University of Toronto Mississauga launches Game Studies minor, joining huge gaming archive

Thousands of videos from EP Media, the network founded by Canada's Victor Lucas, will also be preserved at UTM

UTM Game Studies launch

The University of Toronto — Mississauga (UTM) has launched a new Game Studies minor centred around the world of video games.

Hailing from UTM’s English & Drama department in partnership with the university’s Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (ICCIT), the Game Studies program offers 14 courses tackling all kinds of areas of gaming. Specifically, the minor will focus on the “analysis, history and theory of games as cultural, artistic, and technological forms as well as on game design, with a strong emphasis on games as a narrative and world-making medium,” says UTM.

To celebrate the new program, the university held a special launch event in its library on November 9th, moderated by CBC Radio senior writer Jonathan Ore. As part of the debut of the minor, UTM has also partnered with EP Media, the long-running video game network founded by Canadian Victor Lucas, who also attended the launch. Approximately 10,000 videos from his popular shows, including The Electric Playground, Reviews on the Run and other spin-offs, will be archived — and, later, digitized — at UTM for reference. This will serve as one way in which UTM and the larger community can track the evolution of the ever-growing gaming industry over the past few decades. 

The Electric Playground partnership joins UTM’s existing Syd Bolton Collection of games, systems and periodicals. Named after the late Ontario collector, the archive includes nearly 14,000 games across a variety of consoles, including everything from 1977’s Atari 2600 with Joust and 1990’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) with NBA Jam to 2001’s Xbox with Halo 2 and 2006’s Nintendo Wii with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It’s one of the biggest collections of its kind in the world and the largest in Canada.

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Collections like those from Syd Bolton and Electric Playground are especially important since the video game industry has long been criticized for its poor preservation efforts. In fact, a recent study by the Video Game History Foundation found that nearly 90 percent of games released before 2010 aren’t available on modern platforms. For context, silent films — a type of picture that was popular in the 1920s — were deemed more accessible than these retro games.

Meanwhile, gaming is a dominant entertainment medium, bringing in north of $200 billion USD (about $276 billion CAD) in revenue every year. Therefore, it’s not some niche space as some seem to still believe.

Those interested in learning more about the Game Studies minor can check out UTM’s website. Students and the general public can also make an appointment to play games from the Syd Bolton Collection through the UTM Library.

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