Teesside University’s deputy head of Games Art and Design, Gabrielle Kent, offers advice on how students can choose the best university course for them

How to choose the right games course for you

This month, as part of our New Year, New Job 2014 special, Develop brings you a university representative to explain what path is best for you to pursue when approaching higher education courses, apprenticeships and more for the games industry.

There are so many games courses around these days that it’s difficult to pinpoint the best one for you.

Before you even start looking, you should research the industry and think about the job you want: Concept artist, level designer, modeller, animator, designer, producer? Research games job adverts on sites, like Develop, and find out the skills and qualifications studios are asking for in connection with that role. Once you have this list, you are in a position to start looking for the right course.

In terms of skills, you may be just as well taking a traditional illustration course if you want to be a concept artist, BUT, concept art jobs are extremely few and far between and only go to the best-of-the-best, so if you’re not at that level you will need another string to your bow.

Some Games Art courses, such as Teesside University’s, combine concept art with modelling, texturing and team development projects, making you employable in a wider range of roles. Once you are in the industry you can utilise your concept art skills and perhaps work your way into that role.

When deciding on which university to attend, research them carefully. Do they have team game development projects that will prepare you for industry and allow you to work with students from different disciplines? Are their staff industry-experienced or well respected in the field? Do they have close links with industry? Are they Skillset accredited? What studios do their graduates work at? What other experiences do they provide for their students? Ask these questions of lecturers and students at open days and make sure the course is the right fit for you.

If you want to be a designer, make sure that your course doesn’t just have you writing design documents. You should be doing hands-on development work with a range of engines and tools, such as Unity, UDK and GameMaker. Do the Games Animation courses you are looking at teach motion capture, clean up and implementation into an engine as well as core animation skills?

At Teesside, we know that students may not quite know the right direction for them when they join us, so games artists, designers and animators share a common first year. This not only offers the students an opportunity to ensure they have chosen the most suitable route, it also provides experience of most roles within game development – a key factor in producing a well-rounded team member. We also offer a simulated industry experience on our Journeyman Project and Games Development modules in which students gain experience working within development teams to project milestones reflecting industry practice.

Teesside has just launched a new Indie Games Development degree starting September 2014 which mixes game design, business and marketing, scripting, production, app and social game development with team-based projects to equip students with the skills they need to go it alone or as part of a small team in the changing industry.

You can find out more about Teesside and other university courses in Develop’s Training Spotlights archive.

This feature is part of New Year, New Job 2014, Develop’s month-long guide to games recruitment. You can read more at www.develop-online.net/jobs2014.

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