Gameheads and Tech Industry Leaders Launch Game Design Certificate Program at Cal State East Bay

Co-designed by Unity, Oculus from Facebook, Niantic and the Art Department at Cal State East Bay, each class will be free for eligible students and taught by industry professionals and volunteers from partner companies

March 23, 2021 5:18 PM EDT

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OAKLAND, Calif., March 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Gameheads, an Oakland-based tech training program, has partnered with Unity, Oculus from Facebook and Niantic to launch a game design certificate program at Cal State East Bay through the university's art department and continuing education department. 

"Reaching more students of color with industry standard tech education opportunities to meet them where they are has been the goal of Gameheads since day one," said Damon Packwood, Executive Director of Gameheads. "This certificate program is a game changer in breaking down barriers to the tech industry that our students have faced for too long, and it's possible because of industry leaders like Oculus, Unity and Niantic. We thank them for helping create true diversity in tech."

The program will help students of color and students with low incomes lower tuition costs, graduate early and provide them with an academic and industry standard education in video game design and extended reality. Students will receive academic extension credit at Cal State East Bay through courses co-taught by professionals and volunteers from the sponsoring organizations.

"Providing underrepresented students with the tools to learn real-time 3D and the economic opportunity that comes with those skills, is directly in line with Unity Social Impact's mission," said Jessica Lindl, Vice President of Social Impact, Unity. "We know that technical skills are being required for the jobs of today and even more so the jobs of tomorrow. We're thrilled to be partnering with this group of industry leaders to equip youth with a strong foundation for their careers."

Launching in Spring 2021, students will receive academic and industry standard tech education through three key courses:

  • Introduction to Unity (sponsored by Unity): Students will design a complete game in Unity, the world's leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D (RT3D) content, and explore the cultural impacts of video games on society.
  • Introduction to Augmented Reality (sponsored by Niantic): Students will learn how to use Unity's AR Foundation technology to create applications for iOS and Android platforms and explore how different technologies came together to launch the concepts of virtual and augmented reality into the mainstream consciousness.
  • Introduction to Virtual Reality (sponsored by Oculus from Facebook): Students will learn how to design, develop, and deploy a VR application as well as optimization and testing, user interaction and go-to-market strategy.

The program offers interested students an opportunity to access the kind of education and skills development offered through the Gameheads: Classic program with less of a time commitment and will be open to eligible students ages 15 to 25 who apply through the Gameheads application. With the support of Unity, Oculus from Facebook and Niantic, Gameheads will cover all fees for course credits.

"We're excited to expand our partnership with Gameheads this year and honored to be a part of its certificate program," said Paula Cuneo, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Marketing at Oculus from Facebook. "We understand the endless possibilities virtual reality presents as an emerging technology and believe that access to education and resources should be limitless as well. By educating the future leaders of tomorrow, we're diversifying our AR/VR ecosystem and equipping them with opportunities in the technology industry and beyond."

All of Gameheads' programming seeks to challenge traditional video game curriculum to make room for diverse talent and bold new voices. Gameheads found a strong partner in Cal State East Bay as one of the most diverse public institutions in the U.S. committed to advancing regional engagement through its academic programs and leadership.

"We are excited to partner with Gameheads, an innovative regional partner, to widen student pathways for degree attainment and career exploration," said Kate White, Director of Continuing Education, Cal State East Bay. "The partnership was a natural fit because of our shared commitment to providing educational opportunities to a diverse student population. This certificate program will set our students up for success in a growing field, and we are proud to be a part of their journey."

This program is a continuation of Gameheads' partnership with industry leaders to increase the number of Black students, students of color and students from low-income communities in the tech industry pipeline by providing the educational and employment opportunities they need to build successful and thriving careers in video game design, interactive media and mixed media.

"I am thrilled to work with Damon to create a flexible and innovative career pathway that can be entered and exited at many different points. We are now able to offer a full game design degree as well as a certificate that embraces industry standards and practices and connects our students to the vibrant Bay Area game industry," said Ian Pollock, Art Professor at Cal State East Bay.

We know that there is talent all over the world that has not been seen. We know that communities of color are at the epicenter of some of the world's most fabulous creations. More often than not, the gap between a culturally diverse organization and one that's not is accessibility and investment. Niantic's partnership with Gameheads is a step towards bridging that gap. "Being diverse and inclusive reaches far beyond quotas and events. It's about being reflected in the games you play. It's about being celebrated where you work. It's about addressing systemic inequity. Making all of that a reality in the world we live in requires collective time and attention. It's not a sprint. It's not a marathon, either. It's an all hands on deck movement," said Trinidad Hermida, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Niantic.

Eligible students ages 15 to 25 should apply using the Gameheads program application and indicate that they are interested in the game design certificate program at Cal State East Bay.

ABOUT GAMEHEADS: Gameheads is an Oakland-based tech training program that uses video game design, development and DevOps to develop diverse talent and bold new voices, train young people (ages 11-25) for the tech eco-system, and prepare them for college, career and civic life. Participants of Gameheads learn how to create, code and design games, building skills across a variety of disciplines from visual art, creative writing, design, programming, sound design, animation, game theory and history. For more information: 

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