Friday, 5 September 2014

The Nintendo Generation: Let's Study Up!

I'm not sure about you, but I would have to consider myself a part of the Nintendo generation... which means that I've always had video games in my life in some way, and I would wager a pretty hefty bet that you (yes YOU dear reader) have likely stayed up all night trying to vanquish a virtual villain or two yourself. 

Video games are just an expected part of North American culture (if not global culture), as they've influenced how we spend our evenings, how we dress, and even how we relate to one another during conversations. So, wouldn't it be great if we could put all of our collective cultural knowledge together to get a better understanding of the actual impact of video games? Or at the very least, wouldn't it be ah-maz-ing to tell people that you've taken a class about video games? Well, now you can!

The U of A's latest MOOC should be the perfect class for you. And studying video games could be something that you do as a Comp Sci student, but it could just as easily be something that you do as an English student. Check out how Kristina's mashup of English studies and gaming have impacted her.

Bitten By The Video Game Bug

Provided by the Faculty of Arts Arts Stories
(Originally published on September 2, 2014)

Undergraduate student Kristina Drozdiak spent her summer working for a world-renowned video game company, and playing one of the industry’s most anticipated releases.


As students return to campus this week and compare notes about what they did over the summer, English student Kristina Drozdiak’s experience is sure to be the envy of many of her classmates.

Drozdiak spent four months working as a Quality Assurance (QA) tester for video game developer BioWare. This involved spending hours each day playing Dragon Age: Inquisition – the third, highly-anticipated installment in the company’s popular role-playing series, due for release in November 2014.

As fun as that sounds, especially for a lifelong gaming enthusiast like Drozdiak, the QA testers play an important role in the game development process. Drozdiak and her fellow team members were tasked with identifying glitches in the game (also known as “bugs”) and writing detailed reports on their findings for the developers.

“It’s work, but it’s also really interesting,” she explains, and notes that the job has helped her develop valuable skills. “Writing bug reports has helped me be much more concise when I’m writing, and I’ve also gotten a lot better at my attention span and focusing.”

Drozdiak admits that being assigned to the new Dragon Age release – and in particular, being closely involved in bringing a cooperative multiplayer mode to the game for the first time – was a personal thrill. “I played the Dragon Age franchise games before I started working [at BioWare], and I really enjoyed them,” she says. “It’s really cool to get to work on the next stage of that project and know that it’s going to impact a lot of other gamers’ lives a little bit.”

Her time at BioWare has had an impact on Drozdiak’s life as well, giving her a firsthand taste of the creativity and passion that drive the video game industry and inspiring her to pursue her interest further. “Video games are the newest medium for storytelling we have, and there’s a lot of unexplored potential there,” she says. “I think it’s really cool to be on the frontier of that and get to explore it more.”

Drozdiak is set to graduate with an English and Creative Writing degree at the end of the year, and she’s also working towards the Certificate in Computer Game Development. In addition to these credentials and her summer job at BioWare, Drozdiak will also enter the workforce with a 12-month term as a communications intern with CAPS: Your U of A Career Centre under her belt – a position she filled in 2013-14 as part of the Arts Work Experience program. 

“The most useful thing [about working for CAPS] was not only getting firsthand experience in a professional setting, but also having a position with longevity,” she says. “I also got some soft skills that you can’t teach very easily – professionalism, interpersonal skills, dealing with conflict at the workplace.”

As she continues to explore her interest in writing and video games – and a budding interest in editing – Drozdiak is open to whatever opportunities the future might bring, especially if they allow her to combine her passions.

“If there’s a niche in the video game industry for my interests, I’d definitely like to pursue it.”

Do you share Kristina Drozdiak’s passion for video games? The Faculty of Arts is proud to be offering our very first massive open online course, Understanding Video Games, which was created with the help of BioWare.

UAlberta students earn credit for the STS 351 course, which can be applied towards the Certificate in Computer Game Development. Members of the general public can also take the course, for free, through the education platform Coursera. For more information, visit the UVG website.

*Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post listed the original publication date of this story as November 20, 2013. The story was actually posted on Arts Stories on September 2, 2014.

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