Playing video games is easy; creating them is hard.

That’s why schools such as Algonquin College and Carleton University are offering multi-year programs to help turn gamers into creators and shapers of an industry that is currently booming.

“It’s a three-year program and we’re just about to graduate our second group of graduates,” said Tony Davidson, the co-ordinator of the game development program at Algon-quin College.

But it is more than just programming and playing games. It involves design, programming languages and physics, and students also learn to design for the Xbox 360 and Windows. Students also learn the inner workings of the Unreal Engine, the graphics software that powers blockbuster titles like Gears of War and BioShock.

Designing and creating games requires both sides of the brain. “There are different challenges depending on which side of the brain you think you’re better with,” said Davidson. “If you’re good with programming, then the challenge will be learning some of the design theory and concepts, and vice-versa. It’s all about opening up your mind to the realization that there’s art on both sides.

“Programming is art,” he said, adding: “The industry in Canada is growing by leaps and bounds and there’s over 14,000 game-related positions at just the large companies.”

Beyond learning their way around a computer, students have to get into the industry, and a great place to start is the International Game Developers Association. With game studios like Fuel Industries popping up in the capital region, a chapter of the association is now located in Ottawa.

“Through the IGDA, students get to know people and get known by people,” says Jean-Sylvain Sormany, head of the IGDA in Ottawa and head of the programming division at Fuel. “One of the toughest things when you’re fresh out of school is to get contacts.”

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