How Creative Assembly wants to inspire the next generation of game devs… and their parents

Emma Smith leads Creative Assembly’s Legacy Project and sits on the Next Gen Skills Employer Steering Group. From playground to industry, the Legacy Project is the studio’s commitment to educating, inspiring and supporting the games development talent of tomorrow and promoting games as a power for good. As part of this work Creative Assembly has partnered with BAFTA and the East London Arts and Music Academy.

Since establishing the Legacy Project three years ago we’ve found that utilising our expertise to give real-life game dev experiences, and to dispel the myths around the games industry, are the most impactful actions we can take for inspiring the talent of tomorrow. Through our educational activities we hear a lot of feedback from school students. Perhaps it is not surprising that the perceived barriers include: ‘men find it easier to get jobs than women in this industry’ and ‘my mum tells me to get a real job’.

We actively engage with secondary schools (12 to 14 year olds) and offer workshops within our state-of-the-art studios in West Sussex. The format is simple but designed to inspire future career choices. Students are invited to use our motion capture studio to storyboard, direct, act and record animation sequences in teams, followed by a tour and the opportunity to hear from developers across a range of disciplines. We have focused on holding these experience days for mixed groups and girl-only groups to challenge misconceptions about diversity in the industry.

Students often start the day thinking our studio contains 20 (male) programmers who make up the entire studio. They leave with the knowledge that the industry is open to people from all backgrounds and that in Creative Assembly alone there are over 500 people from 34 nationalities.

Careers in the games industry have also been likened to achieving celebrity status. Worryingly, we heard from a parent that “getting a job in games is like getting through the X Factor.” Considering the industry hires over 20,000 people in the UK alone, this is a misconception we need to challenge both with students and parents.

Our aim is that every student, no matter their background, walks away from the day feeling the industry is accessible to them and something they could consider in the future. The most rewarding feedback is, of course, students who have chosen Computer Science and other relevant GCSE or A-Level subjects, motivated by the studio experience.

One student highlighted the very aspect we set out to achieve: “It has inspired me to take STEM subjects further because I have seen the type of jobs you can get when you take those subjects and the happiness of the employees”. Another noted: “The games industry is a very good industry because there’s such a range of different job opportunities and you can work your way up and get training so you are more skilled”.

We’re confident that we’ve created a quality model that focuses on addressing barriers preventing more young people studying STEM relevant subjects. In the future, we aim to expand on this, opening the offer to more schools and recreating the model for other areas of the games development process, such as sound design, which suffer from a skills shortage.

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