Adam Martin: ‘The most valuable thing about teamwork is for students to learn how to negotiate and get on with each other’

Adam Martin is the course leader for BA (Hons) Computer Games Design at the University of South Wales. He is passionate about fostering a climate of collaboration and inquiry within the subjects he teaches, providing a creative space for personal and professional development.

The BA (Hons) Computer Games Design at the University of South Wales has an impressive list of graduates. Alumni from the course is like reading a who’s who of previous MCV 30 Under 30 winners. Well known indie developers like Mike Bithell and Dan Da Rocha sit alongside studio heavyweights like Catherine Woolley and Luke Williams.

So, what does course leader Adam Martin think is essential for games education? We sit him down to find out.

Making games is a team effort

“From the very first day when the course starts we get students into small teams, of around six to eight,” says Martin.

From there, much of the course is collaborative, something Martin says is essential, as game design is all about working together, sharing best practices and developing the core soft skills.

“It’s not about lone visionary designer or the lone artist creating their great thing for themselves,“ says Martin. “It’s much more about working on behalf of the game that you’re trying to produce, and trying to get the best outcome for that.”

The teams work collaboratively on a project together for the first six months of the course.

“The most valuable thing about teamwork is for students to learn how to negotiate and get on with each other,” says Martin.

“It’s kind of about evaluating those ideas, playtesting them, iterating on them, and actually letting the game itself find its feet. If people don’t like it, or the designs don’t work, it’s not you personally, it’s just the way that that design has come to fruition. I think that’s probably the most important thing.”

Teaching design, not technology

Martin says the course has an underlying principle: it doesn’t teach the students how to use tech, but how to design and how to go through a design process.

“You start off with the seed of an idea, and that could come from anywhere. However, that idea gets started, it’s then a question of iterating on it,” says Martin. He points out that it’s not a case of immediately starting development and writing a list of milestones.

“It’s not about thoroughly attacking it and then diving necessarily straight into engine and modelling and things. You’ve got to have a good idea, cause if you’re designing a game and the idea is kind of rubbish to start off with, at the end of that process, it’s still going to be a rubbish idea.”

Martin mentions that for a lot of students wanting to be indie developers or to work

at small studios, they often don’t have the luxury of investing time and resources into an idea that doesn’t work, so searching for a strong idea using a robust design process is essential.

“It’s like a reverse onion skin,” laughs Martin, talking about how students are taught game design on the course: “Start with something that’s a core idea and then iterate it, building on the layers that form around it as mechanics and gameplay, and all the extra bits and pieces that make a game work.”

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