Tech museum shining spotlight on gaming with new initiative

Canada’s gaming industry continues to fly under the radar, according to the director general of the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

By Marc Shaw

“Canada has a $3 billion gaming industry. That’s something I don’t think we know of as Canadians and how important this industry is in the Canadian economy,” Christina Tessier said at the Let’s Talk Gaming speaker series the museum was hosting this week at the Lowertown Brewery.

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The speaker series is being used to launch a new museum initiative called Game Changers, which will explore the innovations that have changed how we interact with gaming technology.

“We also want to recognize the fact that gaming has moved far beyond the video game itself,” Ms. Tessier said. “We’re seeing gamification in education, in medical sciences and kinds of other aspects of our lives that we didn’t expect to see it in.”

The Game Changers initiative is a partnership with Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Electronic Arts Incorporated. It includes a traveling exhibition that will begin at Science North in Sudbury and an Algonquin College-run summer camp where the college’s game development students will teach kids between the ages of nine and 12 how to code and other key skills for creating games.

The speaker series this week brought together a diverse crowd that included local industry professionals, museum staff and general video game aficionados. Topics included the effect of video game experiences on education, how society interacts within video games and a market analysis of who is buying the most commercially successful titles.

The series also gave game industry hopefuls a chance to show off their work. Awkward Interactions, a development team from Algonquin College, was in the spotlight.

“Events like this are perfect for us,” Awkward Interactions project manager Jeff Ghadban said. “We can say, ‘you’re looking for an animator? Well I did the animation for this game, here take a look’. This is one of the best ways that we can network.”

Plagued by mould problems, the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s St.Laurent Boulevard location has been closed to the public since 2014 but is due to reopen in November 2017.

“We were lucky enough to receive $81 Million from our government to fund this update,” said Annie Jacques, the museum’s exhibition interpretation officer. She said the funding will also go to new technology that will complement its displays when the museum reopens.

“One of the things we’re exploring are virtual and augmented reality. For those that live in Ottawa, they probably remember going to the museum to see the locomotives,” said Ms. Jacques. “These huge ginormous pieces of technology are already amazing to look at, but to give the experience of a train ride, we couldn’t do that. With VR, the technology is there to do that.”

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