New female-led game design program at Mohawk College to focus on ethics and inclusion

She grew up playing action-adventure video games on the Atari, Commodore 64, and Nintendo DS, and continued into adulthood, using them as a “motivational tool” in research and writing. .

But Lisa Funnell said some of the games, particularly a remake of a 1990s Lara Croft game, were “triggered and off-putting”.

“The adversary threatened to sexually assault Croft and as a gamer I had to press a series of buttons in a particular order to survive the attack,” said Funnell, associate dean of creative industries at the Mohawk College, to The Spectator in an email.

Funnell failed the first time and saw his character being “brutally murdered on screen”.

“It was so disturbing that I didn’t want to continue playing,” she said. “It made me wonder, who turned on this part of the game?”

Funnell hopes a new Mohawk game design program with an ethical bent will help change the way games are developed.

The program, which will welcome its first cohort next fall, will have “a unique focus on breaking down barriers and creating gaming content that better reflects today’s more diverse and inclusive society,” it reads. in a recent press release.

The three-year Advanced Diploma has been developed in response to a “rapidly growing” industry and will teach the design, technical and artistic skills involved in game production, as well as ethics in game content and venue. work.

“Design thinking requires an empathetic understanding of people, challenges assumptions, focuses on experimentation and testing, and is strongly action-oriented,” Funnell said. “It’s important that we help nurture the next generation of ethical and inclusive creators.”

Funnell, who researches gender and geopolitics in film, particularly James Bond, said she “initiated the redesign of the program using an EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) lens” when she started as Associate Dean in May.

“Too often, sexual violence is used problematically to portray female vulnerability and emerging heroic strength in the media,” Funnell said.

Angela Stukator, a special advisor who co-leads the program’s development, said the program aims to be a leader in the industry.

“We don’t want to mirror the industry, we want to model another industry approach, an inclusive approach,” said Stukator, who has about four decades of post-secondary education experience.

Mohawk says the program’s leadership team is made up largely of female academics, noting the “leading role women can play within the industry.”

“We are at a point in our cultural history where we recognize that this has to be a priority,” Stukator said.