On May 8, game development graduates thwarted the novel coronavirus pandemic by having their convocation through Minecraft.
The students were among the unlucky graduates of 2020 who had their convocation cancelled due to COVID-19.
But these graduates are no strangers to adversity. The students began their program in Fall 2017 and endured a six-week college strike. They also had a “big curriculum change,” in their second year, according to Tilan Gunawardena, the gaming development program co-ordinator.
“They dealt with the stress better than any other year that I’ve seen,” said Gunawardena.
“I think it made many of our students more resilient for future obstacles that we may face,” said Wesley Sweazey, one of the class representatives.
“Honestly the strike in some ways strengthened us I think. It quickly caused people that weren’t dedicated to back out and those dedicated became stronger by six weeks of extra studying,” said Travis Britton in an email. He is a graduating student of the game development program.
Program development students usually attend two events, Grad Show and Level Up, which is held in Toronto, where their final projects are shown. These events were cancelled. After three years of overcoming obstacles, they deserved a graduation ceremony.
“The impressive thing is that aside from attendance this was basically entirely done by just Wesley. He made the server, contacted the teachers, got us all to come and set the stage,” Britton said in an email.
Sweazey used a free Hogwarts Minecraft map created by Dragonod. He inserted it into his server, made changes, and then sent out the IP address to his peers.
Eighteen students and three teachers gathered on the server that brought them to the virtual Hogwarts. There they received virtual diplomas.
Gunawardena spoke at the convocation.
“Your year is the year that has faced the most adversity, but I feel you guys have probably ended up one of the strongest groups we’ve ever seen,” said Gunawardena at the virtual podium.
The convocation lacked the pomp and circumstance of an in-person ceremony but had the camaraderie of a close-knit group of friends. Speeches were short, with jokes from the students, laughter, and cheering.
“For me, it was mainly just for fun. I personally don’t really care for large celebratory events, but being able to hop into Minecraft with classmates and professors was quite fun,” said Michael Weedmark in an email.
“My peers and I love to joke around a lot. We have a very niche sense of humor as game developers,” said Sweazey.
“In this program it’s so easy to find others with similar tastes and interests so it becomes very easy to bond,” said Britton.
Sweazey was valedictorian. He threw the diplomas at his classmates so that they could collect them. Near the end of the convocation, fireworks were shot into the Great Hall of Hogwarts.
This unconventional ceremony was a fitting way to celebrate these unique students and their not-so-traditional journey through Algonquin College.
You can watch the entire graduation here.