Photo Credit (all photos): Nina Haikara
By Nina Haikara
Television screens, game consoles, motion sensors and virtual reality (VR) goggles took over the Design Exchange in downtown Toronto for the 6th Annual Level Up showcase. 

What began as a small academic collaboration between the University of Toronto’s department of computer science and OCAD University, has grown into the largest showcase for student game design in Ontario. 

Three of this year’s must see games – Plunder, Shadow Tag, and Chrominance – were designed by U of T and OCAD U teams.

Fourteen participating colleges and universities demonstrated more than 50 projects, showing industry leaders and gaming fans of all ages what students can create in within an academic term. 

For U of T and OCAD U students, by the time their teams were formed and concepts approved, they had only seven weeks to complete to deliver in time for Level Up. 

photo of game controllers

Members of Pitfall Planet, last year’s Level Up winner – Emma Burkeitt (OCAD), Adam Robinson-Yu (computer science) and David Czarnowski (OCAD) – returned to the showcase after being shortlisted in the best student game category at the Independent Games Festival in San Francisco. Their games features two robot astronauts that have crash-landed on a mysterious planet and must scavenge enough ore to fuel their trip home. Their game is being released by Steam later this year.

Robinson-Yu told the CBC that the competition takes school projects to a whole new level. 

“It's fun working on something with the idea that you're going to show it to a whole bunch of people at the end,” he told the CBC.

photo of gamers gaming

This year, Plunder, where players must navigate pirate ships through sea-monster-filled waters, by U. of T. and OCAD, took home the People’s Choice Award.

photo of crowd at Level Up