take to game design companies.
“The idea is that the students will be coming in to mini-studios,” Schut added. “But it’s not all about programming and not just about making money either. Students are taught viable business models and taught to think more entrepreneurial.”
Though there are no requirements to design a specifically Christian-themed game, several courses incorperate faith, spiritually, morals, and ethics into business and storytelling practises.
Last summer, TWU lost its legal battle over accreditation for a planned law school. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of two Canadian law societies that sought to refuse accreditation to potential TWU students based on the school’s controversial Community Covenant. The covenant requires students and staff to abstain from sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage, among a number of other requirements.
Weeks later, TWU decided to make the covenant optional for students, though it is still required for staff.
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