April 7, 2010
If you think game developers have cookie cutter backgrounds, you haven’t met Jennifer Canada, a former Rice University opera performance and political science double-major who — for a time — abandoned playing video games all together.
Today, The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University alumna is a designer for Insomniac Games.
At this year’s largest game developer conference, GDC 2010 recently held in San Francisco, Canada gave a presentation to developers from around the world titled “Paint-by-Gender: How to add ‘pink’ gameplay to your ‘blue’ title (and still keep all the boys happy)” based on her SMU thesis.
“The project offers empirical data which suggests that it is possible to incorporate female-friendly elements into games and still appeal to both genders,” said Canada.
In 2005, Canada joined Vicious Cycle Software where she served as level designer and associate game designer and has shipped titles that include: Ben 10: Alien Force, Dead Head Fred, Flushed Away, and Curious George. She joined Insomniac Games in Jan. of 2009 and is working on an unannounced title.
“Before college, I’d given up on video games because I thought they required lightning-quick reflexes,” admitted Canada about her early experiences with Nintendo’s Game Boy, and added, “When I graduated from Rice University, I realized that I no longer wanted to pursue a career in either of my degreed fields of study.” Nonetheless, things soon fell into place.
An introduction to The Sims and later, SMU, changed her career path.
“The architectural capabilities and narrative aspects of The Sims opened my eyes. I was addicted to redesigning the environment. When a friend suggested I look into Southern Methodist University, it seemed like a perfect match,” recalls Canada.
“The intensity of those 18 months was so demanding that I could easily keep pace in the real-world environment of video game development,” explained Canada of her experience at Southern Methodist University. “For the first several months at my first job, every skill I needed, I had already practiced during my time at SMU.”
In 2005, Canada received her Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development from Southern Methodist University, which had just recently introduced its graduate degree in video game development. Without skipping a beat, Canada embarked on her career and in 2007, she began her thesis. Two years later, she defended her thesis and is the first certificate graduate to complete the advanced standing Master of Interactive Technology program at SMU.
“Jennifer exemplifies what the video game industry needs and what we try to cultivate at SMU,” said Dr. Peter Raad, founder and executive director of The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University. “Our program uses the most cutting edge technology to hone students’ skills, and does so in an environment that mirrors the intensity of the real world. We believe it is increasingly important to offer students opportunities to explore their creativity and develop an impassioned voice that will lend to next-generation video game development.”
About The Guildhall at SMU
The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University is the premier graduate video game education program in the U.S. Many of the school’s founders are industry icons, and classes are taught by industry veterans. In six years, the program has graduated over 340 students, and alums have worked at more than 90 video game studios around the world, with several graduates now serving in leadership positions.
SMU offers both a Master’s degree and a graduate Professional Certificate of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development, with specializations in art creation, level design, and software development.
For more information, please visit www.smu.edu/guildhall.