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Interview with AbdulRahman Khodr of MacGDA

McMaster Game Developer Association is running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for workstations, which would allow them to do video game related outreach activities for East Hamilton youth.

By Kevin Browne
Published May 28, 2014

A McMaster student named AbdulRahman Khodr co-founded a new club on campus called the McMaster Game Developer Association (MacGDA).

MacGDA is running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for workstations which would allow them to do video game related outreach activities for East Hamilton youth, in conjunction with Golden Horseshoe Green Tech (GHGT), a local non-profit.

Khodr agreed to an interview to discuss the initiative.

Interview

Kevin Browne, Software Hamilton: What is MacGDA?

AbdulRahman Khodr, MacGDA: McMaster Game Development Association (MacGDA) is a student-run organization which is interested in student designated game research and design. Our official launch date was September 2013.

We are essentially a hub for game development in Hamilton. We specialize in hosting various networking events, workshops and game development talks. In addition to all this we are also developing our own game entirely from homebrew to act as a learning environment for students to receive hands on experience in various areas of game development.

KB: How has the first year of MacGDA turned out so far?

AK: Despite of only being operational for a little less than a year, there are numerous milestones that can be attributed to our success. Under the banner of MacGDA, the first year saw numerous workshops, networking events, fundraisers that had a peak attendance of more than 40 students and professionals.

The momentum we gained during our first year was so significant, that we were one of the factors that led to McMaster University being recognised as one of the Universities invited to Ubisoft's Academia Competition.

Members from our club went on to form a team of seven members in order to compete in the competition and represent McMaster University. While the team itself was unable to win, two of our members (Alex Zaranek and Adam Bysice) did extremely well. They earned an opportunity to participate in full-time internships at Ubisoft Studios in Montreal.

KB: What is the crowdfunding campaign being run by MacGDA and GHGT all about?

AK: The Crowd funding campaign that is currently run by us in collaboration with GHGT is based on a new movement we are pushing forward which involves a platform that allows for free access education for East Hamilton youth in video game development.

However, we require workstations to provide to these individuals for us to be able to run the workshops so the campaign aims at collecting the funds necessary to facilitate the workshop.

KB: What will the money raised go toward?

AK: All money raised will go directly towards purchasing workstations to be used by low-income individuals during workshops while ensuring a reasonable open-access policy which will be available at the GHGT office in Robert Centre.

Workstations will consist of purchasing laptops and mice. Our current goal is 5 laptops priced at $550/each.

We need all the help we can get, so please donate any amount to our campaign.

KB: What sort of programming will this crowdfunding campaign allow you to offer? What will the biweekly workshops look like?

AK: The main goal of our crowdfunding campaign is towards running bi-weekly workshops in the East Hamilton region while providing low-income individuals with access to suitable hardware and software for game development.

The workshops themselves will focus on Unity 3D and run for 2 hours, after which participants have the option to sign up for various time slots after each workshop to expand on what they have learned with the supervision of a trained member.

KB: Why is MacGDA motivated to run these workshops?

AK: We are motivated to run these workshops as we have seen a lack of free education provided to low-income families in the East-Hamilton region and wish to teach game development skills, as this allows for either self-employment in developing apps and games or marketable skills for a career in the ever-expanding software industry.

In addition to all this we have also encountered a great deal of interest in picking up software and game development skills across Hamilton. We wish to ensure that proper workshops can be provided to all members of the community that are interested in game development.

KB: How did you first get interested in video game development yourself?

AK: To be honest, I never really knew much about Game Development before Grade 9. I came across a 'Game Programming Club' at my high school in St. Thomas More. I was intrigued to join and learn what game development really meant. Upon joining and learning the basics, I was vastly interested in developing my skills, and found it really enjoyable.

As can be seen, this has also motivated me in starting up a Game Development Association on campus as I truly believe in the impact a club or association can have on an individual's future.

KB: How has your program at McMaster helped you to advance your carer so far?

AK: My program at McMaster has helped me greatly throughout the years. The biggest impact is being able to recognize my true career goals, which slowly shifted to an interest in a creative management field. My program allowed this to be possible as I was able to combine both Multimedia & Economics at an undergraduate level.

My program still poses many problems such as a lack of cross-collaboration with other faculties, lack of hands on experience along with various problems. However these problems I would say in turn helped me grow in getting involved within the community to solve these problems.

I would say MacGDA has helped in solving these problems, from our game project that aimed at involving students across faculties or our workshops which tries to provide students with technical skills. I am sure more will be learned as I embark on my final year in September 2014.

KB: Do you think Hamilton has potential for a stronger video game sector?

AK: I definitely believe there is. We have witnessed great turnouts at game development related events. We have been able to undertake numerous initiatives that are currently in the works, while also enjoying a great deal of community success.

Not only did a local game development association launch to help strengthen this community; I have also seen other new ones start up or expand to Hamilton. This includes HammerTown, CoderDojo, which is aimed at providing game development skills to young youth.

In addition to the current undergoing expansion of Every1Games to Hamilton aimed at providing children with autism game development skills to the positive restructuring of a game development course in the Multimedia program.

I believe all these initiatives can foster and develop great local talent for game development, continuing to expand the video game sector in Hamilton.

KB: What does the future of MacGDA look like in the year ahead and beyond?

AK: Our vision for the future of MacGDA consist of multiple ambitious goals:


You can donate to the crowdfunding campaign here:

Kevin Browne organizes events to connect and help grow Hamilton's technology community such as DemoCampHamilton and StartupDrinks. He is currently a PhD Candidate in computer science at McMaster University researching user interface design for educational tablet software.

8 Comments

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By Advice (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 12:57:49

Masses already very dissociated from reality via movies, music, alcohol and drugs. Great this program is meant to help low income residents, but I question greater good of end product. Please use skills for something productive and useful for society, not more games and circus.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 16:43:36 in reply to Comment 101713

Wow, your 'advice' manages to be dogmatic, backwards-looking, condescending, and ignorant, all at once. This program sounds great.

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By Advice (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 17:15:27 in reply to Comment 101727

Sorry if it offends your sensibilities. But whats true is true. Call it ignorance if you like, doesn't make it so. Today's reality is a harsh one, whether you like it or not. Like any problem, denial doesn't benefit at all.

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By Abdu (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 15:55:41 in reply to Comment 101713

@Advice: I completely understand where you are coming from however teaching fundamental game development skills allows you to acquire core programming and math skills that can either be used directly for a game development position or a variety of positions that will require these fundamental skills in an applicant - we believe this can help a lot of low-income individuals.

Likewise, we as MacGDA have also hosted some talks on creating games for the health or the education industry specifically in creating games for medical diagnosis, treatment or professional development. By this we try to encourage game development not only for entertainment purposes but as well as various fields that can help society.

Were a relatively new association, and are trying our best to address any concerns while finding solutions to these problems that may exist. If you have any further questions or great ideas to share, I would love to hear them!

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 13:50:28

In my youth, game development helped me pick up programming skills. A lot of math was involved. This was before 3D engines (demoscene nostalgia!). While it never turned into a game developer career specifically, it was great fun at the time, and part of sparking a software engineering career.

I think doing something you love and enjoy really helps the learning process. Game development is a fantastic way to effectively teach underlying core concepts and maths; it makes them fun which brings greater focus and enthusiasm.

This program is a wonderful idea, and I wish it much success!!

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By Advice (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 17:13:13

I get that the skills learned can be used for other things. That's good. Just have a problem with video games in general. Lots of literature points to their detrimental effects. Hoping the means justifies the ends.

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By Take your own advice (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 17:42:15 in reply to Comment 101730

>>Lots of literature points to their detrimental effects. Hoping the means justifies the ends.

Where, exactly? You remind me of that fool in the US who used to talk about how first person shooters are "homicide training" and the like. A does not correlate to B.

You may have a point with increased sedentary lifestyle choices, and I will agree with you there. But like most everything else, "everything in moderation".

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By Advice (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 15:04:41

Please read works by Lt. Col. David Grossman for a start. If you're not into books, then just Google it. Then get back to me. BTW, I do take my own advice. Don't play video games or watch t.v. Thats why this fool is smarter than the average joe ;)

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