Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Help the Ook save Christmas in a NAIT-made video game

Santa needs you! Try NAIT's Ook Holiday Dash

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Dashing through the snow, a snowboarding Ook comes to play. Through the streets of Edmonton it goes, jumping all the way!

With that, you have the essence of Ook Holiday Dash – a fun, festive and free online video game made at NAIT and released just in time for Christmas.

In the game, Santa's sleigh has taken a spill over Alberta and it's up to NAIT's Ookpik mascot to strap on a snowboard and collect the wayward presents, hurdling Christmas trees, candy canes and ornaments along the way. The game was made for the NAIT community to play, share and enjoy some friendly competition during the holiday season.

"It's not just NAIT students and staff playing, it's friends and family too," says NAIT web designer Lara Alameddine.

Alameddine, graphic designer Tracy Niven and web developer Kàren Vaganyan (Computer Engineering Technology ’13) built the game. They're part of a marketing and communications team that annually creates an animated holiday e-card for staff to share among themselves and friends, and in recent years has pushed themselves to raise their game to a whole new level.

Last year, the trio took advantage of open source gaming code and created an Ook version of Pac-Man, which proved a hit across campus.

"We try to one-up ourselves and push the limit, so this year we built a game from scratch," says Alameddine.

nait ook video game edmonton rogers place and ice districtThat's quite an accomplishment considering no one on the team had much prior experience creating video games. The modified Pac-Man game mostly involved reworking the graphics to fit a NAIT theme.

"This year, the actual coding of it, building it out was from scratch. Building a game in 2 weeks – we most definitely topped ourselves," says Vaganyan.

Niven set the festive scene by incorporating a half-dozen, snow-covered Edmonton landmarks into the game's artwork, including the Alberta Legislature, Rogers Place, the new Walterdale Bridge and NAIT's Centre for Applied Technology. The "Essential to Alberta" pedway over 106 Street on main campus provides a distinctly NAIT finish line.

In theory, the simple 1-level game is meant to take less than a minute to play. The fastest anyone can complete the course is 29 seconds, giving gamers plenty of opportunity to set a new bar between exams, while in transit or before a meeting.

"You can finish it, play it again and try and beat your high score," says Niven.

And while Ook Dash is mostly adorable and festive, it has been known to bring out an inner Grinch – especially when it comes to the candy cane obstacles.

"They look so innocent and sweet, until you try to jump over them," says Vaganyan.

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