Search For A Star, Sumo Digital Rising Star Finals Day & the Grads in Games Awards 2019

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:

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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.

Graduate Employer – Frontier Developments.

Graduate Impact – Megan Brown, Frontier Developments.

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:

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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.

Grads in Games would like to thank the finals day judges, their respective studios and all of the stage 1 and stage 2 assessors who have given their time, experience and expertise throughout the competition. The input of the judges and assessors is key to the success of the Search For A Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star challenges. As is the support of the partner studios and patrons, without which the initiatives wouldn’t be possible. Their support and belief in the Grads in Games initiatives, both the Search For A Star game dev challenges and the Get In The Game student careers events, shows the importance of running such activities. Thank you to Epic GamesSumo DigitalnDreamsBoss AlienTT Odysseyd3tRed Kite GamesFurious BeeFirespriteFirst Touch Games, Sheffield Hallam University & the National Videogame Museum.

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