The HE sector has reacted to this recent expansion and now offers degree level courses aimed at providing undergraduates with skillsets necessary to obtain graduate level positions within games companies. However, the industry remains to be convinced of the suitability of graduates from these courses.
This has prompted discussions between industry and academia, and one study (TIGA, 2014) presents ideas for enhancing the relationship between universities and employers. A key conclusion is that companies want one critical thing from applicants besides their degree – a demonstration that they have made complete games. Quoting from the report: “There is nothing that shows a graduate can hit the ground running more than having completed and made available games project[s].” (TIGA, 2014, p. 6).
The University of Chester ensures every undergraduate who doesn’t otherwise secure work experience elsewhere to partake in experiential learning at the end of their second year – students are ‘employed’ by the Informatics Centre to work for seven weeks under conditions as close to real-world situations as possible. This practice is already well established for Computer Science (Kerins, 2011), but this year saw the first students on the Games Development course participating.
During the first two years of their course, the single consistent message from these students in their feedback was that they were concerned that whereas they would be academically prepared, they wouldn’t necessarily have all the skills and experience to secure employment within the games industry on graduation. This was reflected in those students finding it almost impossible to secure actual work placements – over 90% of the students entered our simulated version this year.
This led us to overhaul the method of implementation of the experiential learning module for those games development students. Using their input and that from a recently appointed games industry veteran to the academic staff, a number of realistic client briefs were created for those students to tackle. Each had the goal of creating a promotional game for that client, which contributed to students’ ongoing portfolios.
The students were expected to perform as if they were employed in a games company. This included the use of software version control; preparation and presentation of designs and progress reports; testing and bug tracking; creation of promotional materials; use of social media; and a full professional interaction with the client. Tutors presented some very real problems to the students during development, including a simulated power failure and data loss; mid-project specification changes; difficult client relationships; and feature creep.
Our presentation reviews and critiques this process, summarizes the feedback and reflective reports from both students and tutors, and analyses its relevance to entering the games industry. We also look at the ongoing process of those students acting to change aspects of this module for next year, as well as their own education as they enter their final year.
Kerins, J. (2011). Building a software development environment to enrich learning and enhance employability. Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences 10(1), 55-63. DOI: 10.11120/ital.2011.10010055
Mateos-Garcia, J., Bakhshi, H. & Lenel, M. (2014). A map of the UK games industry. London: NESTA. Retrieved 9 March, 2015 from http://www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/map_uk_games_industry_wv.pdf
TIGA (2014). Leap 2014 report. London: TIGA. Retrieved 25 March, 2015 from http://tiga.org/repository/documents/editorfiles/reports/tiga_leap_2014_report_final.pdf