The home of Dare To Be Digital has a long history within the game industry
A bertay University is probably best known for its Dare To Be Digital competition, which sees teams of students compete to build games over an eight-week period, before showing their creations at the Dare ProtoPlay festival and competing for a BAFTA Ones To Watch award. We talk to the head of the School Of Arts, Media & Computer Games, Professor
Louis Natanson, about how Abertay mixes contemporary and traditional techniques.
What does your range of courses offer? Both our BSc Computer Games Technology and BSc Computer Game Applications Development courses concentrate on graphics programming, console development and mobile programming as well as the maths and physics that need to be understood to develop rich and varied computer games on different platforms. We also have the BA Computer Arts which targets game art – character design, 3D modelling and animation and so on, as well as visual art practice where traditional techniques such as drawing are covered. Then at undergraduate level, we have a BA in Game Design & Production Management, and a postgraduate Professional Masters in Games Development degree. Do students from the various courses work together in any aspects? Yes, although we have different courses in games programming, games design and game art, they are taught from the same department and we bring all our students together into mixed-profession teams. Dealing with these courses under the same roof makes us stand out. Have you seen changes in students’ expectations in recent years? In some places, game education has given students the impression that it is easy and that it’s about how good the games are that they make. But talking with our industry partners, I have the sense that what is more important is that students gain deep transferable skills and understand how to work smart and hard.
How closely do you work with studios? We have over 50 game companies actively involved with our students, from local startup devs to huge companies like Rockstar North and Sony. They help guide the development of what we teach, as well as mentoring students. Abertay has been closely associated with the development of the industry here in Dundee – Dave Jones, who created
Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, was a student with us. As the industry grew and spread out from Dundee, our relationship with those pioneers helped us understand what was needed for continued growth. So has your role within the industry changed significantly over the years? It’s important for students to know the fundamentals, but as tools such as Unity have made game-making more accessible that has meant that we challenge our students to be even more imaginative in what they make. Be enterprising, take responsibility for what you are doing, and don’t expect to be told what to do.
“WE HAVE OVER 50 GAME COMPANIES INVOLVED WITH OUR STUDENTS, GUIDING THE DEVELOPMENT OF WHAT WE TEACH”
The university has innovative and well-designed facilities, and is highly regarded for its academic performance in areas that have genuine relevance and impact on society and the economy