25 July 2022

The ten-week-long skills club introduced 22 pupils from nine schools and colleges to the world of gaming and computer programming. This pre-university course saw them working alongside industry tutors supported by current Westminster students studying on the Computer Games Development BSc course. The Club members could present their prototype games directly to Sony Interactive Entertainment professionals demonstrating the key skills gained on the programme.

The aim of the Club was to allow attendees to learn new technical and soft skills needed in the world of work and to experience the university environment. The programme also included careers information as well as a visit to DNA VR Arcade, London’s first VR arcade, to experience multiplayer gaming.

Kicking off the series, the tutors began by finding out what each student’s interests were within game development, such as programming, art, animation or audio, before splitting them into five teams, ensuring there was a balance of interests on each team. The teams were then given time to come up with their own game ideas with input from the tutors. Following this, they completed a Game Design Document, before presenting their ideas to the rest of the group.

The following weeks included several tutorials focusing on programming within Unity using C# and creating art assets and animations in Maya. The pupils then actuated their game ideas in their teams with help from Westminster tutors whenever they ran into issues. Finally, the tutors showed them how to build .exe versions of their games for PC, and they presented their final prototypes along with their process.

The programme included input from people from Sony Interactive Entertainment and PlayStation London Studio. Simon Hermitage, Design Director at PlayStation London Studio, spoke to attendees about his journey into the sector with Game Development offering exciting careers for a diverse group of people from all walks of life. He emphasised that soft skills played just as an important role as the hard skills needed for the industry.

In week 5, Nico Orru, Principal Network Programmer at PlayStation London Studio, joined the Club members to review their work to date and to talk about career opportunities within Sony Interactive Entertainment and the wider sector. Orru further emphasised the types of skills needed and pointed out that the Club was incredibly useful practice. During the final session, attendees were joined by Albert Naumov, Level Designer at PlayStation London Studio, who presided over the final presentations from the teams offering key advice on their work before presenting them with certificates.

Students at skill club

Talking about the final session, he said: “I was amazed at how much they’d achieved in such a short time and how driven they were towards learning more, but it was also amazing to see just how much my words of encouragement weighed on them coming from someone who works for PlayStation.

“These young people have a bright future ahead of them and I’m really glad we were able to give them this opportunity. All in all, this was an amazing result and I hope we continue to inspire more youths in the future!”

The members also had a further opportunity to ask questions about associated careers and the games industry.

Markos Mentzelopoulos, Course Leader for the Computer Games Development BSc course and co-organiser of the Games Design Club series, said: “The whole Westminster team together with the Sony Interactive Entertainment specialists were amazed by the production efforts of this young generation of students, and by how much they have achieved in such a little time. The whole team was excited to be part of this programme, and we are looking forward to the expansion of this opportunity to more schools next year. We think it will bring a great dynamic to this sector to engage students from under-represented backgrounds from earlier career stages.”

The Club was run in conjunction with the University of Westminster’s School of Computer Science and UK Student Recruitment and Outreach Team. Pupils came from a range of school and colleges including CONEL, Drayton Manor School, Hatch End High School, New City College – Hackney, St Charles Catholic VI Form College, Strodes College, Sydney Russell School, Waltham Forest College, and West Herts College.

The Games Design Club is part of a series of initiatives of Sony Interactive Entertainment’s PlayStation Career Pathways Program aiming to bring more Black and ethnic minority students into tech, entertainment, and gaming.

Simay Sali Sevik, Development Manager at the University, added: “We are delighted to complete the first year of our partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment successfully and deliver the Games Design series to support racial equality in the gaming sector. We’ve received wonderful feedback from students and their parents, and we look forward to seeing the wider impact of the PlayStation Career Pathways Program in the future.”

To find out how you or your company can make a difference by supporting students, please get in touch with the Development Team.

Find out more about Computer Games Development BSc course at the University of Westminster.