By: Jennifer Baguss
Since the dawn of Pong, video games have been a vast, expanding galaxy in the technology industry. So much, that we now have a gaming industry as well as courses in college to teach people how to create the Marios and Luigis of the future.
Game development coordinator, Tony Davidson has been a part of the meteoric rise of the game development program at Algonquin since almost day one. The course began in 2005 and in 2006 Davidson became coordinator.
He has molded the program over the past six years, and is being honoured this year with a nomination from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges Award in Excellence for his work with the program.
During his time as coordinator, Davidson admits there have been struggles.
A lack of managerial support combined with the demand and rapid expansion of the relatively new program caused Davidson to get frustrated in the past.
“We have had some definite growing pains,” he said. “As you have with any type of tech program, the technology is constantly changing.”
When the course first began in 2005, it had one section of about 40 students in the first year. Now, seven years later, the first year has 160 students.
Since its inception, the program has grown every single year.
“We haven’t really had a chance to catch our breath,” said Davidson.
Eric McQuiggan, current teacher in game development, graduated in 2009.
He says when he was a student in the course it was excellent for preparing students for the job market in game development and now as an instructor, he still believes in its value.
“[The program] is always evolving to meet what the market is,” he said.
“Tony is doing a good job I think, he is always willing to talk to students and is easy to get a hold of, no matter how busy he is.”
Davidson says that being a coordinator, teacher and academic advisor for the program causes his work week to expand to over 60 hours.
“It’s a lot, but I don’t mind it,” he said. “I’ve always been a high achiever and I seem to multitask well.
“I’m also a big believer in doing as much as possible to help students find jobs.”
Since becoming coordinator, Davidson has brokered deals with Xbox and Apple in gaming development programs at the college. He also started an internship program for students to learn at gaming companies in the Ottawa area.
One of the most significant changes to the program that Davidson facilitated was the “culminating project” at the end of the third year.
“Students are put into teams of 10 and develop a game for the Xbox,” Davidson said.
He says it’s a great way for students to show future employers their skills when going in for an interview.
He also developed a grad show to demonstrate to industry insiders the various games that students have created.
“What I’ve led in the past six years has been a massive amount of growth,” Davidson said. “And by the looks of it, we’re doing the right thing.”