Monthly Archives: July 2011

Get the next generation educated – making games

Today a report was published by NESTA written by Ian Livingstone OBE and Alex Hope into the educational and institutional shortcoming and development needs to ensure that ‘the UK can be transformed into the world’s leading talent hub for video games and visual effects.’ I realise the Uk angle is rather parochial but it is important to all countries and organisational units to pay attention to this.
Nesta Next Gen
(picture from NESTA with Little Big Planet Copyright Sony Computer Entertainment
The full report is here.
The report attracted my attention with my BCS animation and games development group hat on. The BCS as an IT professions organization seeks to offer an umbrella for the growth of skills and the nurturing of talent and interest in the technology sector. (Formerly called the British Computer Society). The BCSAGD group is trying to help promote awareness of the depth of skills and talent in the games industry as much as it is trying to help the games industry map to what goes on in the apprently more serious IT industries.
Having worked across all these industries, and now also encorouaging kids into tecnology via The Cool Stuff Collective TV show I know that whilst games have some specific challenges the core of the industry has the same profile as an computing based industry. The challenges of design, code, test and run and having to deal with constant disruptive innovation applies to all industries. It benefits, though, from being things that people can see and create. You don’t teach music by showing the inside of a piano, but its great to know how it works to get the best out of it.
I think the reach of the BCS into traditional games industries is pretty low, yet when you read this reports findings you cant help but notice we are all heading for the same noble goals.

The following is an extract of the key reccomendations from the above report.

Bring computer science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline.
Sign up the best teachers to teach computer science through Initial Teacher Training bursaries and ‘Golden Hellos’.
Use video games and visual effects at school to draw greater numbers of young people into STEM and computer science.
Set up a one-stop online repository and community site for teachers for video games and visual effects educational resources.
Include art and computer science in the English Baccalaureate. Encourage art-tech crossover and work-based learning through school clubs.
Build a network of STEMNET and Teach First video games and visual effects Ambassadors.
Introduce a new National Video Games Development and Animation Schools Competition.
Design and implement a Next Generation of Video Games and Visual Effects Talent Careers Strategy.
Provide online careers-related resources for teachers, careers advisers and young people.

Universities, Colleges and Vocational education
Develop kitemarking schemes, building on Skillset accreditation, which allow the best specialist HE courses to differentiate themselves from less industry-relevant courses.
HEFCE should include industry-accredited specialist courses in their list of ‘Strategically Important and Vulnerable’ subjects that merit targeted funding. Industry commits to these courses through industrial scholarships and support for CPD for lecturers.
Raise awareness of the video games and visual effects industries in the eyes of STEM and arts graduates.
Give prospective university applicants access to meaningful information about employment prospects for different courses.
Develop a template for introducing workplace simulation into industry-accredited video games and visual effects courses, based on Abertay University’s Dare to be Digital competition.
Leading universities and FE colleges sponsor a high-tech creative industries University Technical College (UTC), with clear progression routes into HE.
Kitemark FE courses that offer students the best foundation in skills and knowledge to progress into Higher Education.

Training and continuous professional development
Skillset Creative Media Academies and e-skills UK’s National Skills Academy for IT to work with industry to develop specialist CPD training for video games and visual effects industries.
Support better research-oriented university-industry collaborations in video games and visual effects.
Continue to treat the 18 visual effects occupations on the Government’s shortages list as shortage occupations.

So take a look at the report and see if there is anything, either as a BCS member, as a teacher, as a volunteer, as a parent or as a leading employer that you can do to push these goals.

Having seen the enthusiasm of my kids (the predlets) for creating with technology at a young age we really should level up the sort of education opportunities we give young people from the earliest of ages. Scary for the teachers I am sure but there are lots of us out here to help.

Some interesting pro-made gaming webisodes

Yikes I used webisodes (how very turn of the century). However it looks like a good series is forming on games and gaming, in 4 minute bite sized chunks with Dom Joly. He always it entertaining, just as Charlie Brooker is but for different levels of sarcasm.

This series is by Channel Flip who I previously noticed had done Richard Hammond (of Top Gear fame) Tech Head. I guess having done some technology presenting on TV I was not overly impressed with Tech Head. Probably just professional jealousy, but it did not seem Hammond’s heart was in it, unlike Top Gear.
Anwyway Dom Joly is looking good in this and its good to see the subject covered with his style in place.
See what you think.

More fancy graphics, great integration and a lot of fun

I have been getting increasingly more impressed with Dirt 3 on the Xbox. I did mention it in a post the other week however it has got better still.
On the the really great features of it was the 2 player split screen gymkhana. (Well the whole gymkhana thing all together). Whilst the rallying and racing sections are brilliantly done, great edge of the seat, edge of traction experiences the new X Games Ken Block inspired sections that revolve around stunts and style are a brilliant addition to the genre.
You get to donut, jump, drift, spin and smash your way around a freestyle track in a way that we only usually get to do on Skate games. It is a brilliant freeform mad stuntfest.It also has a new driver assist called tricksteer. This applies in these events and makes it a little more easy to pull off those donuts, still needing some balance and poise but it feels very flattering.
So you get to do things like this and then share them on youtube direct from the game

It also does not take itself too seriously and @asanyfuleno and I spent quite a while the other day playing 2 player split screen “hooning”. It lets you freeform stunt drive around the Battersea power station. It was pure sandbox, no points, just discovering jumps and stunts. We ended up focussing on a jam session on this brilliant little ramp.

So whats all this got to do with anything? Well each of these little clips is from a live performance in the game. The film editing in world is not great, well non existent. It gives you replay which chops from camera to camera as it sees fit. Which sometimes works. The old Skate 2 game introduced some proper camera placement and editing tools to make great skate videos, it would be nice to see that in Dirt 3 too.
As it is you do get some really nice pieces like this Hummer in Kenya in the sunset.

The ease of creation, and sharing as a side effect of playing a very good driving game makes me wonder if we could do a full CGI version of Top Gear. It would be as Clarkson says “The best driving show in thurrr wuuurlld”.
I hope Forza 4 has such good sharing facilities. Then of course we can share our driving videos on out google+ driving circles and not hassle everyone with the gaming equivalent of holiday videos.