UK games biz demands closer ties with academia
But wants someone else to make it happen
UK videogame industry leaders have demanded greater ties between business and academia to ensure that Britain's games developers remain globally competitive. But will any of them step forward to foster the relationship?
At games industry conference the Westminster Media Forum, held in London this week, Mary Matthews, Strategy and Business Development Director at game developer Blitz, said that ineffective training is holding the industry back.
“We can’t do what we want to do because we can’t find the right people,” she said.
Yet, acording to Kate O’Connor, Executive Director of Policy and Development at Skillset, an industry body for skills and training, UK universities already offer 80 videogame-related degree courses. None have any industry recognition, however.
Paul Harris, Professor of Screen Media at the University of Abertay, Dundee, agreed that accreditation by game design firms is crucial. He said it is the best way for universities to ensure that students’ skills match firms’ requirements.
Matthews also called for a similar frequent refreshment of the curriculum.
Matthews has other ideas too, such as recruiting potential game designers from the age of 14. In her view, this would help kids establish much earlier a link between enjoying games and developing them, thus steering more designers into the industry.
However, no one appears willing to take responsibility for the proposals. Instead, both industry and academia are hoping the government will do the job for them.
Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, said at the conference: “The games industry must do more to encourage students to choose the right qualifications [for videogame design], such as maths and physics.”
The government, she said, also has plans in the pipeline to create of centres of excellence for videogame development where gaming brains could unite to develop the next smash hit.
erm... maths and physics?
Only a small portion of games talent is in the enginerering side of things.
Most of the glamourous games (ie the ones that will inspire kids) place most of their emphasis on art and design work. Even the most inovative of physics driven games has a comparatively small core of maths/physics majors, and using libraries like havoc reduce the level of education that is required.
In contrast, there are huge swathes of artists devoted to filling the in-game world with content - buildings, furniture, cars, bad guys etc - and thats before you get into the realms of character design, animation and so on.
The first glimpse of game design these kids see is the level editors that ship with games. It does not require a degree or even an a-level in "sciences" to build a decent level, it does however, require a fair deal of artistry and knowledge of level design to turn a floor plan idea into something playable.
So basically, unless students are going to take knowledge and education to the extremes, which few have the ability or the inclination to do, their prospects are much better by "picking the low hanging fruit" and becoming artists.
As an (extreme) example, people with degrees in optics (to write top end shaders) or can do advanced assembly on mulptipe intruction sets (to squeeze the greatest fps, or to port libraries to consoles), are likely to be found trying to get a job at pixar et al given how much that kind of education will have cost them.
To be fair, a minimum level af maths would be hand as regardy to basic geometry, but thats gcse stuff... its not exactly going to fill undergratuate maths courses up and down the country...