Students had the chance to question a successful games designer during a recent Skype session. They learned about game development, marketing and merchandising, plus the range of careers options available to those who want to join the industry.
Daniel Gray developed the BAFTA winning game Monument Valley, which went to number one in the iTunes store. IT teacher Mr Chambers arranged the meeting after Mr Gray presented him with his own BAFTA last year. Mr Chambers said: ‘I asked for his contact details and some of my students were asking how they can get into the gaming industry so I emailed him and asked if he could talk to some of our students.’
During the Skype session Mr Gray told students about the development of Monument Valley: ‘My inspiration was what would it be like to make a game where the main character was actually the environment; that the main thing you interact with is the architecture. That was the start of Monument Valley. We were fans of the artist MC Escher and the idea of impossible architecture and geometry. We hadn’t seen any games that wanted to make the architecture the star of the show.’
During the session students also asked about copyright, pricing and merchandising on a global scale as well as the best game engine and programming language to use: ‘Unity is the main thing that is used to create games now. There are simpler tools but the more familiar somebody gets with Unity at a earlier age the better because it is a tool that is used in many professional, big-budget games. As it is so popular there are lots of tutorials online so if you have a problem trying to figure out something there will always be an answer online. It is a good place to start.
‘I did a degree in computer entertainment technology but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it because I learned a broad range of different things; I was a basic programmer, an OK artist. I was OK at everything, but I would much prefer someone who specialised in something, maybe an art or illustration degree or if they were into programming if they did a computer science course. Focus and concentrate on more classical degrees than games-focused degrees.’
He spoke about the structure of his studio and how larger studios have more specialised roles, for example some designers are only tasked with designing weaponry or working out the correct physics for creating realistic crashes in racing games: ‘The bigger the company the more detailed your job actually becomes. The options for how many jobs there are in computer games is endless depending on the size of the team. The last Assassin’s Creed game was made by 1,000 people so you can only imagine how detailed each one of those jobs was.
‘My job is the only thing I have wanted to do. I might work 10 to 13 hours a day but I do it because I love the work I do. The one thing you realise about working in video games is that every single person could earn more money working in a different industry but nobody does because they all care more about creativity than money. It is really nice to work around people who feel that way. Money shouldn’t drive your career, happiness should, so you should always follow the thing that will make you happy.’