For Brandon Gardiner, books helped motivate him to take his passion for video games to the next level.

“I have a collection of concept arts books, where I get to go behind the scenes and look at the steps taken to make a game, and that was always a big interest for me,” says the former employee of a video game retailer. “And I set myself a goal to get some of my work published in one of those concept art books.”

With that ambition in mind, he enrolled in the new undergraduate game development program at George Brown College, where he is now honing his skills in 3-D modelling, 3-D animation and 2-D art.

“I’m essentially learning all of the things that I wanted to learn and all of the things that I felt would help me get into the game industry,” says Gardiner.

The three-year advanced diploma program was launched at George Brown in January as a complement to the school’s post-graduate game design program, which prepares its graduates for managerial positions, says program co-ordinator and instructor Jean-Paul Amore.

Students in the predominantly art-based game development program will emerge not only with a demo reel but, more importantly, with real-world experience, says Amore. Thanks to partnerships with video game companies, students help out with titles that will potentially go into production.

“Starting from literally Day 1, students are working on commercial video games,” he says. “(They) are essentially creating the artistic work for those video games.”

Amore says the program gives students a new perspective on the wide scope of game development.

“I find that a lot of students want to create what they play,” he says. “They love their Xbox or Playstation video games, and when they enter the program, that’s their expectation. But they don’t consider other mediums of gaming — for example, web gaming or iPhone gaming — and we also open those doors for students.”

Graduates are expected to gain employment as artists in general, but in particular various gaming industry positions such as character animator, texture artist and environment modeller, says Amore.

The program is currently open to any high school graduate, but starting next January applicants will also need to submit a portfolio, a change Amore says was primarily necessary because of the volume of applicants the school has been receiving.

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