Like many of those in the industry, Sheridan Game Design Professor Jose Rueda grew up with an Atari console and a Commodore 64 system, never dreaming how the world of gaming would be drastically changed by the advent of the Internet and mobile smartphone technology.
Now, with over 20 years of experience in academic and business elements of gaming that has taken him around the world, Rueda is sharing that knowledge about the industry’s transformation with Sheridan game design students.
“The games industry is like the fashion industry — culture is dynamic,” he says. “Games can transform culture and shape the way people play or the way other designers reference games. Also, games can reflect the way people interact and how people choose to behave. For a program like ours, it’s about teaching methodologies and design thinking, and helping students understand that the world is dynamic.”
The Internet changed the way that we play and design games, says Rueda. It added new forms of play from casual to big, lavish multiplayer games. The rise in usage of mobile phone technology was especially essential to this change. “When the iPhone first came out, many designers in the industry didn’t take it seriously as a games console. Few of us believed that smart phones were going to be key drivers of mobile play that would challenge the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS, and in fact, the major consoles as well,” says Rueda.
A 20 year old coming to Sheridan is an expert in games — they just may not be able to articulate their niche yet.
Rueda’s career path as an academic, entrepreneur and scientist reflects this adaptability to changing markets. Armed with a PhD and MSc in electrical and computer engineering, as well as an MBA and a professional engineer designation, Rueda started teaching at the University of Manitoba over 25 years ago. He spent time in Hong Kong as Chief Executive Producer of PlayLab, making console, online, mobile, and experimental games as part of an industry, government and university partnership. “What appeared to be a six-month adventure turned into a 10-year one,” he says. After teaching game design full-time at the School of Design of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and at Savannah College of Art and Design in Hong Kong, Rueda was offered the chance to come to Sheridan to join the burgeoning game design bachelor program. Sheridan now offers a four-year Bachelor of Game Design degree program, the only one of its kind in Canada.
Today, Rueda is helping tomorrow’s designers (like the 200 designers and developers that he has mentored) adapt to an ever-changing market. “A 20 year old coming to Sheridan is an expert in games — they just may not be able to articulate their niche yet. Our job is to channel that energy and help them find their way,” he says. That way may consist of making games for major digital entertainment studios, and also for financial brokers, surgeons, firefighters, and simulators for aircraft controllers or pilots — the important part is to open their minds to the possibilities, says Rueda.
“The industry is so big outside of entertainment that we want our students to understand that they can go into many areas because what they are really good at is making things interesting,” he says. “It’s not games, per se — it’s engaging people in a better way, and that’s very valuable in many industries.”
Click here to learn more about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Game Design