TIGA recently hosted its second annual Best Practice in Games Education Conference, with winners of the TIGA Education Awards 2022 revealing how they have achieved excellence in their universities and Further Education courses, teaching and research, working with industry, and promoting diversity.
In addition to these educational institutions, the Conference saw speakers from award-winning games studios, including Creative Assembly, Rebellion and Airship Interactive.
Creative Assembly supported the TIGA Education Conference as sponsor, and the studio’s Director of Talent & Social Impact Emma Smith provided a talk on investing in education to help weather the storm of retention. She explained that a large part of her role is in building long, medium and current pipelines of talent to allow Creative Assembly to continue making great games for many years to come.
Highlighting Creative Assembly’s Legacy Project which sees the studio work closely with education, Smith revealed her belief in bringing young talent in at entry level. By investing in this talent, she explained, means that the studio is able to progress individuals as senior staff leave for new ventures – and, importantly, bring fresh ideas and creativity to teams.
She acknowledged that some studios are pessimistic about this approach, but pointed to a comment made by soccer pundit Alan Hansen on Match of the Day back in 1995, where he questioned Manchester United FC’s strategy. “You can’t win anything with kids,” he said at the time. The ‘kids’ that Sir Alex Ferguson fielded included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and more…
“If we are going to future-proof our industry, we actually need to embrace ‘winning with kids’,” said Smith. “If we invest in incredible talent via education now, we will be winning later on down the line.”
Nathan Dewell, Assistant Lecturer at Birmingham City University was next up, to talk about the organisation’s work to help students get ‘a foot in the door’. He stressed that industry collaboration with education is invaluable, including guest lecturers, internships, mentorship programmes, research partnerships and more.
The University is particularly proud of its Game Jams, which allow students to get immediate feedback on their projects from industry; and its Digital Media Technologies conferences which bring together students with speakers from games and other tech and media sectors.
Birmingham City University’s Associate Professor Carlo Harvey highlighted the organisation’s commitment to making students ‘industry-ready’. “We want to ensure our students are meeting skills and expectations of industry in their future roles,” he explained. “So, we engage industry partners proactively, provide advice on briefs and make sure that these really assess skills that are expected in specific roles.”
The subject of skillsets required in industry was examined further by Rebellion, with the session led by the studio’s Technical Director Anna Ljungberg. She asked some of the studio’s staff about the skills and qualities needed for a career in games. Teamwork and communication were highlighted, along with a solid understanding of C++ for those looking at coding.
They were also asked to give advice about breaking into the industry. Here are some snapshots of the guidance:
“Don’t give up. If you get rejected for a role, ask for feedback”
“Decide what you want to do and specialise in the area you’re passionate about”
“Take part in Game Jams and do freelance work if you can”
“Tailor your portfolio to the role you’re applying for”
Dr Mark Featherstone, Student Experience Lead at Sheffield Hallam University then discussed Project Based Learning versus Traditional Projects. He explained that Project Based Learning is done over a much longer period – and is more complex – which is driven by the student. This provides a more authentic feeling for the student.
The University’s Lecturer in Games and AI Luke Melville reiterated that collaboration with industry is vital for students to get ‘real world’ experience and gain connections.
Phil Asquif, Games Course Tutor at Leeds City University discussed how the organisation focuses on key areas of development for its students, covering skills building, a focus on their particular area of speciality, personal development and group projects. Asquif stressed that it’s important for students to get an idea of what is involved in all disciplines of games creation.
Thom Kaczmarek, Senior Lecturer in Games Design at the London College of Communication, University of Arts, plus Professor Chris Headleand, Head of Games Department at Staffordshire University also provided overviews of what their educational institutions are providing their students.
Finally, Vikki Freeman, Chief Strategy Officer at Airship Interactive, offered some insight into how the studio engages and develops talent in-house. This includes personal development time to work on personal projects; a ‘Lunch and Learn’ programme hosted by internal and external experts; a management pathway initiative; and offering grants and funding to those who wish to develop new skills, or hone existing ones.
“Whether it’s upskilling, or learning and development, there is a pathway for everybody, with access to resources,” she explained. “The results show in the quality of the work that Airship provides to the industry and industry leaders. It also shows in the contentment of our employees – they know they’re invested in, have a stable career path ahead of them, and have the support required to make their dreams happen.
TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson OBE said: “Excellence in education is the passport to success for studios, students and our entire sector. At TIGA we advance excellence in education by accrediting outstanding games courses, we celebrate excellence through our TIGA Games Education Awards, and we promote excellence in learning by bringing industry and education together through our events and conferences.
“Collectively, TIGA, education and industry believe that the future of our sector lies in nurturing new and existing talent. Events like the TIGA Education Conference can play a part in these collaborative efforts to support educational institutions and their students within the games talent ecosystem.”
Creative Assembly’s Director of Talent & Social Impact Emma Smith added: “The TIGA Best Practice in Games Education Conference is an invaluable forum for industry stakeholders to develop and maintain excellence in the UK’s academic landscape. We are proud to support the event as part of our award-winning Legacy Project outreach programme, which seeks to engage with educators, students and parents to create the career paths crucial to that goal – thanks to everyone who contributed to such a productive day.”