Published on Friday, January 26th, 2018

WORCESTER – Nora Cahill assumed the role of a hamster in search of freedom as she began playing the virtual reality game she and 14 other Becker College students created.

Wearing a virtual reality headset, Ms. Cahill, a sophomore, used her hands – or paws – to move her hamster ball around, scanning for any glitches in the cartoony world her team had designed.

“There’s another bug,” she said, finding an issue with the hamster’s virtual water bowl. Victoria Yong, her classmate, took note of the latest glitch as she watched on her laptop as Ms. Cahill moved through the game.

The future game designers have had more gadgets and space to work with now that Becker has opened the Colleen C. Barrett Center, its new $7.3 million hub for business, gaming, entrepreneurship and interactive media.

The Barrett Center houses Becker’s popular game design program, as well as the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), Yunus Social Business Centre and Women’s Emergent Leadership Institute.

Becker renovated the historic John Woodman Higgins house, at 80 William St., transforming it into an academic space that, inside, looks like a cross between a Silicon Valley office and a Tudor-style mansion. The five-year project was funded through an Economic Development Administration grant and gift from Ms. Barrett, the former president of Southwest Airlines and a Becker alumna.

Students in the game design program have particularly enjoyed the lab for augmented reality and virtual reality – decked out with $70,000 worth of new technology – and the game design studio. And Becker’s eSports club even has a practice room upstairs.

“The building started to come to fruition around our game design program,” said Alan Ritacco, dean of Becker’s School of Design and Technology. “We were always looking for the next big thing for the program.”

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