Birmingham City University’s finishing school simulates your first year in the industry
Zuby Ahmed started out as a freelance writer before finding a job at space and flight combat simulator specialist Digital Image Design as a tester. He graduated to level and game designer, and went on to work for Warthog Games and EA, then started his own studio, SmashMouth Games. We spend some time talking about the advantages of working with Sony and squeezing in Magic: The Gathering during lunchtimes. For those who aren’t aware of it, can you explain what Gamer Camp is? Gamer Camp is a finishing school at Birmingham City University designed by game developers for game developers. We’ve been [going] since 2009, and have three MA/MSc courses at the New Technology Institute in Birmingham’s city centre. Our Gamer Camp: Pro (Video Game Development) course is for artists and programmers, and students will work in development teams to produce PC, How does the fact that your courses are designed by game developers manifest itself?
Firstly, the teaching staff here are all
“THE STAFF ALL INJECT THEIR PASSION
FOR GAMES INTO THE SUBJECTS THEY
TEACH, AND THAT’S REALLY DIFFERENT”
iPad, PS4 and Vita games. In 2012, we started our newest MSc course, Gamer Camp: Biz (Video Game Enterprise And Production), which is designed with our industry partners to cater for those looking to work within the business and design side of game development. Finally, we’re about to launch our brand new undergraduate programme, Interactive Entertainment, which is a two-year accelerated degree in which students will work in a studio environment within one of three BA/BSc strands: Art, Programming and Digital Marketing. gamers and know their subject inside out. They all inject their passion for games into the subjects they teach, and that’s really different from so many of the other institutes I‘ve taught at – I’ve seen people who don’t know anything about the game industry teach on game development courses. We’re also really fortunate to have lots of industry partners, such as Codemasters, TT Fusion, Crytek and Exient, working with us on our Masters programmes; they’ve even shown keenness to become involved with our new undergraduate Interactive Entertainment programme. Being part of the Sony Academic Alliance on the Playstation First programme allows us to make content for Sony platforms, which is great for us and the students, since we work really closely with the Sony Academic Alliance managers and PlayStation developers. They provide us with devkits, hardware and even scholarships, and they’ve currently paired us with Sony London Studio to work on our next product for them, so we get to understand and learn [about] Sony’s triple-A approach to game development – the students love this. Gamer Camp was born to simulate a graduate’s first year in the industry, ensuring potential new recruits are armed with not just the skills but also the experience required to be dropped straight into a live triple-A project. But we’ve also got a really strong social culture, and there’s lots of gaming at lunch and after work, too. Lots of the students try to beat me at fighting games and at Magic: The Gathering!
Industry placements normally last for one month, but Gamer Camp has recently seen studios making requests to keep students for longer, and in some cases going on to hire pupils as soon as they graduate