Think Professional

After two years of studying Classical Literature, Philosophy and Ancient History life’s path has now steered to a BSc in Computer Games Technology. The reactions from this vary but those who have an understanding of the industry often seem pleased.

The Video Games Industry requires artists, directors, producers, musicians, actors, animators, programmers and a whole lot more people to produce even the most basic modern video game. Because of this all walks of life are welcome and even more: needed.

So upon entry to Portsmouth University for the renowned “Freshers Week”, which all students are subjected to, the course was indeed greeted with a vast quantity of unique individuals. Perhaps more cynical people would expect an all-male cohort whose square eyes and gaunt faces remained hidden beneath an inconceivable amount of spots; yet the ratio of average people to basement dwellers was 1:0. Not only a surprising amount of extroverts crossed the first lecture room but those who were less predisposed to speaking opened up as they recognized the company they now kept were all together because of one huge cultural and magnificent artistic case-study: The Video Game.

The lecturers reflected this as well. Each one unique and entertaining but most importantly brimming with knowledge and experience.

To start us off we were given an introductory talk, much like the one we all faced in the open evening months before, were run through the mildly amusing health and safety animation and then immediately put on the spot for a vote on who should become a student representative for the next 3 years.

A lot of shuffling and uncertainty later some stood up to then give a 1 minute speech as to why they should be a student representative, largely without knowing what this entailed. This isn’t entirely the point though. Immediately each lecturer could see who was looking to push themselves. Luckily my instinct didn’t ground me to my seat and perhaps due to the fact that I was among the first 3 speakers, with whom most people had exhausted their 2 votes before reaching the other 17 applicants, the representative torch was handed onto me. This has already opened doors and given me face with the lecturers. If your university has a student representative feature take into account what one teacher said: “We’ve just found out who has the balls to stand up and try”.

Once the initial shock of being signed up to meetings for three years subsided we were all reinvigorated by the potential work on an exciting secret in University project. It involves making a large game for a certain console. A project which any course member can put a hand in wherever needed. This kind of activity is considered vital for building your all-important portfolio of work. Sadly, much like the acting industry which had inspired me prior to my investment in classical literature, to get experience you need experience and therefore this is what University can provide. It is often argued within the industry that a degree in Computer Games is pointless but many others would disagree providing the counter-argument that actually within the degree you’re supported to build your portfolio and are not entirely self-reliant from the get-go and instead have time to learn safely so that when you finally make it into industry you are ready to step out alone without being abruptly crushed.

We were also told that what is important is to “Think Professional”. According to the lecturers we are now, or should perhaps consider ourselves, professional. Maybe flattery but with this hard-as-nails life path it could be essential. Morale will be key in maintaining our course. To show us how professional professional really is we were all given access the GDC Vault (Game Developers Conference) where professionals are provided professional advice by professionals through professionally run conferences.

A problem may be that there are 1400 creative technologies students overall and 140 of which are Computer Games Technology/Computer Games Enterprise. That’s a lot of competition being taught the same thing. So despite there being a new wave of professionals in the field one could create a portfolio from home and show their dedication to their art in other ways, possibly verifying the concept that a degree in Computer Games is pointless.

A point worth of note is the value for money in doing this course. Consider the comparison between a £9000 degree in Philosophy and a £9000 degree in Computer Games Technology. In Philosophy you’re still paying for your text books and running the course mostly off powerpoint slides. In CGT you are sitting continuous workshops, provided with state of the art software, given access to the highest gaming, art and simulation technology all available for hire. It is likely you’d spend more hiring out the Motion Capture Suite (Which any student has access to when booked) for a month than you would on the entire degree. So if you use what is provided then there should be no regrets on your expenditure!

The second lecture of the day took place in a large lecture theatre a-top the Eldon Building, where the majority of your Creative Technologies’ time will be spent. In here we were given another chat with similar information but all important. For those interested in other languages you can use the Institution Wide Language Program to add another tongue to your degree or if you need to re-take any units there is a set period available to you.

There was a myth debunked. A strange myth which pops up now and again about your independence. You are an independent learner but despite that you will be chased if you miss lectures consistently. Moral of the story, don’t miss lectures!

Perhaps the most exciting part of this week?

The moment when after your second lecture of the first day your lecturer takes a group of you out to the pub. The story begins with a small group had already formed and one of the Computer Games Enterprise leaders found us all chatting enthusiastically. Without a second thought we were down at Portsmouth’s “Fleet” eating burgers talking about life, the industry and everything. It is actually something that was initially common but it became over-crowded and they need to find a way to balance it. As a student representative it has already been set as my task to rejuvenate this activity. It was thrilling and gave everyone in that group an immediate passion for the course. We are all ready, willing and able and also closer between each other. To think also that others have not come back with such a story it makes Computer Games Technology, with its expected introverts, appear in a entirely new light.

The “ice-breaker” was given the next day. In a short 20 minute lecture. We were to get into groups and pitch a game to the rest. Gulps aside it was much fun. As stated many of us had become close already so our group worked efficiently. All the groups parted with a sense of competition and nerves. This is also perhaps the best ice-breaker I’ve seen in my school career. Another highlight was that having been set the 10:00 slot for our lecture a brave student queried for 10:30 to which the lecturers accepted without question. Both points were celebrated with much clamour and great cheer. There was already a growing atmosphere.

After a day off we were greeted with the class awaiting our pitches. We pitched our 1v1 exoskeleton face-off game to relative success in the “who would buy” department and seemed to please the lecturers. It seems competition would be rife however as Dragon Simulator, a philosophical exploration about a high-school ghost and best of all the job simulator took the stage. Job simulator was to be one of those games everyone wanted to play, even if it were for a couple of minutes. A videogame for VR in which you play the most accomplished worker in the business. You’ve obtained all the accolades and been the employee of the month every time for the last 8 years. Unfortunately… You’re bored. So you now must do whatever it takes to get you fired. Many of the pitches remain far-fetched in their inventiveness however this stuck to the possibilities of the technology. It also recognised where it was obviously taking its inspiration. An important point that the lecturer’s continue to bring up:

Plagiarising is the single worst thing you can do. You must give credit wherever it is due and also given in the appropriate format. This is the same with any degree yet with Computer Games Technology there are potholes not just in essays but in assets ranging from music to programming.

The final warning is to include everyone, at least for this first week. To much oooing and ahhhing one group had only one speaker, who was rather self-assured, to which the question at the end from another student was “Are you the only one in the group capable of speaking”.

In conclusion?

This is still only week one but what a week it was. Not just for the living experience but actually due to the course.

Next week things get even more interesting. Life drawing and Programming awaits!