What’s your background?
Once I finished school I went to study computing and discovered that I was highly interested in multimedia. After completing degrees in multimedia I proceeded to take part in an MA in learning and teaching, which at the time supported my career in training and development for large global firms including Google and Hewlett Packard. Currently I am a PhD researcher in the field of technology enhanced learning specialising in gaming as a learning tool. Overall I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work both professionally and academically in my areas of personal interest.
— Pulse College (@Pulsec) January 22, 2016
What do you do now?
I am the Head of Programmes for Games and Animation at Pulse College. It’s quite a unique role in that although I’m supporting two different faculties a lot of skills and interests cross over. Pulse College is a great environment with extensive and diverse industry ties, so it has allowed me to collaborate with many leaders in the industry and to form connections between them and our students.
What is Pulse College and what do they do?
Pulse College, operating for 25 years since 1981, has become one of Ireland’s leading creative media colleges, specialising in the areas of Music Production & Technology, Film Music Composition, Film & TV Production, Game Development, and Animation. We run a range of courses from professional development courses and beginner courses up to Honours Degrees and Masters programmes.
In our Games and Animation campus we host part time and full time courses with the purpose of not just developing theoretical knowledge but giving students hands on experience with games and animation industry professionals leading the classes.
— Pulse College (@Pulsec) February 2, 2016
Tell us about the story of the growth of your games development department
Pulse College was already an internationally established industry leader for music and audio production and film, particularly after taking over the world-famous Windmill Lane Recording Studios in the early 00’s. In developing these courses, the college recognised that certain creative industries require a more practical skillset driven by skilled members of the industry. Using this ethos we looked at other industries that would suit this, at the same time the games industry was starting to recognise the potential for skilled developers in Ireland. This led to a natural synergy between our ability to educate and the needs of the growing games industry. We have had massively positive feedback from alumni and the industry regards the support we’ve provided to date.
Tell us about the incubation units for new up and coming games companies within Ireland
Incubation is massively important to us. Just because students have finished their course, it doesn’t mean we want to cut them loose and leave them unsupported. We’ve had many people go through our incubation unit into a variety of industries. Right now we have two very talented up and coming games companies developing software – Newlov Games and Sugabee Games. We also support animation and arts with the award winning Lightning Strikes comics, who also have an office in our incubation unit.
What is the Momentum programme?
The Momentum programme is a game tech start-up, run in collaboration with Solas and Ireland’s European Structural & Investment Funds Programme, to show previously unemployed people how to start their own games and interactive technology company. The goal of this course was to show people the business skills involved as well as the arts to become part of the industry. This course is really unique, in that the objective is not to achieve an award but rather to promote people to create their own job opportunities. So far we found this course to be a massive success in collaboration across all our courses as what we find is that these entrepreneurs are not just creating for themselves but recruiting from other courses bringing in animators and game developers to create a series of small companies. We chose this direction for the Momentum course because collaboration is what drives this industry and it is a definite skill that needs to be supported.
What have been some successes from the department?
With such a wide variety of skills taught throughout the courses we have found that students have gone on to a variety of different roles. Some previous students have had opportunities with major games companies including Larian Studios and Gamesparks, whilst others have set up their own games companies or have progressed to higher education. Recently a group of our students submitted a game they were working on to IndieDB and ended up with over 10,000 downloads and were in the Top 10 downloads for over one month.
— Pulse College (@Pulsec) February 2, 2016
Have there been any interesting failures / pivots / unexpected outcomes?
This is a really important question for us, failures are nearly essential in this industry. We always hear about the success stories in the gaming industry and the over-night millionaires, but what tends to get overlooked is the failures that are needed to reach success. The honest truth is that not every game will be a success or even achieve the success it deserves, but our students learn how to take away from this and use the knowledge from their failures to make better products.
What future trends are you excited about?
I should probably say augmented or virtual reality here, but truthfully I am really excited for the cultural changes that are happening in the opinion towards animation and games. Cartoons are not just for kids, there are plenty of main stream mature and family animated shows. Most excitingly is that we are in the first generation of parents as gaming advocates. Recent talks from Alison York, the research Director at Nickelodeon talked about how we are now seeing the first generation of parents who grew up playing games themselves and are passing that passion and knowledge on to their children. This to me is really exciting as now there is potential to create games that appeal to both child and adult playing together.
Do any of these relate to projects you guys are supporting?
Absolutely, our projects focus on creating and testing not just functional games, but fun and playable. With projects like experimental game design we are encouraging our students to create games outside of the standard game spaces using alternative control and visual methods.
How much AR / VR is involved in your training?
Quite lot actually, this year our entire cohort of final year game students are developing mobile AR games as 1 of their 3 portfolio pieces. We teach AR and VR as standard in our courses. It an important part of the future of the industry, so we have mobile devices and Oculus Rifts available for the students to develop with.
What tech would make your life easier?
Honestly all the technology is already making our life easier, with software like Unity and Unreal leading the way for game development, creating a game has become a much less daunting task. When I compare 3D Studio Max and Maya that the students have now, compared to when I was learning it a decade ago, I’m really quite jealous to how user-friendly and powerful it is. The technology has advanced so much that truly unbelievable levels of work can be achieved people now and we really have to challenge ourselves to keep pushing the technology forward.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?
Come along to one of Pulse College’s monthly Open Events or to any of the events we host, we have a lot of great things to show in the game development and animation faculty, interesting tutors and students to talk to and just to get a feel for the place. Pulse College is active on social media, twitter @pulsec, instagram.com/pulsecollege and facebook.com/pulsecollege.
Visit www.pulsecollege.eu to find out more.