Category Archives: Community

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March Break Toronto 2017

This March Break we decided that our theme will be LEADERSHIP.  There is a lot to explore within this theme; leadership in the autism community, on a team and in all areas of your life. We will also be exploring basic programming, narrative in games and 3D art / environment design. This is a fun week designed to be an awesome experience for you and your friends. Remember that this is a low anxiety work space, work at your own pace on projects that you want to work on! Our helpful facilitators will be giving lessons and leading discussi-ons. We will play video games, share youtube videos and create, create, create!
Ages 12 – 25
Fees: $550+ HST
Payment arrangements can be made.

What Software Will We Practice?

Imagine Cinema’s at Market Square is an Every1Games March Break tradition. We walk 10 minutes to the cinema and watch a popular film. What makes this different than other autism social groups? We work together to learn more about what we watch as consumers. By discussing the themes and narrative, as well as the industry tools, marketing and production techniques, participants learn to understand the movies beyond what they see on the big screen.

  • Participants are required to pay for their own snacks.
  • Admission to the theatre will be represented on the invoice sent upon registration.

Royal Ontario Museum has invited Every1Games to an exclusive experience. The ROM understands that we aren’t kids anymore and are working with us to arrange a day of learning that will help shape the work we do in the computer labs as we practice game design.

  • There will be an opportunity to purchase lunch but a packed lunch is recommended.
  • Participants are required to pay for their travel.  You can speak with an Every1Games facilitator if you require assistance.

You can read more details in our information package or register by clicking the link below.

Sign Up Now

A custom invoice will be sent to you by email. Nothing is charged during online registration. Payment arrangements can be made. Email sarah@every1games.ca for assistance…sometimes this online registration can be confusing so don’t hesitate to email us for help! We look forward to chatting :).

30K from OCE Kicks Off 2017!

We are proud to announce that Every1Games will be starting the new year with grand plans thanks to a project grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and our supportive advisors at The Forge (McMaster University)!

This is great news but also means that we need to make some changes to our program schedule.

We will not be hosting programs this winter (Jan and Feb) but check back for updates and get in touch with us early to participate in the March Break – (March 12-16) – Creative Production Social Program for neurodivergent youth ages 12 – 25.

To participate in the Niagara or Toronto Spring Program please email sarah@every1games.ca to save your spot as we plan this amazing week of video game related awesomeness and learning.

More information coming soon. Thank you for your patience and support. We love you!

Happy New Year!

Created by Every1Games student Matthew Montgomery

Programs Begin October 1st! Register Now to Save Your Spot.

It’s time to register for the next cohort of Every1Games workshops. If you’ve stumbled upon us be sure to check out the about page to learn more about what we do. The best way to learn more is to contact us.  You can also find us on facebook and twitter.

Autism, spectrum, autistic, Aspergers, learning disabilities. Just making sure that we have these words in the post because our programs are specialized to help neurodivergent youth develop the skills required to succeed in life after high school. No diagnosis is required to participate. Our programs are a low-anxiety space where we encourage you to be comfortable being you so that you can learn at your best.  Many of our staff members are also on the spectrum or identify with a disability. Here you will have access to mentors for more than creative production, but life as an adult facing the challenges that come with growing up.

In Toronto we are offering two 8 week programs Creative Production and SpecOPS. If you are new to Every1Games or more interested in video, Creative Production is for you. If you have some experience and are interested in going to college (or currently attending college for media) then join the SpecOps program and work with us to develop your skills and portfolio.  In St.Catharines  you can join us for one 8 week program focusing on the fundamentals of game design.

All of our programs offer a low-anxiety environment. If you are not sure if our programs are for you email engage@every1games.ca.

Program descriptions are below.

When: 8 Saturdays (10am to 4pm) starting October 1st.

Where: Programs are available in Toronto (George Brown College School of Design, 341 King St. E), and St.Catharines (Brock University Centre for Digital Humanities).

How Much: Program fees vary, regular fees are between $720 to $900 before discounts and subsidies. If you’d like to split payments or inquire about subsidies we can accommodate you. Let us know what works for you.  Please register to save your spot in the meantime.

 

Register online to save your spot in the program. An invoice will be created based on the information you provide in the profile. We will contact you to confirm participation. 

To Register: Create an account and fill out a profile. Be sure to fill out the profile using the information of the person who is attending the program. The invoice will be sent to the email address entered in the profile. Remember to include your birthday so that we can apply subsidies that you might qualify for. Then login to browse programs and choose the course you’d like to join. Click Read More to see the schedule, then click Next to enter discount codes. Autism Ontario members use autismont for $100.00 off! Then click Register. :) We will contact you with an invoice when we confirm your participation where you will have the option to pay online or by cheque. No payment is required to save your spot in the program.

Creative Production – Toronto

Our fall Creative Production program (Coded as CREA T1016) will teach participants a variety of digital and traditional arts, and video production. No experience necessary. Discover your skills and interests working with like minded people.

SpecOps – Toronto

Our Fall SpecOps program (Coded as SPEC T1016) will teach participants how to use Unreal 4, a game design software tool used by popular studios like Ubisoft and Activision. Participants will work independently and in groups to design a game using 2D/3D art tools, programming and sound engineering software depending on the groups interests. Lead by autistic youth mentors, this 8 week program is for people interested in attending post-secondary game design programs and is open to current college students interested in improving their game design skills.

Creative Production – Niagara (St.Catharines)

Our fall Creative Production program in Niagara (Coded as GAME N1016) will teach participants the fundamentals of game design.  Participants will explore Game Maker Studio to create a playable level. No experience necessary. Our staff will challenge participants with new activities that help each student meet their goals or prepare to apply for Niagara College and Brock University game related programs.

Presented by Autism Canada and Every1Games Professional Services Inc.

Meet the Au-Some Conference Speakers

The Au-Some Conference is taking place Saturday August 20th at McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton. This event is an opportunity for autistic youth and adults to meet informally with other autistics, self-advocates, educators, students, support workers, and business owners to identify and plan action to combat societal barriers to education, employment and personal support. The event features 6 topics of discussion. Each topic features a speaker with lived experience. Lets learn about these remarkable Au-Some Conference speakers.

(No picture) Yvonne Spicer was diagnosed in childhood with ADD, and ADHD and later diagnosed with Autism at age 35. Yvonne has received an award from Milton Town Council and is presently enrolled in Conestoga College in Kitchener. (Opening Remarks – The person in control of your life is YOU!)

Kelly JohnsonKelly Johnson was diagnosed with Autism after her son received his diagnosis. Kelly maintains a blog called “One Quarter Mama” about Autism, Advocacy, Feminism and Racism issues. Kelly started a consultancy firm called “The Autistic Expert” giving advice. (Presentation A – Autism at Work.)

(No picture)  Brandon Williams was diagnosed with Autism as an adult. Brandon is living with HIV and is working with AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Redpath Centre. Brandon is a life coach educating Autistic people about risk management. (Presentation B – Sexual Health, Are We at Risk?)

(No picture)  Zachary Smith was diagnosed with ASD at six years old. Zachary is currently working at Western University in the Department of Hospitality Services and lectures at Fanshawe College for students training to be social workers and personal support workers. (Presentation C – Building Your Social Network.)

Jackie Mcmillan

(No picture) Jackie McMillan was diagnosed with Autism at age 11. Jackie turned her life into a science project identifying her challenges and connecting with other spectrum teens and adults. Jackie’s website and blog post is, “How to Thrive with Autism” as an autistic teen or adult. (Presentation D – Optimizing Autism Through Managing your Health and Environment.)

(No picture) Kaitrin Beechey was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kaitrin paints the way she views the world. Some of her paintings underlying themes of acceptance, equality and social responsibility. Kaitrin call’s her art “Windows by Kaitrin” because windows go both ways. (Presentation E – Self-Discover and Successful Outcomes.)

(No picture) Georges Huard was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Georges is currently employed fulltime at Université du Québec à Montréal. Georges gives lectures at schools, colleges and universities about Asperger’s Syndrome and how to adjust to a neurotypical world. (Presentation F – Interpreting People’s Emotions.)

Laura Nadine

Laura Nadine was diagnosed with Autism as an adult at age 27. As a student of the Suzuki Method, Laura progressed quickly as a musical prodigy for her ability to play songs after only hearing them once. Laura currently runs her own music school called Enlightened Audio Academy. (Closing Remarks – “Let Me Fall A Legend.”)

Register to attend The Au-Some Conference.

 

Luigi's Restaurante created by Devonttaie Summer 2015

Save Your Spot in Toronto Summer Programs

Subsidies are available!

We are offering up to 4 weeks of creative skills development programs for autistic and neurodivergent youth in Toronto and Niagara. For information about programs based in Niagara contact us.

Don’t spend summer days alone playing games. Come to Every1Games and add to your skills set instead! Our programs are ideal for students with disabilities interested in practicing digital media design or computer science. Get serious about a future in games or join us just for fun in the low-anxiety, judgement free, neurodiverse community.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore different types of production tools in a low anxiety environment to develop social, technical and professional skills. These programs are great for beginners and for people who want to practice using the software without the pressure of grades.

Join us at George Brown College School of Design to become familiar with the fundamental tools and practices to design and develop digital media, gaming environments, music and videos. (Content will vary based on participant interests). Work with autistic advocates, mentors, and experienced digital media artists and game designers.

If you are new to Every1Games our summer programs are a great place to start becoming familiar with who we are and how we can work together to help you meet your goals. If you are a current student in art or media design, join us to strengthen your portfolio and gain experience.

Contact us! 
Subsidies, discounts and payment plans are also available for participants.  For more information please contact Program Manager Cameron Cubitt at (289) 990-9057 or at cameron@every1games.ca.

Week 1: Intro to Digital Media (GAME TS0116)
July 18, 2016 – July 22, 2016 (Monday to Friday)
Cost $450 (before discounts and subsidies)
Participants will learn about different programs that will allow them to design their own gaming art. Some of the programs will include Adobe Suite, 3DS Max and Animation.

Week 2: Panorama and Portfolio (GAME TS0216)
July 25, 2016 – July 29, 2016 (Monday to Friday)
Cost $450 (before discounts and subsidies)
Participants will be learning how to convert their gaming ideas into a portfolio or game demo over the course of the week. This program is intended to inform participants about what is needed when applying for a job with a gaming studio.

Week 3: Industry and Streaming in Digital Media (GAME TS0316)
August 2 – August 5, 2016 (Tuesday to Friday)
Cost $400 (before discounts and subsidies)
Participants will learn the tools and business of recording and streaming of video game media and will have the opportunity to interact with local game studios.

Week 4: Studio Environment (GAME TS0416)
August 8, 2016 – August 12, 2016 (Monday to Friday)
Cost $450 (before discounts and subsidies)
Participants will design a game as a group using Unity while learning about project management, compromising and planning and meeting the required deadlines for
the project. Groups that started their project in Week 3 will continue their from where they left off.

Classrooms will be supported with a 1:3 staff to student ratio. Programs will start at 10AM and conclude at 4PM. All four weeks will take place at the George Brown College St. James Campus which is located at 341 King Street East in Toronto, Ontario.

Registered participants will receive further details about the classroom closer to the start of all four programs.

Discounts and Subsidies

Autism Ontario Members receive $100 discount!

If you have an autism diagnosis and are between the age of 12 and 18, the Potential Programme provides a subsidy to help you pay for this opportunity! Over 18? No worries, thanks to Autism Ontario Toronto Chapter you may also be eligible for a subsidy that will be discounted on your invoice.

Create your Every1Games profile and contact us. We are here to help. Please note there is no proof of diagnosis required to participate in Every1Games programs.

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Toronto

 

Creative Prouction Logo

Creative Production (CREA0416) Registration Closes March 31

Subsidies are available!

Every1Games Spring Creative Production program starts April 2nd at George Brown College School of Design. Become familiar with the fundamental tools and practices to design and develop digital objects in 3D, virtual environments, music and videos (content will vary based on participant interests).

Learn computer software like  Autodesk 3DS Max, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5, tools used by professional designers.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore different types of production tools in a low anxiety environment to develop social, technical and professional skills. This program is great for beginners and for people who want to practice using the software in a low-anxiety learning environment. If you are new to Every1Games its a great place to start becoming familiar with who we are and how we can work together to help you meet your goals. If you are a current student in art or media design give our Spec OPS program a try and join us to strengthen your portfolio and gain experience.

If you have an autism diagnosis and are between the age of 12 and 18, the Potential Programme provides a subsidy to help you pay for this opportunity! Over 18? No worries, thanks to Autism Ontario Toronto Chapter you are also eligible for a subsidy that will be discounted on your invoice. Become a Autism Ontario Toronto Chapter member and be sure to fill out your Every1Games profile so that we can apply discounts and subsidies automatically when you sign up for a program. Please note there is no proof of diagnosis required to participate in Every1Games programs.

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Every1Games New Logo Blue Header PSINC


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Toronto


Every1Game 5 Amazing Strategies to Change Ableist Culture

5 Amazing Strategies to Change Ableist Culture

Helping Creators Create Change!

Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, is an amazing effort to help neurotypical children learn more about their autistic peers but the responses from autistic advocates are not all positive, and for precisely that reason. As Erin Human points out in her blog post Not in Love with Julia, “it’s all about autistic kids, but it’s not for them”. Human is a blogger who writes about the deeper messaging,  the ableist messaging that needs to be addressed, in an effort towards social change.

Since the launch of Sesame Streets’ autism resources I’ve been experiencing #seeamazing for myself. I’ve watched the videos of the different parents and children at home, at school and in the playground, read the resources and watched the responses flow on social media. I have no doubt that Sesame Street’s brand power will help to change to world. But its important to also provide the criticism that will help the public have an understanding of ableism and help creators avoid an ableist message. That’s why I’ve decided to use Erin Human’s blog post and Sesame Street’s See Amazing as inspiration to write… 5 amazing strategies to help creators change ableist culture.

First some personal context and background! In 2012 I had an opportunity to meet theEvery1Games CEO Sarah and Murray Monster Muppet folks from Sesame Street while working with the video game studio Game Pill in Toronto.  I was was excited to hear that Sesame Street, well known for representing cultural and social difference in children’s media and entertainment, was going to be making something for my autistic friends! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to offer my allied expertise and chat about neurodiversity and the advocacy groups that were influencing what would soon become Every1Games. In 2014, after establishing our awesome skills development programs, Every1Games hosted the first Autism Friendly Unconference where one of the most popular sessions was Autism in the Media, discussing the representation of autism on screens. I asked, should we be asking creators for more autistic characters, and what could that look like? One participant had us consider that most characters representing a minority group are shallow representations of stereotypes that further stigmatize people. This was something I feared when Sesame Street started talking about an autistic character and what I thought Erin Human was going to be addressing in her blog. But its not. She is addressing ABLEISM. Not Julia’s character. I really like Julia, she is a smart, female, autistic character who likes to sing and play. I am very excited to see what adventures she will have.

See 5 Amazing Strategies to Change Ableist Culture

1. Consult with Autistic Advocates - every1games

14 different organizations are listed as advisors for Sesame Streets resources. This is a good number of perspectives to consider. But in the face of social change it has to be acknowledged that current perspectives are in need of change. Just because an organization has autism in its name, or is really popular, does not mean it is a good resource. Be sure you are speaking with advocates that can help you understand neurodiversity and ableism.

2. Parents are important resources, but not always. - every1games

Sesame Street’s autism resources was intended for communities with children ages 2 to 5, offering families ways to “overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities”. As a result, the resources are actually mostly for parents, not for children (and I have a feeling that this was influenced by parents who were a part of the initiative). Sesame Street has used a number of videos that Human describes as “classic complaining parents”. Parents play a significant role in the public understanding of autism and changing ableist culture.

They are also the crux of Jim Sinclair’s “Don’t Mourn For Us” (1993) that spurred a revolution and generation of advocates.  To better explain, I found a quote I like that might help readers understand what advocates are fighting for… “We need to go to a world that finding out your child is autistic is no more tramatic or horrible or scary than finding out your child is gay (yes, I realize some people don’t have parents that can accept LGBT people – but that’s changing and the next generation will have an easier time, until one day no child is rejected on the basis of LGBT identity).

Human points out “there is a time and place to talk about how hard parenting your autistic kids can be, and it’s the same place you talk about how hard parenting your typical kids can be, how hard your marriage can be, how hard your friendships can be – privately, with trusted friends and family.” Though I value media for expressing all types of narratives, I still strongly believe she is right. I see the result of parents who will not stop trying to normalize their child, the guilt, the negative emotional effects of the children who are now grown up and are still thinking they have been a burden on their parents, or still are a burden.

3. Understand Ableism and Neurotypical Social Conventions - every1games

Okay, this may require some explaining too, especially if this is your first resource about ableism at this given point in history. Let’s use eye contact as an example. Eye contact is a social convention that can have different meanings across different cultures, but here we talk about eye contact as something non-autistic people do, and expect, that an autistic person might not do. Making autistic children learn to look people in the eye only has one purpose, making them do what neurotypical people do, despite the physical, emotional and social distress it may cause the autistic child. Can you see the problem here? This is seen over and over again in the video resources Sesame Street has put together.

Yesenia being restrained

“She doesn’t like the way the brush feels”

Here is an example! Why are Yesenia’s sisters physically restraining her so that her parents could brush her teeth and hair? This is something that Yesenia is going to watch and remember. This is not appropriate anymore. We need better products and services, like hair brushes that do not have teeth, dental care that is not intense and burning, etc. We are in need of love, innovation and understanding that will help children like Yesenia take care of her physical health without being restrained.

Barber James Williams lies on floor to give autistic boy a haircut

A PERFECT EXAMPLE! This awesome barber (above), James Williams, who is currently going viral for being accommodating and understanding while giving a 3 year old autistic child a hair cut.

4. Mix IPL and PFL - every1games

People with autism? Autistic people? We have been asked many times what is the proper terminology when talking about autism. It is also the very first thing I noticed when meeting Julia. Sesame Street used PFL also know as “Person First Language”. When you hear some say that a child “HAS” autism its PFL. Most autistic advocates do not like this. It is offensive to many and that is why at Every1Games we use IFL also known as “Identity First Langauge”, or as user kategladstone commented “Inclusion First Language” which I also like. But lots of people believe that PFL is just as good as IFL if used in a positive affirming way. You can see this in the comments of Humans blog, and I have pasted a few resources below that speak to why IFL is important to change with way autism is perceived. The good news is Sesame Street got the message and is now using IPL and PFL!

5. Partner with the Public - every1games

Keep Amazing Going! Sesame Street is encouraging everyone to share stories, pictures, and videos on social media using #SeeAmazing! This is what I think will have the most influence and will help change the world. The staff at Sesame Street are listening to the feedback from advocates, responding with glee and appreciation for the insight!

In the face of social change it has to be acknowledged that current perspectives are indeed in need of change. Be mindful of what is being shared. I think we will see a conversation that will lead to the understanding of autism and the non ableist culture we are all working towards.

We can learn a lot from Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, and the responses from the advocacy community. All things considered,  what we love most about media is that anything is possible! Creators have an opportunity to develop autistic characters,  narratives, and resources, that have depth and challenge stereotypes. I hope that this has been helpful as you consider what stories you want to share!

Blog Post By Sarah Drew

Resources Cited!

Human, Erin. “Not in Love with Julia.” Personal Blog. eisforerin.com/2015/10/23/not-in-love-with-julia, WordPress, October 23 2015. Accessed 11/3/2015.

Joel. “Don’t Mourn For Us. Even as a Phase.” Personal Blog. http://evilautie.org/2014/03/31/dont-mourn-for-us-even-as-a-phase, WordPress,  March 31, 2014. Accessed 11/3/2015.

http://autism.sesamestreet.org/

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An Afternoon of Crafting CardsSunday November 8, 2015For any occasion

Holiday Card Creations Workshop – Toronto

Join us on Sunday November 8, 2015  for an afternoon of creating cards for the holidays! Whether you are making a card for yourself, a teacher, parent, sibling or friend, come to the Holiday Card Creation workshop and make something awesome for any occasion.

Cost: 5$
Location:  George Brown College, 341 King St. E

Our main focus is on cut and paste style of cards, as you can see in the pictures below, but there is no limit to your creativity. Create your card using any style you desire! We will supply a silhouette cameo, different kinds of shapes can be cut out for you, or use a variety of different paper cutting tools to make various cards. Questions about this program can be directed to Krystal at engage@every1games.ca
Here are some of the Holiday Card Creations you can make!


Learn more about this program and register here.

Enjoying our lunch

Neurodivergent Love, Life and Learning at Autism Friendly

Autism Friendly 2015 LogoI’ve been to a lot of ‘autism’ conferences, but have never seen this many autistic youth engaged in advocating for themselves.

On August 21, 2015 Every1Games hosted the 2nd Annual Autism Friendly Unconference (AFU). AFU aims to bring together autistic and neurodivergent advocates with peers, employers, educators, agencies and government to come to a better understanding of the diversity of the autism spectrum and to inspire innovative services and supports for each other.

  • Identifying meaningful issues
  • Sharing opinions without judgement
  • Listening to the lived experiences of neurodivergent peers
  • Building relationships with other autistic adults

 

Friends!

Read the Every1Games AFU 2015 Summary, a short event report that focuses on the issues raised specifically acting as barriers to entering post secondary school and a professional career.  The summary identifies stigma, funding, parent involvement and access to information as key areas that need to be addressed to improve the quality of  life for autistic youth. Though the theme was life after school, the result was truly understanding neurodivergent love, life and learning.

 

There was a good, frank discussion about romantic relationships and how difficult it is to obtain one.

Heart design by Nicky Sztybel

AFU 2015 resulted in more than talks about jobs and education. Every1Games Administrative Coordinator and Program Developer, Christine Hughes, lead a popular discussion about sex and intimacy. We need to continue to come together to talk openly about experiences with love, sex, romance and companionship in the autism community. We are certainly excited to plan more events with this in mind so if you have any event ideas that you want to share with us, be sure to contact us either on facebook, twitter or our contact page and let us know so that we can make it happen together!

Enjoying our play lounge!

Enjoying our play lounge!

At AFU we also provided spaces where people can relax if feeling overwhelmed. Our multi-sensory lounge and play lounge were well received by participants who spent some time there.  We got some great feedback to have even better options next year (which reminds me, thanks to the folks who responded to the survey!). We also had a separated lunch room with a variety of different foods to accommodate allergies and sensory sensitivities.

 

But it’s not all fun and games. It was agreed that we need to have more engagement from the private sector, government and medical communities.  When these  groups come to a better understanding of neurodiversity it will reduce serious problems raised at the event including police violence against neurodivergent citizens and doctors refusing to believe neurodivergent people’s self-reports of symptoms.

Thank You. This event was hosted by Every1Games made possible by George Brown College, Ryerson University and Autism Ontario Toronto Chapter and the neurodiverse organizing committee made up of staff and students advocating for themselves and their friends.

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Spec Ops 4 – Post-Mortem

The Spec Ops – Video Game Development program is often considered a capstone program at Every1Games. Spec Ops offers creative neurodivergent students a place where they can come and learn to create one of the leading forms of art and entertainment in contemporary society – video games.

When taken as a whole, video game development may seem daunting. The idea of making a video game conjures up a highly stressful environment where some mythical renaissance character does everything from art to programming to make their game. In reality, whole teams come together to contribute to one major project at a time.

This means that the video game industry is one in which all sorts of talents can be nurtured and developed. There are 3D artists, who can work on modelling (creating 3D representations of objects for games), rigging (giving a skeletal structure to the models), and animating (making those same representations come to life). 2D artists may work in creating user interface, textures, and concept art, all of which contribute to the user’s in-game experience. There are programmers, who communicate directly with computers to turn the video game into… well, a game. Games aren’t fun when the opponent doesn’t play back, after all. Designers work to develop the premise, balance, and feel of a game, and sound engineers enrich the world with audio feedback and cues.

All of these roles, and many more, work together to create a game.

That was what we did in Spec Ops 4.

The End-Game (Goals)

Since our program development is an iterative process, the facilitators of Spec Ops once more made it a goal to learn from the past. We kept the most fun, most engaging, most skill-developing parts of previous Spec Ops sessions. Everything else was re-examined and re-evaluated before either being approached from a different angle or being dropped from the curriculum entirely.

To ensure this instance of the program ran smoothly, we had two facilitators at any given point: one artist and one programmer (me!). We also had a variety of support staff on hand, including organizational leads and audio engineers, to help cultivate an interest in other skills related to video game production.

We spent a good deal of time considering what was important for participants to get out of the program. With the range of video game development experiences our participants would have in mind, we came up with the following goals:

  • Introduce participants to a variety of different roles in the video game industry, including art, programming, audio, and design.
  • Create a low-stress environment that encourages participants to develop higher-level social skills by encouraging self-advocacy and positive interaction.
  • Make a video game with maximal contribution from participants and minimal contribution from staff.

We decided the best way to do this was to start off with a relatively heavy ‘class’ load at the beginning, with a shift to emphasize game development in later days.

The idea behind this was to equip participants with rudimentary skills they’d need to contribute to the game in the manner of their choosing. It would also help them identify their strengths and weaknesses while sampling the many roles the video game industry has to offer. Essentially, this structure let them decide what they liked and enjoyed while eliminating roles that were just not for them. As staff, it allowed us to shift and change the curriculum to suit the interests of our participants.

Pre-Production (Early Game Design)

The first two days of Spec Ops were spent getting to know each other and determining the type of game we wanted to make.

We started by naming elements and features that make a game appealing to us. Suggestions ranged from first-person shooters to MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games, with everything in between considered as well. By the end of this exercise, we had a massive list of potential options. Obviously we couldn’t do everything suggested, so we started paring down the list, finding common elements and eliminating unrealistic goals.

After a few hours of back and forth discussion, voting, and bringing new ideas to the table, we had a loose concept of what we wanted to develop.  We went with an endless, arena-style space shooter with a sort of gritty, hopeless feel. We also ideally wanted to heavily emphasize narrative.

By the end of the second day, we even had a name: The Final Marine.

Main Production (The Classroom Experience)

After we had the game concept settled, we spent the next couple of days doing crash-courses in a number of different tools used by industry game developers to make games. We dabbled in Photoshop, Illustrator, 3dsmax, Maya, HTML/CSS, Unity Engine Editor, TFM Music Maker, C#, and other programs.

This let all participants start learning concepts that were totally new to them without pressuring them to immediately make a game.  As we hoped, participants began to explore the fields and roles they were interested in.

The added benefit for facilitators was being able to cater courses more specifically to participant interest. It wasn’t long before modelling was front and center stage, a crowd favourite among our participants. Around the same time, programming was more or less dropped from the curriculum entirely.

We worked in groups at various points, fostering discussions and developing our game further. While participants were happy to keep working on their pet projects, they also began to get excited about working on The Final Marine. Some of them were improving the design, while others had already started to model assets they thought might be useful in our game.

Alpha Production (From the Classroom to the Studio)

Work on The Final Marine began in earnest late into our second week.

Participants were given a list of assets that the game would need and decided for themselves what to work on. At this point, it already became apparent who favoured which role; we had about three or four modellers (one of whom is a budding rigger/animator, the others who are content to remain modelling specialists), two 2D art specialists, two game designers, and one lonely programmer.

Most participants were also eager to experiment with two or three roles. Our modellers also showed interest in 2D art, for example. Everyone also enjoyed the design aspect of a game and was willing to discuss and compromise in various ways. The Final Marine began to take shape, with some place-holder assets and concepts to flesh out in the future.

Beta Production (Studio Environment)

By the end of the third week, we moved almost exclusively into game development. We spent very little time doing crash-courses, instead opting to help participants work on their assets on a one-to-one level.

If a participant did not need any guidance, they continued to develop their assets at their own pace. They submitted assets for addition into the game when they were satisfied with their work. During this time, we received many polished assets for integration, including a sky box, environment assets, and a number of different particle effects for use in the game.

This marked a very industrious but quiet time for Spec Ops. Lunch was no longer a welcome break and refreshing chance to socialize, but rather an interruption into their technical skill and asset development.

Did I mention that The Final Marine was starting to look really good?

Gold Production/Release (The Grand Finale)

In major studios, a game getting released is cause for much excitement. The Final Marine was finished one early afternoon in our fourth week. All assets were integrated, the level had been designed and implemented, and the game worked.

Participants were given the rest of the day to reflect and socialize with the team, before a grand unveiling demonstration in the final few hours.

I will close this section with the words of one of our participants:

“I almost don’t believe it. We made a game. We actually made one. We’re game developers now.

Conclusion

Spec Ops was a huge success.

The participants were both creative and driven, balancing personal needs and desires with the team’s goals throughout. Students learned that there is room for everybody in game development, regardless of their interests or original skill level.

Skill-wise, they universally improved across the board. Participants went from not necessarily knowing what a model was to modelling full characters, and from knowing a lot about video games to knowing about video game production. They worked with industry standard software to make a game in a small studio environment.

With the help of George Brown College’s facilities and facilitators, who were able to help nurture participant interests, we expect a number of the participants will continue to develop the foundation Spec Ops set out for them. Spec Ops has a proven history of growing with its participants.

It might have been The Final Marine, but it won’t be the final step for the participants. It sure won’t be the final Spec Ops.

Game link: coming soon to a postmortem near you!

Kayla Wright

Note: That last line was fairly melodramatic, but it wasn’t dishonest. It won’t be the final Spec Ops. The next installment of Spec Ops has tentative start dates in late September/early October. Mosey on over to the Programs page for more information! specOpsIcon-3-300x270