Video games industry ‘wary’ of interns

Firms want courses fine-tuned to equip students with the skills they need

March 6, 2014

Video games firms are too “scared” to let vocational degree students on work placements carry out tasks because they lack the skills needed to work in the industry.

Many students on video games courses are also failing to make a complete game during their studies, according to industry experts and academics speaking at the launch of a network that aims to improve links between graduates and the industry.

It comes despite a huge growth in such courses, which have been previously endorsed by ministers as an example of how vocational degrees are important in preparing people for employment.

The Business and University Games Syndicate (BUGS), which was launched in central London on 24 February, wants universities with gaming courses to ensure that students are required to make a complete game during their studies.

Jon Hare, the chief executive of Tower Studios and one of the founding members of BUGS, said that students are making graphics and bits of programming, but not complete games. As a result, those on work placements are not getting the chance to learn skills.

“I’ve sat there and watched companies scared to actually employ [work placement students] to do something because they are scared that they are going to break something because they are not industry ready,” Mr Hare said. However, he said that universities have been “surprisingly cooperative” about solving the problem. So far, 10 institutions, including the universities of Bedfordshire, Portsmouth and Westminster, have signed up to BUGS.

Speaking to Times Higher Education at the event, Peter Lovell, talent acquisition manager at Jagex Games Studio, said that he tends to employ physics, maths and computer science graduates because those from gaming degree courses often lack the skills required.

Ian Livingstone, vice-chairman of trade body Ukie and former chairman of video game publisher Eidos, told the event: “There are simply not enough computer programmers that are of high-enough quality.” In 2011, Mr Livingstone co-authored a report that found that visual effects firms were recruiting from overseas, while just 12 per cent of UK graduates were going on to work in the industry within six months of leaving university.

Carsten Maple, pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at the University of Bedfordshire, told THE that the problem stemmed from the way modular degree schemes were designed to allow students to dip in and out. “That does not encourage a full game at the end,” he added.

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