With the announcement that the Mayor of London has given his backing to a huge nine-day computer games festival later this year, it’s increasingly clear that gaming is big business. Last year the UK games industry generated some £2.8bn in revenue: more than film and music.
And as London positions itself as a world-leader in the field, there’s a constant demand for talented new designers, artists and developers.
Here at Goldsmiths, our MSc in Computer Games & Entertainment, and the newly introduced MA Computer Games Art & Design, have a hugely successful student employment rate.
In an average year, 100% of our postgraduate games students are already working or immediately find work in the industry when they graduate, snapped up by the likes of Sony, Rebellion, or BAFTA-winning indie studio roll7.
The Department of Computing’s impressive network of professional partners offering internship opportunities, experienced lecturers embedded in the industry, and top-quality teaching and facilities are ensuring the next generation of games developers – and those using gaming technology in other ways – is dominated by Goldsmiths graduates.
We caught up with some of our recent alumni to find out what they’re up to, and how their Goldsmiths experience shaped their careers.
Originally from Granada, 28-year old Juanmi was living in Switzerland, working as a programmer, before deciding on a change of career. He describes getting into the gaming industry as a “childhood dream”. Just a few months into his MSc Games Programming Course at Goldsmiths, it was one that came true: he was offered a job at independent British game developer Splash Damage.
“I’d previously studied computer science from a very theoretical point of view,” he explains. “So I really enjoyed Andy Thomason’s lectures at Goldsmiths – he helped me put all those concepts into practice, and realise how important some low-level elements of computers are.
“Andy once said that the only problem with theoretical computing is that there’s no theoretical computers. That’s a quote that comes with me wherever I go.”
Juanmi’s recently been working on Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Dirty Bomb, working in Splash Damage’s core-tech programmer team to achieve better performance. What tips does he have for landing a great job in the industry, other than a Goldsmiths degree?
“Knowledge. And trying to be nice!”
For Will Masek, a 2013 MSc Games Programming graduate, it was the success of friends who’d already taken a Goldsmiths MSc that encouraged him to apply - both had gone on to work for well-known games studios.
Will was also impressed with Goldsmiths’ dedicated computer lab for MSc games students: “I have many fond memories of working in that lab. I think I learnt nearly as much from my peers as I did from the lecturers,” he says.
He points out that while a Goldsmiths MSc is an excellent start – it’s “not a golden ticket to the games industry”: “The course is what you make of it and it’s up to you to fill the gaps in your skills and knowledge. Nobody will do it for you. But working together with your peers, you’ll learn a huge amount.”
During his MSc Will started an internship with one of Europe’s leading games developers, Rebellion Developments – the studio behind hit games like Sniper Elite 3, and the Zombie Army Trilogy. He went on to be hired as a full time employee, and is currently working as an AI programmer on an AAA game – the gaming industry’s equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster – for PCs and next-generation consoles.
“Game development is fascinating and it’s really worth working hard in order to get into the industry,” explains Artemis Tsouflidou, 29. Originally from Greece, she studied Computer Engineering Telecommunications and Networks at the University of Thessaly before joining Goldsmiths.
While studying here in 2014, Artemis applied for a number of internships, landing one at Sony where she’s now currently employed as a gameplay programmer, working on a virtual reality game for Playstation VR. “Try to develop yourself in every aspect possible,” she advises. “Be self-motivated and try to deepen your knowledge in programming and mathematics.”
(Graduates Artemis Tsouflidouand Juanmi Huertas)
26-year-old Stefana Ovesia, originally from Brasov Romania came to Goldsmiths after studying electronics at Transylvania University, where she specialised in both hardware and software. She graduates this February and is currently making mobile games for a company in the Midlands.
“After much research, I found the MSc Computer Games and Entertainment course at Goldsmiths – the description on Goldsmiths’ website alone had me sold. It suited me perfectly.
“I realised that I love software but I also want to work in a fun and creative environment. I decided to come to London because of its diversity and opportunities for software developers.”
Making the most of her time at Goldsmiths, Stefana took part in two game jams – marathon game development sessions that often last for days, and nights, at a time. “Jam, jam, and then jam some more,” she advises. “The experiences of a game jam, the memories and the titles you can add to your portfolio are priceless.”
“London is just the place to be for tech events. Get involved with anything games and IT related, make connections and get yourself noticed.”
Aldo Curtis, 22, was part of the Goldsmiths Computing team to win last year’s Ukie Game Jam - the second win in a row for Goldsmiths students in the annual competition. He’s now employed as a junior online programmer at Ubisoft Reflections, working on Tom Clancy’s The Division, an upcoming online, open world, third-person role-playing video game set in a New York devastated by pandemic.
Aldo studied for his BSc Games Programming at the School of Audio Engineering, before joining Goldsmiths for his Masters, attracted to the practical nature of the course. When Ubisoft visited the university to drum up interest in their new graduate scheme, Aldo took their programming test and was one of the top scorers. He signed up, went through their recruitment process, and ended up with a job.
“For those planning to study the programming side I would say, don’t be scared. Learn some C++ and consider it as just a tool to get your game behaving how you want,” he says. “As for the university experience? You miss a lot by not turning up to your lectures – much more than just the course content. You miss time with your classmates and the conversations and activities that are formed because of them. Attend as much as you can … you might be inspired.
Video games are one of the most compact and intense media we consume, a combination of cinematography, audio, writing, world-building, architecture, social studies and computational systems that make them accessible from so many educational avenues.
“But nothing is more necessary to a game than the programming at its core. If you want to make games, then learn some programming with whatever you’re doing. It’ll help you understand why video games are like they are, and will make you more appealing to companies to boot.”
This April, Games London arrives in the capital, backed by a £1.2m investment from the London Enterprise Panel. With a games exhibition at Somerset House, fringe events across the city, and a series of talks at the British Film Institute, Boris Johnson has offered his support for the initiative.
“London is already a star player when it comes to games and interactive entertainment, but international competition is fierce and we need to ensure our city can compete with our global gaming rivals,” the Mayor recently said.
As the dozens of highly-skilled, creative, and experienced Goldsmiths Computer Games graduates entering the industry each year can testify: it’s the perfect time to study for a degree.
Understanding virtual reality: a masterclass with Dave Ranyard takes place on Wednesday 6 April. Visit the Guardian website for more information and ticket booking.