Student games initiatives provide technology professionals and companies with the opportunity to give something back to the industry, through sharing expert advice and specialist knowledge with participants and networking amongst other industry professionals, while also gaining access to the next generation of talent.
Cambridge is a great example of how internationally renowned games development companies can support student projects, and the future of the games industry. Often referred to as Silicon Fen, the city is a hotbed of technological advancement and home to a world leading digital creative hub, which employs over a thousand games industry professionals.
Many of the companies in Cambridge support projects like Brains Eden, held annually at Anglia Ruskin University. One of the largest student-only games festivals in the UK, Brains Eden attracts students from across Europe and has become an integral part of one of the most important and booming sectors of the economy. Events like Brains Eden provide industry professionals with the opportunity to handpick the next generation of talented game creators.
At the same time, Brains Eden gives university students the chance to experience a 48-hour games jam and put their programming and design skills to the test, while also becoming entrepreneurial thinkers; they’re required to design a product from start to finish and even pitch their ideas to renowned industry experts.
Mark Ogilvie, design director at Jagex Games Studio said: “I’ve been a fan of Brains Eden for years – the creativity that comes out of rapid development projects like this, plus the unadulterated, unbridled passion of students is a recipe for success. It is an honour to be involved in events like this; Jagex is delighted to be able to help nurture local talent and give something back to local projects, and to invest in the future of the games industry by doing so.”
Events like Brains Eden provide industry professionals with the opportunity to handpick the next generation of talented game creators.
Some of the leading games developers, such as PlayStation, are also actively targeting the next generation of developers at university level. Not only is PlayStation a passionate supporter of Brains Eden but the company runs its own Academic Development Programme, an academic licensing programme for universities and academic groups that want to use PlayStation development tools as part of a broader spectrum of further education provision.
“Meeting the best new talent is one of the key challenges in recruitment in the sector," said Mark Green, senior producer at the PlayStation-owned Guerrilla Games. "That’s why our PlayStation First Academic Programme and events like Brains Eden are so important; they give us the chance to meet some of the very, very best.”
But what about pre-university level? Across the UK, teachers are struggling to teach a Computer Science curriculum that will sufficiently inspire the next generation of would-be games developers. The current UK Computer Science curriculum in schools requires students to understand and practise software development processes, but what it doesn’t offer is insight into real life experiences of what the games, creative and digital industries have to offer.
So how are teachers and schools – which are often ‘behind the curve’ when it comes to technology compared to their students – going to be able to better deliver Computer Science learning opportunities? A key element of the solution is for industry to support schools and colleges in the delivery of Computer Science education – by investing in innovative and creative learning opportunities which inspire young learners.
The current UK Computer Science curriculum doesn’t offer students insight into real life experiences of what the games, creative and digital industries have to offer.
A new computer games initiative – Future Experience Points (FXP) – is a development competition and festival for school and college aged students, which is being piloted in Cambridgeshire this year and backed by major industry players and influencers such as ARM, Jagex, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge University Press, YoYo Games, Unity and Rizing Games.
Michael Warburton from Cambridge Regional College and Rizing Games said: “Events like Brains Eden and FXP offer students the chance to be around other like-minded games designers and developers across the region and, in some cases, the world. The chance for participants to have face to face interactions with industry mentors provides a unique opportunity to gain awareness of the skills and approaches required in developing games.”
Industry players working directly with schools and universities through initiatives like Brains Eden and FXP will prepare the games developers of tomorrow with not only the technical but also workplace skills that they need to succeed in the world of work, by giving participants the gold dust opportunity of direct industry mentoring.
If you would like to inspire the games developers of tomorrow and be involved with Brains Eden 2016 or FXP, contact Kathryn Ford via firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.brainseden.net or www.fxpfestival.com for more information.