Computer game marks 40th birthday

September 22, 2005, vol. 34, no. 2
By Terry Lavender

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As you're walking up the steps of the academic quadrangle, a man comes up to you and says, “Hi, I'm Lui Passaglia and I've lost my football. Can you help me find it?”

You probably won't get a request to help Passaglia, an acclaimed professional football star and Simon Fraser University alumnus, find a missing football in real life, but it does happen in David Kaufman's SFU XL, a computer game created for Simon Fraser University's 40th birthday.

SFU XL is a realistic three-dimensional adventure in the buildings and grounds of the Burnaby campus. In the course of your travels you discover a secret tunnel under the campus and use a time machine to go back in time to interact with famous alumni, faculty and staff.

Kaufman is a professor in the faculty of education and director of the learning and instructional development centre (LIDC). He says the game arose out of an LIDC project to develop a realistic fly-through of the Burnaby campus that could be used to help recruit new students and faculty. The fly-through is still under development, but Kaufman also saw the possibilities of using the detailed, realistically rendered campus imagery from that project in a computer game.

“It could be a recruitment tool for students and a way for them to learn a little about the history of the university - who are the key figures in SFU history, who are some of the famous alumni,” Kaufman says.

SFU XL is a project of SAGE, the Simulation and Advanced Gaming Environments for Learning project, a national SSHRC-funded network based at SFU.

Kaufman hired student Michael Levens for the summer to work on the game, which uses a graphic engine from the popular computer game Unreal Tournament. Kaufman has developed a demo of the game and hopes to further its development into a full-fledged computer game. But that will take money, he says - a couple of hundred thousand dollars. “The amount of money we raise through grants, fundraising and donations will determine where we go from here.”

Others involved with SFU XL include a faculty of education masters student, Anthony Gurr, a highly experienced game designer and instructor at the Art Institute of Vancouver who had his students work on the demo and education professor Carolyn Mamchur, who is providing ideas to enrich the game play experience.

Kaufman is excited about the prospects for SFU XL and the fly-through guide to the Burnaby campus. “No other university has anything like this.

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