Last week, Thumbstar travelled down to Rotherham for the first ‘Games Britannia’ festival. Games Britannia is a festival held in the enormous MAGNA Science and Adventure centre in Rotherham and is aimed at getting children interested in technology and computing.
For 7 days the MAGNA centre played host to design and computing workshops, art displays, talks from games industry veterans and an unbelievable array of consoles both old and new.
We had a fantastic time educating kids, mentoring in the ‘Monty Mole’ competition, holding Game Design workshops, witnessing Guinness World Records being set and even managed to find ourselves in front of the cameras for Blue Peter!
Our Design Workshops shied away from computer software and instead used more traditional tools – such as Lego, plasticine, pens, paper – even marshmallows and dried spaghetti!
Even though it doesn’t sound like games design, it encompasses all of the experiences we go through in the industry – teamwork, problem solving, design, experimentation, evolution, allocating tasks and taking on roles – breaking things and having to rebuild them several times over!
We met with a lot of budding game developers, young and old and we've answered some of your questions from the event here.
My young son/daughter wants to get into Programming but isn’t sure how?
We’re very lucky to live in a day and age where there is a plethora of free, legal software at our fingertips. Packages like Gamemaker (created by fellow Games Britannia attendee JakeHabgood) allow for game creation without any code (unless you fancy adding some in) – perfect for a first taste of game development. Most software packages offer free trials or ‘lite’ versions before any commitment to buying.
The industry also finds itself in exciting times with the introduction of the smallest PC, the Raspberry Pi – well worth a look!
What qualifications do you need to get a job as a programmer in the games industry?
Developers in the games industry come from all walks of life. Some have formal qualifications such as BA/BSc/Masters and others don’t – everyone is different!
Studying subjects like Maths and Science often form a core part of a programmer’s education and in Further Education traditional subjects such as Maths and Physics combined with Computer Science are an excellent avenue to consider.
What Software is useful to learn for a career in the games industry?
For the three main disciplines there are quite a lot of options to experiment with:
- Construct 2
- Kodu (Available on Web and also Xbox 360)
- Unreal Engine
- XNA studio (More Advanced knowledge needed)
- 3ds Max
- Photoshop/Photoshop Elements
- Gamemaker or Construct 2 (for rapid prototyping of ideas)
Software is an important part of games development but before you even open up an artistic software package, learning about art and picking up a pencil and sketchpad is far more important. A lot of game design is still made with paper and pens (as we demonstrated in our workshops!) and programming still involves reading through books and articles as much as it does writing code in computer software.
Any general hints and tips for getting into the Games Industry?
Network – get to events, meet with development staff and create contacts
Never give up – stay focussed and continue to try new ideas whilst refining old ones
A portfolio – Developers don’t want to see all your work, just your best. If that only represents 3 pieces of art, or 2 small little indie games then so be it!
Be mobile – Can you work in Australia? Could you start a job in Canada next week? The more flexible you are, the more opportunities you have.