Channel 4 Education Commissions, Six to Start

14 01 2008

Channel 4

Channel 4 have revealed a few things they’re commissioning for education in 2008, and overall they have an interesting focus:

The new commissions for 2008 – announced today – are part of the £6m educational budget for 14- to 19-year-olds which involves Channel 4 dropping much of its TV programming in favour of online projects.

It seems like a spot on approach to such a high-risk, unfamiliar environment as online.

Alice Taylor, the Channel 4 commissioning editor for education, said the broadcaster was not expecting every project to be a massive success.

“This is about flexibility and learning,” she added. “There are no hard and fast formulas we can trot out. We have to go out and experiment, figure out what works and do that next year.”

The piece also mentions Six To Start, who are certainly a company to watch. Among others, it was set up by Dan and Adrian Hon (formerly of Mind Candy), and they’ll be working with James Wallis. They make ARGs, but nothing we’ve seen from them so far has been a marketing tool.

Goldsmiths MSc in Games and Entertainment

3 07 2007

Geared to start the September, Goldsmiths University of London are offering an MSc in Computer Games and Entertainment.

This degree offers a unique curriculum for graduates and professionals from various fields who either want to enter the computer games and entertainment industries, or want to upgrade their present knowledge and skills on the basis of their experience in such industries.

The MSc is focused on advanced programming in C++, team work, new technologies (procedural procession, multicore platforms, and artificial intelligence in games, for example). It is directed and taught by experts in the games and entertainment industries (many faculty members have either run, funded companies, or worked in them), in research and development (in graphics, geometry, AI, hard-core processing), and visiting tutors who are actively involved in these industries. The programme integrates state-of-the-art technologies in its lab and course work (games engine and consoles, for example).

Skillset Fund Maya Effects Training at Escape Studios

19 06 2007

Aimed at film, Skillset are funding the entirety of tuition for students of VFX at Escape Studios. More details here:

Skillset has teamed up with Escape Studios to provide free training in film special effects on a course starting in September.

The Skillset Film Fund will pay for 100 per cent of the fees for new students applying for Escape Studios’ Maya for VFX Production course.

Games as Motivators

31 05 2007

IGDA: Speaking Out For Games. It’s a little ranty, but sketches out a case for games as a gateway for subjects that have lost appeal in recent years.

“If you really want to make games, you need to do well in math, science and English.”

Gym Class Revolution

2 05 2007

Dance Dance Revolution is projected to be in use in 1500 U.S. schools by 2010. The NYT reports:

D.D.R. has become a small craze among a generation of young Americans who appear less enamored of traditional team sports than their parents were and more amenable to the personal pursuits enabled by modern technology.

Incorporating D.D.R. into gym class is part of a general shift in physical education, with school districts de-emphasizing traditional sports in favor of less competitive activities.

Excellent quote from a parent:

“My oldest son, Sean, used to have love handles; he was kind of pudgy, and I’ll be honest: we were worried about it,” she said. “We had heard of D.D.R., and I got it for him for his birthday. We put limits on the other video games he plays, but we told him he could play D.D.R. as much as he wanted. And now it’s like he’s a different kid. He’s playing sports and running, and we see D.D.R. as like his bridge to a more active lifestyle.”


1 05 2007

Over at the Guardian, Keith Stuart blogs about a mobile title designed to mitigate culture shock:

Nipan Maniar an academic and games expert at the University of Portsmouth has developed a mobile game deisgned to help international students understand life in Britain. Including such moments of cultural awakening as ‘going to the pub’ and ‘watching people being affectionate to each other in public’, the guide is intended for those who may have spent their formative years in more reserved cultures.

The mobile phone is the perfect delivery method for this sort of edutainment project – almost all international students will have one, while only a minority may be equipped with a DS or PSP.

Sam Coates on Game Art

3 01 2007

“People are becoming more specialized at art; people are becoming very very good at doing one particular thing,” says Coates, although he doesn’t necessary promote specialization as a way to move forward in the industry. “It’s becoming more of a machine, more of compartmentalized process.” What Coates recommends is learning a good deal about all of these compartmentalized areas to understand who works in them, how they work, whom they answer to, and what their priorities are.

Experience, too, plays a vital role for game developers bent on putting their creative foot forward. “If you want to be a creative person, if you want to work in ideas, spend some time doing something else. Spend some time outside of your field and push yourself to do more—although it may be along pay-back period,” Coates says.

As for what happens to creative people who learn a bit about the world elsewhere before diving into game creation or other people who have an intangible talent, Coates recognizes that these people require competitive salaries. “Talent demands a premium, really. We compete really hard to get good people in our jobs. The kind of people we’re looking for are people with passion, people who want to take new risks and explore and try new things with us.”

When hiring concept artists, for example, Coates says he wants “…to see a piece of art that puts me in a position I wasn’t in before I saw [it].”

Other qualities Sony looks for in its new hires are people who put high quality into their own work and people with experience working effectively in teams. “Put yourself on as many group projects as you can,” Coates advises. “Get yourself some experience now while you can. I can’t suggest more strongly to get out there and work with other people.” He adds that whatever teamwork experiences you can put on your resume, you should, not shying away from collaborative work that you might feel is imperfect. “The experience that comes from team work is the most valuable.”

Coates says he becomes distrustful of people who don’t show group projects on their demo reel or portfolio. If a team project isn’t up to snuff, Coates says to not make it one of the first pieces shown, but to show it later and point out what did work and didn’t work in the interview.

“It’s not that I don’t value specialists, but [what’s important about team work is] seeing the connections and understanding what other people are trying to do without getting bogged down by your specialty,” Coates says.

As for other tips, Coates recommends the portfolio be extremely clean and organized. Range, or showing more than one unique or developed skill, is also helpful. “Don’t show anything bad. Put some extra time into everything you show,” Coates says. If a candidate has one outstanding image on his or her reel, Coates suggests replicating that image on the paper resume to trigger the hiring person’s memory about the unique skills or style of the candidate.

As for software skills, Coates maintains that human skills, like the ability to communicate well, work in a team, and manage time, are more important than computer training. Software training, he says, “is not a big issue in a big studio.” Coates adds, “Learning how to make games is more difficult than learning how to use software.”