Manitoba students learning to use coding, design to bring video games to life

Hundreds of Manitoba students are getting a first-hand look at what it takes to create their own digital game, with the help of those already working in the industry.
More than 300 students at Sisler High School will be participating in the school's 5th annual Game On event this week. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

Hundreds of Manitoba students are getting a first-hand look at what it takes to create their own digital game, with the help of those already working in the industry. 

Over the next two days, nine classrooms at Sisler High School will be turned into a creative hub for more than 300 students ranging from Grades 4-12. 

"It's all of the all the parts of education put into one," said Jamie Leduc, department head of the Interactive Digital Media program at Sisler High School. "So you have your storytelling, you have your art, you have your music, you have your physics, you have math, you have collaboration."

Sisler is hosting its 5th annual Game On event, along with partners Ubisoft Winnipeg, New Media Manitoba and Vancouver Film School. 

"It's great to see the industry give back to the youth," Leduc said. 

He says students have been divided into groups of three. The teams are each given a pre-created game and from there will work together to use design and coding to develop their own storylines, characters and vision.

"I think it's pretty cool," said Chantal Philippot, 17, a Grade 12 student at Sisler. "Especially getting people from you know the different companies and things like that to actually come and explain what they do, how they do it and really get a feel for what it's like to do that." 

Chantal Philippot, 17, is among the students who will be learning how to use code and design to help create a video game at Sisler High School's Game On conference. (Alana Cole/CBC )

Leduc says 31 schools are taking part in the event, which runs Thursday and Friday. 

Students will get a chance to showcase their completed games, and judges will be handing out several awards. 

Jaskaran Kalsi, 17, plays a lot of video games, which is why he said he became interested in making them. 

"I get to make something that's my own, which is also a game, which I kind of love to play and I kind of grew up on," said the Grade 12 Sisler student, who hopes to have a future in the video game industry.

Jaskaran Kalsi, 17, a Grade 12 Student at Sisler who will take part in the annual conference, is excited about the event because 'I get to make something that's my own.' (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Darryl Long, managing director of Ubisoft Winnipeg, says the two-day conference is a unique opportunity. 

"You know a lot of students don't get the opportunity to be exposed to this type of software, this type of creative process," Long said.

Ten Ubisoft Winnipeg staff are taking part in the Game Jam, teaching students a variety of software programs, answering questions and mentoring. 

 "It's a time where we get to be creative as well and see things with fresh eyes and see, you know, from a kids' persecutive what does it mean to make video games," Long said. 

Long says as all industries move toward using more technology an experience like this helps students develop important skills. 

"A lot of people don't realize that in the near future — you know, the next five to 10 years — every industry will be using the kinds of skills that the kids are learning over these two days," Long said.