The National Videogame Museum (NVM) in Sheffield has proudly posted record visitor numbers over the past two weeks, as it launched its family-friendly summer programme, Summer of Buttons.
Since opening for the Summer holidays on 24th July, the NVM has welcomed nearly 2,500 visitors to play and learn about videogame history. This has been an unprecedented success, as visitors from across Yorkshire and the UK have converged in Sheffield to celebrate videogame culture.
Since launching in November 2018, the museum has welcomed over 25,000 visitors, and attracted national attention as the UK’s home of videogame culture. This is the museum’s first family-friendly summer season, and has currently exceeded expectations in terms of visitor numbers and positive feedback.
The Summer programme has been a hit so far, with guests enjoying new exhibits such as 4-Player Pac-Man, which is a bespoke version of the arcade classic made to be played by a team, and the Button Bash Bundle, which has seen guests vying to set the fastest time in various athletic-based videogames. The NVM has also successfully launched an exhibit dedicated to showcasing how videogames are becoming accessible for those with physical disabilities, that has been created in conjunction with the world-leading charity Special Effect.
Alongside the well-received exhibits listed above, guests have also been able to Build-a-Button in guided workshops where they have made their own gaming input from scratch, and then used that in dedicated games set up to play.
Conor Clarke, Marketing and Communications Manager for the NVM, said: “There has been a bit of negative discussion relating to videogames recently, which has only reaffirmed our mission to create an accessible and inclusive space for those who love videogames. That we’re currently busier than we’ve ever been demonstrates that the public is eager to learn about videogame culture, and discover the educational and cultural value of games.”
The Games Education Summit hosted over 100 educators, games studios and 3rd sector organisations in a unique series of talks that convened leaders in games and education to talk about the state of games education. In parallel to the Summit, the BGI ran a survey to get the latest data on games education. Here are the results.
From Further to Higher Education
Educators from 39 FE and HE institutions reported that they ran a total of 125 courses, yielding an average of 3.2 / institution. 70% of the institutions ran courses at HE level only, while 15% ran courses in both HE and FE, and 15% in FE alone. 54% expected the number of courses to stay the same in 2020, while 41% anticipated more courses will launch and 5% expected fewer courses.
Respondents reported 268 lecturers on their courses, an average of 7 per institution. 59% expected the number of lecturers to stay the same in 2020, while 33% anticipated more lecturers and 8% expected fewer lecturers.
Nearly 7,000 students at just 39 institutions These institutions reported a total of 6,695 students currently studying on their courses, an average of 172 / course. We note that 8 organisations had 300 or more students, which skews the average significantly higher. Educators were asked to project their total students in 2019 and results suggest that their student body will be slightly smaller in 2019 in comparison to 2018.
Student body diversity
An average of 14% of responding institutions’ 2018 student intake was female, and 64% of educators thought that this would stay the same next year, while 31% expected the number of females to increase and 5% the number to decline.
An average of 17% of responding institutions’ 2018 student intake was black, Asian and minority ethnic, but we note that 24% did not know or record this data.
Educators’ biggest challenges were, in order of priority, time / workload, lack of studio placements for students, institutional pressures, lack of industry engagement, poor quality of intake and lack of diversity in intake.
66% of educators reported they are mostly confident that they are teaching what industry wants. 24% are confident and 10% are unsure.
An average of 35% of educator respondents’ graduates found jobs in established games companies while an average of 6% of graduates established games start-ups. 39% of graduates found jobs in similar industries.
Industry collaboration with educators Educators reported 256 visiting speakers from industry last year, an average of 7 per institution. 79% of educators would like more speakers from industry, 18% wanted the same and 3% wanted fewer speakers.
When asked how educators could assist games studios, the most popular responses from all respondents were to work more closely with industry (67%), deliver better qualified graduates (50%), contribute to games in production (31%), collaborate on coursework (22%) and work on prototypes (22%).
When asked how studios could assist FE/HE institutions, the most popular responses were to give advice on course content (50%), provide more placements (28%), give lectures (25%), critique work from summer shows (17%) and invite students to visit studios (11%).
Games Education Summit
When asked what they wanted the Games Education Summit to achieve, 61% wanted to network and bridge the gap between educators and studios, 28% wanted FE/HE to gain a better understanding of what skills industry requires from graduates, 25% wanted industry to support and understand FE/HE institutions more and 14% wanted the sharing of best practice.
Sheffield, 27th May, 2019: The BGI is now an educational charity and has revealed its mission and programmes.
The new charity’s goals are to educate the public about the art, science, history and technology of games through the National Videogame Museum, educational programmes and formal research. The BGI is the first charity dedicated to games culture in the UK.
The National Videogame Museum lies at the heart of the BGI’s plans in Sheffield. This includes a busy summer schedule of exhibitions and events at the galleries, before Japanese games luminaries including Masayuki Uemura, former head of R&D at Nintendo, visit to give talks at the Museum. The Pixelheads education programme is also expanding into Yorkshire with the help of the Arts Council of England, Learn Sheffield and Sheffield City Council.
Following the launch of the Games Education Summit in April, the BGI is launching its first FutureLearn course, How to Start your Career in Games Development, developed with assistance from Sumo Digital, Square Enix and Aardvark Swift.
BGI has also opened offices at the University of Nottingham. The Nottingham team will work on educational and cultural initiatives, develop games festivals and other cultural events around the country and extend its formal research into games culture. The team’s ninth publication on games heritage preservation and curation is expected to be published late in 2019.
Ian Livingstone CBE, Chair of BGI Trustees, said: “We’re delighted that the unique work conducted by BGI programmes such as the National Videogame Museum and Pixelheads has been recognised by the Charity Commission. This is timely validation for all the hard work in championing games culture that our small but growing team has been doing in the Museum. I invite anyone who cares about the cultural life of video games to join us and support this amazing project with content, evangelism and funding to help expand the programme in the years to come.”
Claire Boissiere, Vice Chair of BGI Trustees, said: “This is a really exciting time for the BGI. Successfully registering as a charity enables us to grow our range of programmes and partner with a much wider group of organisations interested in culture, skills, diversity and sustainability.”
The BGI and Bath Spa University have won Research Council funding to start a new games heritage preservation project that builds ties between Japan and the UK to preserve games heritage.
The project brings together Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Bath Spa University and the National Videogame Museum (NVM) in Sheffield to identify and share best practice in game preservation, curation and exhibition. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
A series of collaborations, visits and research starts in May 2019, when the BGI’s Head of Collections Professor James Newman and NVM Director of Culture Iain Simons visit Kyoto, before leading Japanese videogames heritage academics, including the legendary Japanese hardware designer Masayuki Uemura, former head of R&D at Nintendo, visit the UK later in the summer.
The work brings together experts from some of the world’s leading videogames heritage preservation institutions to map the preservation of ‘at risk’ videogames material, identify the latest innovations in the curation and exhibition of videogames and investigate solutions to legal, technical and infrastructural impediments to their preservation and exhibition. A parallel series of events and lectures are planned in both countries before articles are published in journals in early 2020.
The project is a step towards a large-scale exhibition with the NVM in 2020 that will foreground the underrepresented histories of UK and Japanese game development, culture and practice, including the decades of interactions and flows of talent and creativity between these two pioneers and key players in videogaming.
James Newman, Professor of Digital Media at Bath Spa University, said “Videogames are a vital part of contemporary popular culture but they’re in danger of disappearing. As old systems and storage media fail, we run the risk of losing access to games forever so it’s essential that we take steps to preserve them for future generations of players, gamemakers and researchers. Working with the National Videogame Museum and Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies ensures that the project brings together world-leading institutions in the field and allows us to take a truly international approach to the challenges of game preservation, interpretation and exhibition.”
Iain Simons, Director of Culture for the BGI and NVM, said “We’re honoured to be working on this new research project, hoping to add to the knowledge and best-practise of museums around the World through this exciting collaboration. The NVM is an international institution and has enjoyed a long relationship with our esteemed colleagues in Ritsumeikan University as well as colleagues from around the World. Videogames are a global culture, so it’s right that videogame interpretation and preservation is a global effort. We’re excited to be playing our part!”
On April 17th game dev students, challenge participants and finalists, academics, studio representatives and industry heavyweights all descended on Sheffield for one of the UK’s biggest student-oriented game development events, the Search For A Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star Finals Day, created and run by Grads in Games.
The Search For A Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star finals day was held in conjunction with the returning Grads in Games Awards at Sheffield Hallam University and The National Videogame Museum. The full day conference and evening awards ceremony was a free event for all those interested in the gaming industry as a career, especially students currently studying towards that goal.
Attendees were treated to a range of well received talks by industry professionals Phil Owen – d3t, Jason Avent – TT Odyssey, Tara Saunders – Sony Interactive, Philip Oliver – Game Dragons, and an insightful open forum Q&A with a panel of industry professionals finishing their first year of employment as game devs.
Running alongside the industry talks and academic round table was a careers expo featuring stands and representatives from some of the UK’s most prominent and growing studios, including Sumo Digital, TT Odyssey, d3t, nDreams, Wargaming UK and Bulkhead Interactive, providing advice, guidance and discussing opportunities with game dev students throughout the day. The Grads in Games consultants were also on hand to offer support and information to games dev students about entering the games industry. Visitors also had a chance to don a VR headset and play the incredibly fun Shooty Fruity from nDreams.
Whilst visitors to finals day were making the most of the industry talks and studio expo, Grads in Games hosted an academic round table between studio representatives and games educators. Providing studios and academics with the opportunity to get together and discuss face to face how best to prepare and educate game dev students for a career in the industry. The round table was a great success, with all participants positive about the discussions held over the afternoon session.
For the thirty Search For A Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star finalists the day also included the last stage of the game dev challenge, an interview with industry experts from their chosen discipline; programming, character art, environment art, VFX and animation. Following the interview process the industry judges retired to determine the winner of each category based on both the strength of the work created for the game dev challenge and the finalist’s interview performance.
Once the day’s activities were complete it was the time to move to The National Videogame Museum for the evening’s award ceremonies. Attendees had the museum to themselves for the whole evening and made the most the opportunity to play on over 60 interactive exhibits at the museum, from classics such as Sonic and Duck Hunt to original games, unique to the museum.
The Grads in Games awards ceremony kicked off the evening with awards going to universities, academics, studios and students who are actively working to improve the links between students and the gaming industry. Nominated by their peers, the shortlists were full of worthy candidates, this year’s winners were:
Academic Award – Matthew Novak, University of Huddersfield.
Best Educational Institution – Breda University of Applied Sciences.
Student Hero – Helen Andrzejowska, Ellie Brown, Zachray Cundall (Ocean Spark Studios), University of Huddersfield.
Core Tech Programmer (sponsored by d3t) – John Green, University of Central Lancashire.
Technical Artist – Bailey Martin, Solent University.
Student Game Award (sponsored by Epic Games) – En Garde! from Rubika Supinfogame.
Industry Collaboration – Sheffield Hallam and Sony/PlayStation First.
To find out more about the winners of the 2019 Grads in Games Awards click here.
Next up and rounding off the day’s events was the Search for a Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star winner’s ceremony. After months of hard work and extracurricular effort it was time for the finalists to find out who had triumphed this year:
Search For A Star Games Programming – Nick Pearson, University of Bristol.
Sumo Digital Rising Star Games Programming – Tahar Meijs, Breda University of Applied Sciences.
Search For A Star Environment Art – Jimmy Ghysens, Howest DAE.
Sumo Digital Rising Star Environment Art – Reece Parrinder, University of Huddersfield.
Search For A Star Character Art – Ellie Brown, University of Huddersfield.
Sumo Digital Rising Star Character Art – Melissa Hamer, University of Huddersfield.
Search For A Star Games VFX – Kidman Lee, University of Hertfordshire.
Search For A Star / Sumo Digital Rising Star Games Animation – Maciej Osuch, Escape Studios / Pearson College.
For more information on each of the 2019 Search For A Star & Sumo Digital Rising Star winners click here.
The GamesEd19 conference closed today with a succession of spirited discussions about the state of games education involving over 100 games universities, studios and 3rd sector organisations.
The Summit was generously supported by Epic Games, Sheffield Hallam University, Grads in Games, Kollider, Staffordshire University and Aim Awards, and was organised by the BGI with pivotal assistance from BGI Advisory Board member Philip Oliver from GameDragons.
Delegates from over 50 different universities and further education colleges, more than 30 studios and other related organisations such as recruiters and non-profits debated how industry engages with educators, how educators prepare students for working in games studios, the need for greater diversity amongst students, lecturers and developers, and the strategic requirements for bridging the gap between industry and education
The Summit featured practical case studies of how industry worked with educators to create Level 3 diplomas and apprenticeships.
Ian Livingstone CBE, Dr. Jake Habgood from Sheffield Hallam University, Mike Gamble from Epic Games and Dr Chris Lowthorpe from the London College of Communication gave keynotes.
Feedback from delegates on the inaugural event was positive and constructive, with many, including a new working group focused on practical outputs and new programmes, looking forward to the 2020 Summit which will take place in April 2020.
The BGI would like to thank all attendees, panelists and moderators for their input and vigorous discussions.
Please see a picture below of our keynote discussion from Ian Livingstone.
BGI has announced a new course on the FutureLearn social learning platform that trains those wishing to start careers in games development.
4 developers from Sumo Digital and Square Enix share their experiences of starting their games careers, describing how they applied, prepared, interviewed and then started a career in videogames.
Claire Boissiere from Harbee Studios, Kath Bidwell from State of Play, Ian Goodall from Aardvark Swift, Karen Mcloughlin from Sumo Digital and Ed Perkins from Square Enix share expert advice on what they look for in candidates and what to expect in the job application process.
Through videos, discussions, tools, quizzes, peer reviews and articles, the course will cover a multitude of different aspects in preparing for a career in videogames. These include: the technical and interpersonal skills used in studios; how learners can map their skills to those listed in job applications; how studios assess job applications; how learners can demonstrate potential in CVs, cover letters and interviews; what to expect from games interviews and how to prepare for them.
The course has been designed by the BGI with advice from recruitment and production specialists to help prepare people to start careers in games development. It will be hosted by Narrative Designer and Journalist, Chella Ramanam.
Rick Gibson, BGI CEO: “Thousands of people are studying games development degree courses hoping to start exciting careers in games development. We want to help them, by using the first hand experience of developers who recently started their games careers, tempered with the advice from senior producers, studio heads and recruiters who kindly lent their time and advice for the production. We’re delighted to be partnering with FutureLearn, whose powerful online social learning platform is ideally suited to delivering this course.”
Enrollment opens at bit.ly/gamescareercourse at 1400 on Monday 15th April, and the first course starts on 27th May 2019.
The course is free to join, with completion certificates and unlimited access to the course materials available for £42.
Rick wrote the following article for the women in games campaign, which launched yesterday.
Over 20 years, I’ve watched the games sector change beyond recognition, apart from the gender profile in our developers, which is changing excruciatingly slowly by comparison. The sector is missing opportunities in audience, creative and economic potential from a more diverse workforce, but a concerted push by multiple agencies could trigger real, meaningful change.
Both men and women are gamers
The old stereotype – that games are played exclusively by young males – died two decades ago. Today, players’ genders reflect the general population in the West, yet the people who make games in British companies are still overwhelmingly male. If your developers reflect your audience, you’re more likely to deliver something your audience will enjoy.
Monocultures destroy creativity, damage staff retention and make staff less productive. They should be anathema to a creative industry that thrives on ideas. Diverse teams create better products from more sources of inspiration, contrasting viewpoints and stronger, broader ideas.
Financial gains for diverse companies
Diverse companies also perform better economically than non-diverse companies. A recent study found that companies with diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to have above-average profits. Simply put, companies become more viable, sustainable and profitable with diverse teams and boards.
Supply limits demand
Studios often do hire in their own image but they’re at the end of a long supply chain that starts young and is, whether inadvertently or not, filtering out more diverse candidates from an early age. Fewer girls learn to code than boys. More females drop STEM subjects at GCSE, which leads to fewer female candidates taking games diplomas and fewer studying games development at university, despite unprecedented growth in such courses in recent years. Too few female candidates make studios’ shortlists and so change stalls.
Get in early to encourage women and girls into gaming careers
What to do about it? Berating the games sector for not being diverse hasn’t worked. To tackle this intractable problem, you have to start young, at the beginning of that talent supply chain. If young females are not shown the potential of a career in games at an early age, then they won’t choose foundation subjects to build careers in games. Inspirational programmes such as Women in Games’ Ambassador programme are leading the way.
Work together to improve the visibility of opportunities
The games sector has a range of educational programmes like our Pixelheads after-school clubs and National Videogame Museum, Digital Schoolhouse, NextGen Skills Academy, TIGA university accreditation, our training programmes and Women in Games’ other programmes. They’re great, but mostly underfunded and badly signposted, which makes it difficult for young females to navigate a career path into games.
We’re working with many of these programmes plus leading further/higher education partners to collaborate and coordinate a new pan-sector initiative to tackle this deep-rooted problem through all of our programmes. There are signs that industry is getting the message and ready to change. A concerted approach from all the third sector organisations can have major impact on improving the supply of talented young women into games companies.
The BGI is proud to support the launch of the Women in Games campaign, which is driving home the message about the need for more diversity in games studios in the UK and is supported by our friends at TIGA and Ukie.
Thanks to MediaPlanet for organising the campaign, which we will be promoting at the National Videogame Museum, at the Games Education Summit 2019 and online.