Adam van Sertima has been a professor at Champlain’s Montreal campus for five years and is, in his own words, a “Dad, philosopher, art historian and Games Studies specialist.” I sat down with him to talk about his expansive professional background, his passion for teaching, and his interests in film and video games.
Megan Hoins: Where did you go to college and what was your major?
Adam van Sertima: I went to Concordia University here in Montreal and I double majored in Communication Studies with a focus on Film Production and Philosophy, so I graduated in 1994.
Stacey speaking to a group of prospective game devs at Meltdown Esports Bar.
It started with a Facebook reminder: A career soiree was going on that night, giving me only a couple hours to get ready. “It’s not like I’m doing anything else,” I thought.
Five minutes before the event, and I’m wandering down St. Denis trying to find the venue, counting down the addresses. I’d expected it to be held in some office or conference room somewhere, but no: it was in an arcade bar—the Meltdown Esports Bar to be exact.
It was already crowded; the event hardly looked like an event, and I began to wonder just what the hell I’d signed up for. I stumbled to the bar, ordered a shot of bright red something, and that’s when it happened—
Colton Orr recently scored a job as a character artist at Insomniac Games after graduating from Champlain College last May. Since then, he’s been working with their team on the upcoming DLC for Spider-Man and has been running a successful side business selling basemeshes and characters on the ArtStation Marketplace.
The Emerging Media students (CCM301) toured The Plateau and Mile End neighbourhoods of Montreal looking for murals and street art installations. They did not have to walk far from the Academic Center, the massive paint-covered walls are everywhere thanks to the yearly mural and graffiti festivals that takes place in this part of town. The students gathered photographic and video material with several pro digital cameras. This content will be used for their next challenge: creating a live VJ Set that will mix visual content to music.
Although my journey throughout Montreal has only begun, my experience in my classes has been one to remember. Among all the classes offered here, the most interesting one that I am currently enrolled in would be the Food Writing class taught by the great Susan Semenak due to its abstract and surprising nature. As the name suggests, the class revolves around the exploration and history of food in the city of Montreal. This includes eating, discovering, and caring for new and local foods around the area, and writing stories and personal messages about how the experiences made us feel or how they connected with our personal lives.
When I first arrived at Champlain, I had the rare luck of knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: write video games. I’m a senior now, and that goal remarkably hasn’t changed, even though I have discovered a love for screenwriting and poetry along the way.
There was only one class, then, that I wanted to take on my first day of freshman year, and now I’m finally getting the chance to take it: Interactive Storytelling. I was a bit worried walking into my first class since I’d been looking forward to this for four years, but I didn’t need to worry. Over the course of this first month, I’ve already learned a lot, and I’m starting to find that I really do love game writing.
I chose Marketing as my major because I felt it was the best of both worlds; I could remain creative while also having a wide variety of career paths. Unfortunately, on the path to having a creative career, I feel like there have been a lot of classes that I really struggle to get through. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of accounting, it’s just not something I easily can grasp. That’s why when choosing my classes for this semester in Montreal I really wanted to take advantage of the creative atmosphere of the city. I immediately knew that I wanted to take Emerging Media in Montreal. I wasn’t exactly sure of what the class entailed but I knew that the Marketing sphere is always adapting to new technology and media so I thought it would fit perfectly with my major. Previously, I had taken the Digital Marketing class for my minor. We had briefly talked about virtual reality and voice search as new platforms for marketing. Having very little experience with virtual reality I thought it would be beneficial to take a class that would introduce me to this and other media that could be crucial to my future career.
My first two weeks studying abroad in Montreal have been a wild ride. After spending what felt like ages to unpack everything I’ve taken these first two weeks to familiarize myself with the metro, our small campus, and explore as much as I can of the city and restaurants visiting places such as the Hinnawi Bros a small yet cozy bagel shop right off of campus, or Takumi Sushi an all you can eat sushi restaurant. Or small more homey places like Brit and Chips which are a nearly five-minute walk from the Evo building. These past two weeks have felt long while adapting to the constant horns and lights of the city, but I already feel at home living in the Evo residence surrounded by friends and hard working individuals. While I miss my friends in Burlington, I know I will develop a strong connection with my peers in Montreal.
The week before coming to Montreal for this semester was like freshman year all over again. I am from New Jersey so going to Vermont for school seemed like a whole new world. There was all the same excitement and fear before coming to Montreal that I had leading up to my first semester at Champlain College. While packing for Montreal my head was all over the place trying to make lists of everything I needed and how much space I had in actuality to pack. I was also just so excited to be in a new place and be able to explore. In this excitement, my sense of organization seemed to go out the window and stay that way for the first couple of weeks while here.
I don’t pride myself on my navigation skills. In fact, I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever met. Just this past summer, I was headed for Rockefeller Center in New York City. I live an hour away from NYC, so I’ve been visiting the city for years. I figured that, by this point, I could navigate it pretty easily. I looked at Google Maps, nodded to myself, and walked in the exact opposite direction of the center for about half an hour before I realized that I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.
I was thus a bit worried when I realized I would have to navigate around Montreal—a city I had no prior experience with—for four months. Would I end up walking off of the island when I only meant to go to class? Would I walk to the top of Mount Royal before I realized something was wrong? The possibilities were endless!