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Aardvark Swift reflects on the lessons learned during the Launch conference in Birmingham

Personal development: Grads In Games at Launch 2014

“Learn from those around you.”

The key lessons behind the Grads In Games curated day at Launch Future Gaming & Digital Conference may not have been surprising to those already in the game industry, but to the students and graduates brought together at Innovation Birmingham, the messages were received loud and clear.

Opened with an inspirational introduction from games veteran Karl Hilton and with sessions presented by a team of a dozen industry professionals, students were treated to a full day of direct access to knowledge and experiences of their industry peers.

Covering everything from games careers advice through to detailed insights into life in the game industry, attendees were well-informed with a wealth of knowledge and guidance from top UK studios including Rare, Playground and Exient. With the core purpose being to increase the employability of graduates, this distribution of knowledge, awareness and information from seasoned game professionals was a huge benefit to all attending.

Kyle Jobson of Flix Interactive’s ‘Golden Rule’ of “Be humble, be calm” was clearly a familiar concept to all speakers. Studio heads, industry veterans and interns alike were all modest yet engaging, detailing their experiences and enthusiasm for the industry.

“Working in the industry is fantastic," says Richard Semmens of Rare. “You get to work on things that you can really invest yourself in and have a real impact on your games.”

Aardvark Swift’s Mark Hope reinforced the graduate employability aspect of the day with his Get In The Game presentation, currently touring over 60 UK universities – giving guidance on breaking into game development with information sourced directly from the industry. Along with the value of networking, emphasis was given to the need for a “kick-ass portfolio and CV”, favouring quality over quantity. One polished demo has a lot more weight with most employers than several unfinished projects.

“Have a specialisation," adds Iain Harrison of Birmingham’s Gamer Camp “It’s not about having lots of skills, it’s about having a wide understanding and a deep specialism in one key skill.”

The conference also incorporates the official awards ceremony for the 2014 Search For A Star and Rising Star competitions, Aardvark Swift’s annual challenge showcasing the talents of student programmers. This year’s Search For A Star was won by Shane Jennings of the University of York, and Rising Star won by Sam Parras of the University of Bristol.

After a tough three-stage competition involving a coding test, a game development project and an interview with a panel of their peers, both are very deserving winners and destined for success in the game industry – We’ll have a lot more details on the Search For A Star 2015 competition in next month’s blog!

“Networking!”

A key theme in several discussions was the importance of simply making connections in the industry; being able to network successfully is a massively valuable skill. Caitlin Goodale, currently interning with Lift London, says it’s vital to show that you are “An interesting, engaging and talented person to know".

Steer clear of cringe worthy actions such as “bringing your CV to the game devs pub meeting” and as Grant Orban of Playground Games added, “don’t lie” about your abilities either on your CV or to other developers – you’ll always get caught out.

In an open and honest final talk, Jason Fielder, CTO of Exient, brought the day to a fitting end by recapping one of core lessons of the day:

"It’s not a competition; work as a team and learn from others."

Thank you to all those at Launch Future Gaming & Digital Conference & Innovation Birmingham who made the day such a success, and to all the speakers for sharing their time and knowledge with the next generation of the game industry.

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