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UXR Lab at Ontario Tech University and Ubisoft Toronto launch game-changing program to foster next generation of User Research

May 14, 2022
3 minutes read
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The video game industry continues to grow at a rapid pace in Canada. Today, there are over 930 active video game studios in Canada – a 35 per cent increase since 2019 – with much of this growth taking place in Ontario. However, with this growth comes a need for skilled talent in game development.

A new partnership between Ubisoft Toronto and UXR Lab at Ontario Tech University is looking to fill this gap, starting with the launch of a new user research training program. The industry-specific program is helping to build the next generation of games user researchers, who play a vital role in ensuring usability, accessibility and playability of games.

Getting to the crux of the matter

The curriculum was designed by Pejman Mirza-Babaei, Associate Professor of User Research at Ontario Tech University, and Ahmed Ghoneim, Associate Director of User Research at Ubisoft Toronto – experts in the field, who recognized the need for a bridge between academia and industry to better prepare students for successful careers in games user research (GUR) and games user experience.

“Our vision for the program is to support students and recent graduates that have an interest in video games and want to pursue games user research and experience,” says Pejman. “In the context of our program, support means providing access to industry experts, training resources and equipment, funding and the opportunity to work on real-world projects to gain relevant experience.”

Through this partnership, students with research backgrounds have the opportunity to explore career paths in games that they may not have considered before – particularly for those in marginalized groups who may not have the needed flexibility and resources required for such a program.

Creating stronger training opportunities

“We wanted to create a program focused on providing better – and more specific – games user research training,” says Ahmed. “The university environment provides a low-risk, low-stakes environment to practice skills, make mistakes and learn from them. Combined with access to mentors and an up-to-date understanding of the relevant skills sets required in video games, the program gives students a clear pathway to break into games.”

The training program, which is a paid opportunity for those that participate, has three separate levels with 12-week work units. Each unit is focused on key knowledge and skills graduates need to prepare them for their first GUR job. That includes theory, teaching and learning in video games, professional development and practical assignments that teach the layers of analysis.

This investment with Ontario Tech University builds on Ubisoft Toronto’s commitment to education initiatives that prepare students for careers of the future and foster a diverse local talent pool. This includes supporting the curriculum of our Ontario education partners and engaging students of all ages – from elementary to post-grad – in game development.

In addition to the partnership with Ontario Tech University, Ubisoft Toronto provides scholarships and bursaries and partners with programs like Hack the ROM, building digital skills and supporting underrepresented groups.

Diving deeper at the 2022 #gamesUR Summit

At the #gamesUR Summit (May 19-20), Ahmed and Pejman will be providing a closer look at the partnership, how it was built and what’s been learned following its first year.

Interested in learning more? Attend their talk at the 2022 #gamesUR Summit on May 20 at 3 PM ET. You can purchase your ticket here.

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