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Edmonton throws down the gauntlet to global game developers

Advances in artificial intelligence and game development raise the profile of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.  

Already a world leader in digital and interactive entertainment, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to blaze a new trail for the global video game industry. 

Home to an exciting mix of computer science brains and a robust creative community, Alberta’s capital city has become known as a video games powerhouse, facilitating the research and development technologies to produce innovative video games and accelerate the growth of digital media companies. 

Renowned AAA studios, such as BioWare, Improbable and Epic Games, chose Edmonton as their ideal base to thrive and evolve, tapping into the remarkable talent pool of ambitious minds who live and study there.  

“There’s a unique spirit in Edmonton. A belief — no, an expectation — that we can compete with the best in the world, and win,” says Casey Hudson, Studio general manager at BioWare. “That spirit, combined with the talent and work ethic of Albertans, makes the Edmonton region an ideal place to build a world-class company.”  

BioWare’s legendary Edmonton studio was established in early 1995 by three doctors who studied together at the University of Alberta. Ten years later, BioWare and Pandemic Studios joined forces and, two years later, the partnership was bought by Electronic Arts, a leading interactive entertainment publisher, but retained its name and culture.  

“Edmonton is a vibrant metropolis that resonates strongly with our company culture,” says Hudson.  

“Our office is located downtown in the Epcor Tower, close to the restaurant and café scene and handy for public transit. Edmonton’s outdoor adventures offer plenty of opportunity for team bonding, with dragon boating, soccer and ski trips popular among our staff.” 


Ambitious minds for smarter games 

Edmonton’s world-class training, education and research centers nurture bright minds that go on to develop some of the world’s most influential games using advanced AI and ML technology. 

The University of Alberta is one of the top three AI research institutions in the world. At the same time Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) was named a Center of Excellence by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

“We’re also very lucky to have the highly-regarded Certificate in Computer Video Game Development at the University of Alberta, where students are taught how to make games,” says Barb Stuhl-Smith, Manager, Business Development, Explore Edmonton.  

“Several of those graduates have gone on to pursue illustrious careers at Improbable, BioWare and international studios, right here in Edmonton.”  

These training centers of excellence result in an exciting talent pool of diverse skills, contributing to a dynamic digital media ecosystem that continues to develop some of the most successful games of all time.  

“Our cutting-edge virtual reality programs are a feather in the cap of Edmonton’s technology scene,” says Stuhl-Smith. 

“VRCave is a prime example, as they continue to produce phenomenal ‘social virtual reality’ capabilities, allowing people to play together, as well as innovative VR escape room experiences with larger-than-life environments.”   

Powerhouse for immersive business events  

Business event organizers can select from major players in the city’s incredible talent pipeline to arrange speakers’ series, workshops and experiential off-site tours to research facilities and gaming companies.   

The ever-growing body of entrepreneurs and experts embodies everything from art and design, publishing, video, creative writing, computer science and, most critically, artificial intelligence.  

Amii is one of three national AI hubs that make up the Canadian AI Strategy, along with Toronto-Waterloo and Montreal, while the University of Alberta (UAlberta) is ranked in the top five globally for AI and ML research, according to the World Computer Science Rankings. 

“Researchers from UAlberta and Amii have been at the forefront of AI-game advancements since beating the world’s top Checkers players in the 1980s and tackling the world’s best at poker and Alpha-Go,” says Stuhl-Smith. 

“Fast-forward to 2021 – researchers in Edmonton are creating AIs that can build their own playable video games.” 

Domestic and international technology companies are increasingly choosing Edmonton as their host city for business meetings as events, acknowledging that the advances taking place in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region are at the forefront of internationally recognized AI research and game development.  

Canada’s catalyst city 

The Explore Edmonton Business Events Team provides creative solutions to create unforgettable meetings and conferences for delegates, tapping into a citywide network of passionate change-makers eager to share their knowledge and experience with visiting professionals. 

“Edmonton is known for its indie festivals, lively arts and music scene and sprawling River Valley, the largest urban parkland in North America, perfect for outdoor adventure in every season,” says Stuhl-Smith. 

“We’re a modern urban center in the heart of the wilderness, but it’s the warmth of our people and their welcoming spirit that truly makes Edmonton unique.” 

The city boasts state-of-the-art venues and meeting hubs, superior hotels and an international airport that flies to 60 worldwide destinations non-stop. Inspirational off-site venues range from theatres to restaurants and everything in between. 

The ATB Financial Arts Barn in Old Strathcona’s Theatre District is a perfect example of Edmonton’s eclectic meeting venues.  

“The Arts Barn was originally a service garage for Edmonton Transit,” says Stuhl-Smith. “The building was transformed and now hosts a myriad of events, including performances of the city’s beloved Edmonton International Fringe Festival.” 

Meetings with purpose 

By augmenting speakers’ series with passionate industry innovators and enriching programming with localized tours, business event organizers can attract delegates, increase revenues, and inspire future generations.  

“We call that 'meeting with purpose’,” says Stuhl-Smith, pointing out that when the time is right for in-person events to resume, Edmonton is poised to show off its expertise in the fields of digital media and interactive entertainment. 

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