There can be no debating the potential growth of the games industry but the experienced talent pool is shrinking. Graduates are the salvation to recruiting for the next generation of games and education is trying to help by providing ready-made development staff by putting together games degrees and games design degrees.
But there will come a point soon where games degree students will over-saturate the market. There won't be enough jobs for entry-level graduates. This leads to the question: If a student qualified with a game degree cannot get a job in gaming, where will they work?
The natural transferability of a games degree into a different industry is not smooth. Graduating with a classical degree opens up more opportunities outside of the games industry.
The huge proliferation of games degrees and games design courses is a huge concern. One of the biggest growth areas is game design courses. We prefer that game design programs be done as a Masters level specialisation, on top of a traditional degree. There are very few opportunities for entry-level game designers anywhere in the industry and the best ones usually have a diverse background of education and project development.
Does a Games Academy or Centre for Excellence hold the key in providing polished graduates? There are many concerns. An average student is now 18,000 in debt. Are we really asking them to add to their time in education and build up more debts? Universities can provide a polished product and there may be no need to add extra education onto a degree when a graduate could benefit from learning live in a job and have the support of a companies' training scheme. Also, at the end of the Academy/Centre training, game companies will seek to cherry pick the perceived best students, leading to wage spiral.
So a games degree student is facing stiff competition for a job when they graduate – but there is another concern.
The UK industry is slipping in global league tables because other territories are offering very attractive investment propositions. Canada is the headline-grabber with the Quebec games subsidy meaning studios can claim up to 37.5 per cent of their creative staff's salaries after a year of business – and there's even a possible 40 per cent tax credit for research and development.
We have the talent pool to drive the global games business, but a level playing field and favourable economic conditions is what is needed. The challenge to the UK development community cannot be underestimated as newly-emerging development studios in Asia, particularly in China and India, compete for investment. And if great games are made there, the inevitable brain drain of talent follows.
So the million pound question is: If I wanted to set up a studio today, where would I locate it?
Despite the creativity of the UK, Canada, France or Asia would be seductive. That would leave the UK as a mere incubator for talent.
Graduates are vital to the growth of the industry. We have to be super-passionate to partner with academia to ensure that students not only get equipped with the best skills but they have the best possible chance of getting a job in a thriving industry which is heading into a golden age of gaming.