Leamington Spa (aka ‘Silicon Spa’) plays host to TIGA’s Game Dev Night next week (20th February).  Featured speakers include David Fullick & Dan Griffiths from Monster & Monster, creators of Autumn Walk and Winter Walk on iOS/Android.

The event is free to members and non-member developers…..and there is FREE food and drinks!

Event details at: http://www.tiga.org/events/tiga-gamedev-night-leamington-spa

If you work in the games industry (or are a student hoping to do so) and live in the vicinity of Leamington then make sure you follow Silicon Spa Games on Twitter – @siliconspagames

 

A lack of work experience is a major challenge to anyone wanting to get into the games industry right now. Most employers want people with a few years prior experience and, quite often, a number of published titles to their credit.

That is a big problem for a raw graduate or college finisher. The cream of the crop (the top 5%) will always land roles on the strength of their grades, the quality of their portfolio and their ability sell themselves but what about the other 95%? I know people that sent out over a hundred CVs/enquiries but hardly got any responses back. I have to ask, however, to what extent does a lack of experience hinder someone from fulfilling a productive role within the games industry? Should we not attempt to bring more of these passionate and committed young people into our industry rather then turning them away?

I have, over the last decade or so, probably employed 50+ people in various technical and creative roles in the five games and digital media businesses I’ve been involved in. Those roles were a mix of full-time, part-time, temporary, freelance and lengthy paid placements.

The vast majority of these people had little or no prior paid employment history in the industry. This was mainly a result of me being a start-up addict and nearly always attempting to get stuff done with little or no resources. I’d be lying if I claimed that better things couldn’t have been achieved and in a more timely manner with more experienced team members, but nonetheless, as a four times company founder, I am quite satisfied and in some cases very proud with what was achieved.

In an age when every start-up is being told to ‘bootstrap’, to get minimum viable product (MVP) to market and customer/market validation before taking in any funding, the supply of inexperienced, yet highly motivated, talent is, I believe, being wrongly over-looked. More than this, from an industry-level and societal standpoint, we’re being grossly unfair to a large number of people who we’re enticing to undertake expensive degree courses, then failing to provide them a chance to show what they can do.

The paradox is this; if one looks at the output that student and graduate teams are achieving through initiatives such as GamerCamp, DareToBeDigital, Digipen, the many degree courses and numerous game jams, it is clear that these inexperienced individuals are actually quite capable of achieving some  pretty impressive things. I attended a mobile games ‘meet em up’ at Birmingham Science Park Aston last year and was, quite frankly, blown away by a series of presentations from students and recent graduates. I’m certain that this is happening all ten time up and down the country.

Yet still, when it comes to building up internal teams, established studios usually take a conscious decision to filter out these people. This is, to a certain extent, a product of it being an employers’ market right now when it comes to graduate and junior roles. Yet almost every games studio has open positions for mid-level and senior roles and the industry is growing – albeit painfully – very quickly. Those more senior roles won’t find candidates if the conveyor belt of talent is restricted because no studios hire raw graduates. Those dejected graduates that get turned away from the games sector will find roles in marketing, web and other creative or technical roles. That is our loss.

I know how hard it is for a small/young games studio to carry inexperienced team members or to find resources (people, cash or time) to develop them, but I believe if the willingness is there from employers (it is from employees!) then it can be both practical and beneficial to bring raw graduates into a team.

When we needed to build a MVP of MusicFestivals Game at SoshiGames in 2011 without any meaningful cash, we turned to ‘free-sourcing’ the game. The proposition was this; if graduates were willing to commit some time, we would commit to providing them with an environment in which they can learn and gain useful industry experience. We had, I would estimate, something like forty people involved in the project over the course of 18months. Some gave one day a week. Some gave 40 hours a week for six months or more. I won’t pretend it was easy and that there were not challenges, however SoshiGames got it’s MVP and the volunteers got their much needed experience. Several of the volunteers were given full time employment once funding was secured and many others got jobs within a short time of leaving us.

Recruiting the ‘free-sourced’ team was done in an extremely ad-hoc manner. There was no single route to finding potential candidates. We approached colleges, universities, alumni groups, placed adverts, plastered info all over the internet and social networks, put up posters and mentioned it in conference sessions and TV/radio adverts. It was hard work but it proved worthwhile for everyone concerned.

I’d like to see an attitudinal change amongst games studios with regards to hiring more juniors. I’d also like to see some services designed to better connect graduates with studios. If this happened it would only be a good thing for the UK games industry.

Quick..code the ATOMISER!

Quick..code the ATOMISER!

Well this is strange….a blog post. How very 2006!

The world has changed a lot since I last used this blog in earnest. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, FourSquare, Instagram and a whole variety of other social networks have invaded the territory once occupied by the blog site. Twitter and various social mobile applications have reduced the typical ‘post’ to  a much shorter form than used to be the case with blog ‘articles’. As I sit here and type as a proprietor of a one-person games consultancy from my self-built office, in my garage, in my garden at home…I find myself, however, wanting to create a more weighty dialogue with the outside world…and this blog site feels all of a sudden more relevant.

I’ve got a wealth of commercial, creative and general technical experience gleaned from 15 years of games, eLearning and web projects but I’ve often found it frustrating that I cannot bring about ideas/desires myself and have always been reliant on other people to attempt to do so. I aim to change that and so I’ve chosen to make a change of direction in my professional life, for the time being at least; one that involves throwing myself into learning how to program and to actually making games/apps myself.

This is quite a challenge for a soon to be 43-year old who has been a project manager, product manager, product evangelist,  game designer, development director, studio head, entrepreneur and CEO….but with very little hands on proper coding experience (save for a short period of ActionScript in 2002 and a couple of years of BASIC in the early/mid 1980s). I did make a living as a web developer in the mid 1990’s but I don’t really count writing HTML and cutting and pasting other people’s ASP/JavaScript as ‘proper’ coding.

As well as undertaking games/digital media consulting (as SpiderShed Media – email me here ) I recently founded EVIL27 Games Ltd which has a focus on mobile (and more specifically, tablet games).  The mobile games space has been exploding in size and is – along with the growth of the freemium business model and digital distribution –  massively re-shaping the entertainment games market. I have some ideas around enabling user-generated content in mobile gaming and am working on a grant-funded project to explore this (click here for more info).

Along side this research project I am planning a number of tablet games that will hopefully be published under the EVIL27 Games banner. I am personally developing the first of these using Lua and the Corona SDK. This is quite a challenge given my limited prior programming experience and it is about this journey of discovery that I feel most compelled to blog about. And so I shall.

Hopefully you will find these interesting, thought-provoking and maybe a little amusing. Please feel free to comment or otherwise engage with me.

Updates to follow.

Via Scoop.itSocial games & music

Zynga’s initial public offering could happen (finally) the week before the November 24 Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, two anonymous sources told Reuters.
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Via Scoop.itSocial games & music

Finnish startup Ovelin has bagged first prize in the Match Point pitching contest at the Music & Media Finland conference.
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