Cody Sawatsky Award

The 2019 recipient Ioana Sandor is pictured with Lynn Sawatsky (left), Carson Sawatsky, and Laila Barker (right). The Cody Sawatsky Memorial Award in Gaming was established in memory of SIAT alumnus Cody Sawatsky (1984 – 2016).

The Cody Sawatsky Memorial Award in Gaming was established in 2017 with generous gifts from the Sawatsky family. Cody was an engaged and driven SIAT alumnus who was very successful as a video game producer and designer in Vancouver. Each year, a $1,000 award is granted to a SIAT student who has completed courses in digital game programming, foundational or advanced game design, or other future gaming-related course work. Cody's family presents the award to a deserving SIAT student at an intimate event (may take place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions).

About Cody

Cody Sawatsky was a passionate producer and designer in the video game industry in Vancouver, BC. Cody graduated from SIAT in 2008 and worked at Electronic Arts in Burnaby, BC from 2008 until his untimely passing in 2016.

Cody was born in Langley in 1984, to Lynn and Gary Sawatsky. In 1989, Cody’s brother Carson joined the family. He worked at his family’s Dogwood Christmas Tree Farm and was passionate about computers, video games, comic books, and Batman.

He was a huge fan of Zelda, Metroid, TecmoBowl, anything Mario, and loved collecting classic games. Cody loved Mutant League Sports and was often working on ways to resurrect the title. His most prized possession was a classic Neo Geo MVS system which he happily played with friends whenever given the chance.

Before beginning his career in video games, Cody spent eight years working at The Keg while attending high school at Walnut Grove Secondary. Cody was a proud Walnut Grove Gator who participated in school events such as the Harrison Hike and the Grad Fashion Show. He was also on Grad Council and played Rugby. Thanks to a donation from the Sawatsky family, the Walnut Grove Secondary Library commemorates Cody’s life in Cody’s Corner, a section dedicated to comic books and graphic novels. 

In grade 10, Cody met his future wife Laila in Ms. Sharkey’s math class. They dated for nine years and got married in 2009. They lived in Surrey and Langley with their cat, Sampson.

While Cody was at SFU he worked on many design projects, most notably his concept Stick Ninja which featured his own drawings and level design. Cody was a great leader and champion of his classmates, with many of his peers coming forward to share how much he helped them develop their careers and passion for the games industry. Cody frequently returned to SFU where he enjoyed working with students in the SIAT program and sharing his experiences in the industry. He loved returning to Walnut Grove Secondary, to speak with students in the computer department about his career and experience in the games industry and encourage them to pursue studies in games and computing sciences.

"Cody was in one of the first cohorts of students to complete the SIAT program at SFU. He always would credit this program for helping launch his tremendous career in the gaming industry. Cody’s career stopped abruptly when he became sick, but we know that through this award, his passion for gaming will continue on through a new generation of producers and designers." - Lynn Sawatsky, Cody’s mother

Cody was often compared to a walking encyclopedia of video game knowledge and was always happy to get into a discussion about gaming with anybody who was interested. He loved sharing his knowledge and helping people develop their skills in the industry. Cody had the innate ability to make whoever he was talking to feel like the most important person in the room. He was engaging, truly genuine, and loved being with others.

“Sometimes you can learn more from a bad game than a good one.” – Cody Sawatsky

Cody was a tremendous fan of classic gaming and amassed an amazing personal collection of almost every system that was released in his lifetime.

While at SFU, Cody focused on video game design, and creation. Cody got his “dream job” at Electronic Arts (EA Games) in Burnaby. He started as a Quality Assurance (QA) tester and quickly moved from QA to Producer.

While at EA, Cody worked on many great titles. He began his career working in Game Ops conducting user research on many titles including FIFA, Mass Effect, Need for Speed, Fight Night, and several others. He then moved into a Producer and Designer role working on NBA JAM, NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, and SSX 4.

Cody was able to take a major creative role during NBA JAM: On Fire Edition. You can find Cody as an unlockable character in NBA JAM: On Fire Edition and you can also find his cat, Sampson in the game. After this game shipped he was able to go to New York to present the game to Jimmy Fallon and Shaquille O’Neal who then played against each other on The Tonight Show. When you play SSX 4 and play against the AI, it is actually Cody you are playing against. He was passionate about making the best games that are fun for all players, and he was lucky to work in a profession he was deeply passionate about.

"Cody was an exemplary SIAT student, a talented and successful video game professional, and, most importantly, a wonderful human being." - Jim Bizzocchi, Professor Emeritus, SIAT

In January 2016, Cody was diagnosed with AML Leukemia. He was treated at Vancouver General Hospital and received a Stem Cell Transplant in July of 2016. Things were looking up, but sadly, two days before his 32nd birthday, Cody passed away suddenly.

Cody had tremendous success in his career, but above all he was happiest when in the company of his friends and family. When he wasn’t working, Cody most enjoyed relaxing at home, drinking coffee, and playing Xbox. He also loved working on his family’s Christmas tree farm and spent most weekends on the farm or golfing. He was passionate about boating and music, and loved listening to smooth Yacht Rock on a sunny day. If you find yourself on the water on a nice day, teeing off, or enjoying a classic video game in an arcade, please take a moment to think of Cody.

Cody was a tremendous advocate for post-secondary education. It was always Cody’s wish to give back to SFU when he shipped that first big game and our hope is that this award will inspire future generations of young people to keep making games that are fun and engaging for everyone.

Cody’s wish was that people would donate blood and sign up for the Stem Cell Registry in his name at Canadian Blood Services. During his sickness Cody received thousands of transfusions, which saved his life many times.


Award criteria

One Cody Sawatsky Memorial Award in Gaming is granted annually to a SIAT student who:

  • is enrolled full-time in a Bachelor’s degree program in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT)
  • has successfully completed course work in one of the following subject areas within SIAT in the previous term: digital game programming; foundational or advanced game design; or other future gaming-related course work offered in SIAT as part of a Bachelor’s degree
  • is in good academic standing
  • has demonstrated outstanding project work within the completed course work.


How to apply

Students wishing to be considered for the award should send a brief statement of interest to Andrea Barbera at outlining courses taken or projects completed in one of the following subject areas:

  • digital game programming;
  • foundational or advanced game design;
  • or other future gaming-related course work offered in SIAT as part of a Bachelor's degree.

How to contribute

If you are interested in contributing to the Cody Sawatsky Memorial Award through an online donation, click on the link below. Your gift, in memory of Cody Sawatsky, will go towards supporting SIAT students and helping them succeed in their studies.

Give now


If you have any questions about the award, or wish to contribute in a different way, please contact:

Natalie Brenton
Senior Associate Director of Advancement, FCAT