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Screen grab from grocery golf course

Sheridan Game Design students showcase stroke of genius with golf challenge

Newsroom authorby Meagan KashtyNov 30, 2021

In a chilly week in November, more than 200 Sheridan students came together to play a few rounds of miniature golf, teeing off on courses featuring volcanoes, ghosts and grocery stores. 

The initiative was part of Design Week – an event that takes place every semester and sees students from Sheridan’s Bachelor of Game Design program come together to work on projects that help them apply the skills they’ve learned in class. 

During November’s Design Week, students in the first three years of the program were challenged to design a golf course for Golf With Your Friends — a multi-player mini golf game published by renowned game developer Team17. The company provided free licenses to the game, and more than 40 teams were tasked with designing a course that reflected a chosen mood, using existing assets from Golf With Your Friends  

DesignWeek-dino
The week kicked off with a launch event, featuring a lead designer from Team17 sharing his expertise with the students. Picking from a list that included moods such as passion, synergy, zest, ominous and gentle, the students took the following four days to design their courses, checking in daily for consultations with supervising faculty members. 
It culminated with the students playing each other’s courses, providing feedback and kudos to each other’s hard work. Each team presented their course, explaining how their design choices worked to reflect their target mood. 

The results showcased the students’ incredible creativity. To display “juxtaposition,” some courses featured holes surrounded by ice and fire, while others contrasted courses featuring Christmas and Halloween decor. To portray “dream,” another team designed a five-hole course, beginning with the player falling asleep in a bedroom, continuing on into a cloudy dream world, and ending in a twisted nightmare. 

"The week really gives us an opportunity to test our skills and have the freedom to create with people who we would never have a chance to work with."

– Alexandra Kucharska, second-year student
Design Week is a staple of the Game Design program, enabling students to work together as a team and put their skills into practice. “We hear from industry that they want employees who work well with others,” says Professor Adam Clare, coordinator of the Game Level Design program. “Through Design Week, our students practice those soft skills while creating something they can use in their professional portfolios and can talk about in interviews.” By working with companies such as Team17, says Clare, students are able to practice skills valued by employers in the game industry.  

Also key to Design Week, says fellow Game Design professor Nicolas Hesler, is the opportunity to meet and socialize with other students – something that’s become more difficult with students working remotely due to the pandemic. 

“By having students from years one through three work together in teams, we’re trying to help build a community,” he says. “By the end of the week, we’re hoping people have made new friends.” 

“The week really gives us an opportunity to test our skills and have the freedom to create with people who we would never have a chance to work with,” says second-year student Alexandra Kucharska, a member of the “dream” team. 

"By having students from years one through three work together in teams, we’re trying to help build a community. By the end of the week, we’re hoping people have made new friends."

–  Nicolas Hesler, Game Design professor
Adam Pacheco, another second-year student, was part of a group that chose the mood “free-flowing”. Using specific terrain and mechanics that directly affect the golf ball’s momentum, such as slopes, verticality, black holes and gravity cubes, the course is designed to provide a sense of flowing throughout. 

Screen grab from Free Flowing golf course“A highlight of the experience for me was being able to test gameplay features we hoped would work and be incorporated in our design, but didn’t go as planned,” says Pacheco. “It’s still worth celebrating and sharing as knowledge gained. Discovering something that doesn’t work doesn’t have to be a bad thing.” 

This peer-to-peer learning is a key benefit to Design Week, says Clare. Along with making friends, upper-year students are able to help the first years, and vice versa. “It encourages a knowledge exchange that we can’t always facilitate in the classroom.” 

Another important benefit? Although the week can be demanding, it’s also meant to be fun. Students were excited to have the opportunity to work with Team17, and many had already played Golf With Your Friends on their own.  

To have a game meet the specific technical capabilities and teaching goals Clare and Hesler were looking for was already a win. To have the students enjoy the experience at the same time? That was a hole in one. 
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