Gaming's popularity has probably never been higher, but without people to create fresh titles we're all going to be left playing The Last of Us, blindfolded, for the fiftieth time. If you want to get involved there are some great courses out there to help you develop the skills and experience you'll need. Here are a few things you should consider...
1 – Does the course have good links with industry?
This is about more than following some big name studios on Twitter. Find out if a course has real relationships with industry, so that you can learn from the people on the front line.
At the University of Bradford, for example, students from the Games, Animation and Visual Effects courses have the option to spend a year out in industry, working with an employer; they also have a close partnership with the National Media Museum.
2 – Who's going to be teaching you?
Investigate who's going to be delivering your lectures. Do they have experience of the games industry? Snoop around the staff profiles to see who's done what, or ask at open days. For example, at Bradford the head of Games, Animation and VFX, Kaye Elling, spent more than a decade working in game development for every kind of console. Handy - just don't play her at Mario Kart.
3 – What are you passionate about?
Be honest with yourself about the things that interest you and pick a course that excites you – unis including Bradford list all the details of courses like their BA in Graphics for Games, so check them out and make sure they'll take you in a direction you want to go.
4 – Check out the portfolios
A good way of seeing the calibre of the graduates a uni produces is to sneak a peek at the work their students do. You should be able to find samples on their websites (Bradford's are here, for example) – how does it look? Like the sort of thing you'd like to do? Then it might well be the right place for you.
5 – Are you ready for a challenge?
Loving games is very different to studying and developing them. A course in this area will be demanding in terms of time, effort and energy, so make sure you know what to expect. Investigate how you'll be assessed, what projects you'll work on and what support is available. Then when you press 'Start' there won't be any surprises.
6 – Look beyond the course
A good uni is about much more than just the degree programme. Look at the location, accommodation, facilities and entertainment prospects – Bradford has state of the art kit, a vibrant city and the Yorkshire countryside to offer, for example. Also, what clubs and societies are available? Can the university help you get work experience, or a job while you study? It all contributes to a rewarding student life.
7 – Is the course relevant?
Make sure the course will help you develop a diverse set of skills that will set you up to work in a range of different companies. Do the modules offer lots of variety, and can you work with the latest industry-standard equipment and software? No point learning to ride if the tech horse has already bolted: make sure your prospective uni is up to date.
8 – Embrace the chance to fail, safely
Before you arrive, remember that uni isn't about getting everything right first time, assuming you know best and ploughing your own furrow. It's a chance to learn, experiment and fail in a safe environment where you'll get constructive criticism from tutors like Kaye. Open that mind...
9 – You don't just earn a degree
Of course, the degree matters, but so do the other skills you can learn. Will there be opportunities for teamwork, improving your communication skills and talking to senior figures in a company? These are things that will help you in any job – and life itself – so make sure the uni values those things. Talk to other students on our forums to get their input, too.
10 – Everything is connected
Each aspect of the student experience can enrich your game work: access to books, sports, experts in fields from astronomy to zoology, cheap admission to museums and galleries...think about it now, then once you arrive, get involved and bring it all back into your games. Play on!