Students wanting to enter the games industry flock to Abertay each summer.

Getting into games

The games industry is worth billions of pounds to the UK economy and competition for jobs can be fierce. Since launching the world’s first Computer Games Technology degree in 1997, Abertay has been working hard to address the joint issues of skills and employability for the games industry, both in the UK and internationally.

Dare to be Digital encapsulates our practical approach to teaching, which we apply across all our undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This nine-week game design competition is held each summer for students of universities and art colleges. We attract international applicants and bring 15 teams of five students to Dundee.

The Dare hot-house environment

Dare to be Digital is an intensive introduction to game development, challenging the teams to build a completely new game across the nine week competition – and then showcase it to thousands of members of the public at our ProtoPlay games festival in Dundee in August.

By taking students beyond a traditional study environment and challenging them to work as if they were running a small games studio, they face the same pressures as fledgling companies in a safe environment. The learning that takes place in this short period is absolutely incredible. Colin Macdonald, Games Commissioner at Channel 4, has said these nine weeks are equivalent to several years working in the industry.

Create and demonstrate

Taking part in Dare allows students to complete the whole process of planning, designing and creating a game, something they may never see working as part of a larger company. Another very important experience is creating something for a public audience, who may have very different considerations to what a ‘successful’ game looks like.

All the students have their games tested by local school children mid-way through development, which is a fascinating learning process. The children are looking for instant engagement and entertainment, delivering incredibly direct feedback – both positive and negative.

Combining that with our industry partners who mentor the teams throughout Dare to be Digital provides very direct, insightful learning about game design from the approaches of expert programmers and artists, as well as the demands of their intended audience.

The BAFTAs – and after

At the end of our ProtoPlay festival, industry judges pick three winning teams who go forward as the only nominees for the BAFTA Ones to Watch Award, a unique prize presented at the annual British Academy Video Games Awards. Having such a close partnership with BAFTA helps accelerate the career opportunities for these students even further, providing them with the attention and recognition of the games industry.

But more than the awards, what Dare to be Digital delivers each year is intense, practical education for 75 students, who then travel around the world into games companies – and increasingly form their own businesses. We’re very proud that the V&A’s first ever Game Designer in Residence, Sophia George, is a graduate of Dare to be Digital and Abertay University, as well as being an exceptional game designer. This year we’re looking once again for the next big breakthrough.

For more information, please visit the Dare to be Digital website.

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