“We have an industry which is 90 per cent educated to at least undergraduate level, with a very high socio-economic barrier as well” – Aardvark Swift Spotlight: Into Games

Born from the frustration at the lack of diversity and pathways into the games industry, co-founders Declan Cassidy and Kirsty Rigden married up their teaching and professional experience to create a movement which helps to build partnerships between the games industry and UK educators.

James Bowers from Aardvark Swift speaks with Brandon Cole, partnerships lead, and Millicent Thomas, social and content lead, about Into Games’ past, and what the future holds for diversity and inclusion.

“We have an industry which is 90 per cent educated to at least undergraduate level, with a very high socio-economic barrier as well,” states Brandon. “When we first started, young people weren’t getting industry touch points. There was a real lack of resources and industry engagement. Declan and Kirsty undertook a long research project to determine what the core pillars of Into Games would be and how we could ensure we had the biggest impact possible.”

The preparation phase seems to have worked wonders. With an expanding base of original and informative content – including a new podcast series, industry Q&As, regular game jams via Side Quest, and a free online platform for connecting youth organisations with the UK games industry (the Video Game Ambassadors) – they’re firing on all cylinders to ensure that the video game industry is accessible like never before.

“We started doing live Twitter Q&As with industry professionals. We’ve now got an amazing database, just from asking people to be available for half an hour to answer questions from people looking to get into similar careers,” says Millicent.

“It is so valuable for young people to be able to ask questions directly to their favourite artists and designers.” Allowing young people to ask questions and receive honest and transparent answers will surely work wonders for the next generation of game development. Couple that with the pathways for every industry role being mapped out on the Into Games website, and you can really begin to see the value in this free resource.

“Guidance and information are Into Games’ founding principles. There’s so many young people who maybe wouldn’t usually get involved in projects, who become really engaged once they learn there’s more than just programming roles out there. When kids realise they want to be a level designer or work in marketing for games, it is a really cool feeling knowing you helped them come to that realisation,” adds Brandon.

The reactive nature of filling a specific niche is something this small and remote team excels at. Despite global lockdown affecting a large portion of the industry, with most events postponed or cancelled, a digital offering has actually streamlined the Into Games process.

“Our work is in a better place because others have moved in-line with us. More often than not we’ve found that remote engagement is better as it is so easy for anyone to get involved and just have it sat there whilst they get on with the rest of their day, like our Into Games Mentorship program which runs over Slack,” states Brandon. Their Into Games Mentorship program has been an incredible success. Seeing a number of mentees go on to exciting positions within the industry.

A more remote studio culture also provided Into Games with an opportunity. “For Side Quest, we decided that there were a lot of digital tools out there that we could be using, with a huge network of people who had committed their time to supporting social impact projects and who could now do that more easily. It has been really great to work with the industry more, as well as being a fantastic tool for schools and colleges to use as a regular game jam platform. It has informed some of the future projects we have planned for sure.”

You’ll be able to listen to the full conversation with Brandon Cole and Millicent Thomas in an upcoming episode of the Aardvark Swift Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, third party apps, and the aswift.com website.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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