Gaming is a serious business.
The head of the trade organisation that represents the video games industry says the sector employs 11,000 developers in the UK alone (Europe’s gaming hot spot) and contributes over a billion pounds to the country’s GDP.
It’s a competitive industry and students studying Games Design and Digital Arts at the University of Cumbria have just experienced a taste of the kind of competition they will encounter after graduating.
As well as completing a series of tasks together with a dissertation and final show, they are set a particular challenge which tests their ability to meet a deadline as well as their creativity.
Called ‘Game Jam’, the aim is to devise a game from scratch - create characters, come up with an overall mission, a soundtrack and produce a working model.
In four days.
It sounds a tough call, especially when you consider it can take weeks alone to create a character from outline sketch to fully formed digital presence.
“The aim is to show how much you can achieve within four days,” says Hasson Iqbal-Butt, a final year digital arts student and member of the winning team. “We were able to create a fully functioning game in this time.”
They weren’t alone; another team also managed to meet the seemingly impossible challenge but Captain New Year's Resolution was judged the best and emerged as overall winner.
“The aim of the game is to guide a ship's captain down a rolling deck, avoiding rolling cannons and shots of rum to reach the wheel and take control of the ship,” says fellow team member Peter Achim. He and colleagues Libby Nixon and James Atkinson were recently inspired by a visit to the university by Pixar animator Michal Makarewicz who staged a two-day workshop specialising in characterisation.
Katy Little, course tutor at the university’s Brampton Road, Carlisle campus, says the standard of this year's competition was high.
“Each year we’re delighted at the quality and ambition of the students’ work. This year we had a tough decision to make as the quality of the submissions was so high. All the students who took part in Game Jam were incredibly ambitious, the range of skills required to produce a game is considerable; the fact that the students can produce work to such a professional standard is testament to their skill and dedication.”
The focus for the team now switches to their dissertation and a final showcase of their work to be held on June 5th. A selected number of graduates also attend the New Designers show in London in July to showcase the best of the degree show.
Praising the course for its limited places and relatively tranquil setting, students will be looking for opportunities in all kinds of careers, not just gaming. The experience at Cumbria, it’s hoped, will stand them in good stead.