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New $7.3M space helps Becker video game program grow

February 13, 2018
Grant Welker
Grant Welker
Debra Bevin, the Massachusetts economic development specialist for the federal government, and U.S. Rep. James McGovern test out a video game created by Becker College students at the new Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Monday.

As Becker College's video game design program has grown, it's been held back by just one thing: not enough space.

The college's Worcester campus doesn't have that problem anymore.

Becker opened its new $7.3-million Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship last month, creating a space about four times larger than where the school's roughly 600 video-game students were cramped before.

"We were utilizing every available nook and cranny in that space," Becker President Nancy Crimmin said.

The Barrett Center, a former function space on William Street now renovated and expanded, includes two other related pieces of Becker's video game program: Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, known as MassDiGI, and Petricore, a video game startup led by Becker graduates.

Becker officials see the Barrett Center as putting the college's facilities on par with those it is listed beside on the Princeton Review's best game programs ranking.

"We're making sure we're at the top," said Alan Ritacco, the dean of Becker's School of Design and Technology.

Becker's video game program began a decade ago with just 12 students but has blossomed into a major piece of the school's student body and perhaps its best-known program. The 600 students in the program make up one-third of Becker's student body, and the program was ranked fifth among the best undergraduate game design programs by the Princeton Review last year.

Becker will extend the program with a master's degree in interactive media this fall.

Becker officials showed off the new Barrett Center Monday for U.S. Rep. James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, and Debra Bevin, the Massachusetts economic development specialist from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. McGovern and Bevin tried their hands at a video game under development and toured the space with Crimmin, Ritacco and MassDiGI Executive Director Timony Loew.

A grand opening for the building is scheduled for March 28.

The Barrett Center features a computer lab and open space for collaboration open 24 hours a day to students with a key pass. Practically any area is meant to function as work space, with nearly all interior walls doubling as space to write on with erasable markers.

Tyler Haddad, a senior game-design major from Lawrence, said the new building has made a major help for students who now have so many fewer restrictions on work and collaboration.

"The space we had before was just not conducive to a work environment," said Haddad, who chairs Becker's chapter of the International Game Developers Association. Thanks in large part to 7-year-old MassDiGI, he added, Becker's reputation in the field has grown considerably.

"Over the past three or four years," he said, "it's way different."

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Grant Welker
MassDiGI Executive Director Timony Loew, left, talks with U.S. Rep. James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, and Debra Bevin, the Massachusetts economic development specialist from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Economic Development Administration at the Barrett Center at Becker College Monday.
Grant Welker
Becker College Interactive Media Professor Amanda L. Theinert, in white, talks with students in the lobby of the new Barrett Center, which gives the school's video game design program far more space to grow.