Everybody who has had even a cursory glance at game degrees, whether they are technical, artistic or design based, knows that they come in for some abuse. You hear what can only be described as horror stories, people who have spent 3 or 4 years of their lives, racked up a large amount of debt, only to come out at the end with a piece of paper that not only doesn’t give them the skills to get into the Games Industry, but doesn’t give them the skills to get into any other kind of industry either.
Fortunately, not all of them are of the same quality, but with the general attitude towards them, its very difficult and daunting to try and find one that is not only worthwhile, but one which will benefit you if you find out the games industry isn’t the right industry for you.
SkillSet (or the ‘Sector Skills Council for Creative Media’) is a body that (amongst other things) works with Universities to monitor, recommend and guide course content, pushing it in a direction (if it isn’t there already!) that will provide students with the right skills, and experience, to enter the games industry and provide them with the talents to move into other industries if that’s where life takes them.
And it doesn’t work alone. Working with companies and individuals from the games industry and Universities it can constantly check and discuss what is being suggested, what is needed and how best to get the required skills to those that want them.
Accreditation is one of the main ways in which SkillSet is able to easily and clearly indicate that a University course is, for want of a better phrase, ‘fit for purpose’ and while it can be a hard process to get through it is something that really benefits the Universities in the short and long term.
Accreditation is a process in which Universities apply to SkillSet with a set of documentation that covers, amongst other things, the following.
- Course Content – Are they teaching what the industry wants. Advanced C++ and math, team work and development (source control tools, cross discipline development, leadership and teamwork skills) and console development spring to mind
- Equipment – When joining an industry that uses technology not available in any other industry, it helps if you have already experienced what it’s like developing for them. Platform holders are happy to work with Universities to provide equipment for their students to use, and they should have good exposure to it.
- Industry Involvement – Do they have guest speakers or work with companies to form their course content?
- Outcomes – How many of their students get roles in the industry when they graduate and what roles are they filling? Are they able to get jobs in other industries if they want to?
The documents that applicants complete are freely available here if you want to have a more detailed look.
Representatives from the Games Industry then take part in the accreditation process, reviewing the application content, and feeding back to SkillSet and the University before, if successful, moving onto a more detailed phase of presentations, visits and interviews.
And it should be stressed that it is these industry representatives, always from a development background, that have the final say.
There are currently 6 courses that are accredited (and I stress courses, as a University who’s Art track is accredited may not have it’s Tech track accredited) and you can easily find out the content of their courses to see why these have been given a big thumbs up from the Industry. Obviously as the process continues, gets more streamlined and improves, more courses will be added to this list, hopefully sometime this year and on a yearly basis after that…
I was originally going to end this post with a ‘what to look for’ and a ‘what to avoid’ paragraph for future students, but I want this to be about the work that SkillSet is doing, and how their process is not only useful, but is driven by the industry that is being fed into. There will always be discussions as to how to improve the process and it’s encouraging to see how many companies and individuals take part in these talks (on both the University and Industry side).
So if you are looking at going on a ‘Game Degree’ in the near future, make sure you check out the current list of accredited courses, and if you can’t get to one of those, examine the course content in detail to see how it compares or to see if they are in the process of being accredited. If you still can’t find the information you need, request more information from the University. They benefit from you being there to, so it needs to be a two way street before you even think of enrolling.