There's one woman besides Canada; the other 98 students were all guys. She jokes the ratio may be great for dating, but she sometimes got lonely.
"It's really different," the 23-year-old Indianapolis native said. "I miss having a lot of women friends."
The $10 billion industry may have entered the mainstream, but with a few exceptions, the target audience for big-budget video games is the same as it ever was: teenage boys gripped with visions of dragons, space ships and voluptuous virtual babes.
It doesn't help that the number of women developing games is also low — less than 10 percent of all game developers, Guildhall executive director Peter Raad said. Men design games that appeal more to men.
"I believe it behooves the gaming industry to attract more women developers," Raad said. "Playing games is a primal human activity that knows no boundaries of geography, language or gender."
Organizers said the first Women's Game Conference, in Austin on Thursday and Friday, is a step toward changing some long-held assumptions about the sex of those who make and play games.
"Games are no longer just for geeks," said Laura Fryer, director of Microsoft Corp.'s Advanced Technology Group, which includes the company's Xbox console. "Half of our population probably has an opinion about what should be in video games, but it goes unnoticed because we don't have a lot of women in the industry."
Many believe education is key to boosting the ranks of female video game makers. Because games require such a broad range of expertise, including artists, musicians and architects, it's really a matter of letting women know that they don't have to be programmers to work on games, Fryer said.
At SMU, Guildhall has partnered with the online female job recruiting Web site Mary-Margaret.com and the game review Web site WomenGamers.com to create what's believed to be the first video game scholarship for women in the nation. The scholarship will provide about $18,500, or half the cost of an 18-month certification program.
Canada, who enrolled at SMU after graduating from Rice University this year, said she was drawn to games, and namely "The Sims," because of her passion for architecture.
"The first game I played I pretty much took over someone else's computer playing it," she said. "I liked building houses. I liked decorating the house and using cheat codes to get tons of money so I could build bigger houses."
Many agree there needs to be more thought-provoking, story-driven games with more female lead characters and less carnage.
This month, the Europe-based Entertainment and Leisure Software Publisher's Association published a report stating that women are one of the keys to broadening video games as mass market entertainment.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, about 40 percent of gamers are women. And experts say older women are big gamers online, though they tend to gravitate to casual time-passers like checkers, chess and Scrabble.
But that hardly means all girls despise shoot-em-ups like Quake.
Ismini Roby, co-founder of WomenGamers.com, said there's a stereotype that women are interested only in simple puzzles or card games.
"We don't all like pink, and we don't all like the same types of games," she said. "The reality is that women like a variety of genres. Saying differently is like saying all men like science fiction movies."
"The Sims" and "Myst," featuring a mix of social experimentation and archaeological detective work, are among the most popular games ever, largely because of their broad appeal with both sexes.
Yet the appetite for scantily clad women in games shows no signs of diminishing.
"The Guy Game" mixes video clips of scantily clad female spring breakers on the beach of South Padre Island, Texas. "Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude" pits you as a pathetic middle-aged man in a quest for female nudity.
Hugh Hefner and his Playboy empire is getting in on the act in two ways: "Playboy: The Mansion" debuts in November. And the magazine plans a special pictorial featuring theof video game vixens such as the red-haired vampire "BloodRayne."
"Let's just face it, violence and sex are things that sell," Raad said.
That's why it's important, he said, for women to make games for women.
"Since making games is often entertainment and is fantasy, it caters to whoever the developer of that game is intended for," he said. "You just have different outlets."