Andrew Richardson and Chris Knowles are programme leaders for, respectively, BA (Hons) Game and App Design and BSc (Hons) Games Software Development. Both have varied CVs, Richardson having created and exhibited interactive artwork internationally, while Knowles is an experienced software developer. Here, they explain the broad reach of Sunderland’s offering.
What courses can be studied at Sunderland University?
Andrew Richardson We offer a wide suite of programmes that covers all aspects of game design, from concept artwork and creative ideas right through to programming and software development. For example, BA (Hons) Game and App Design focuses on creative indie development; BSc (Hons) Game Software Development is about game software design, development and programming; and BA (Hons) Animation and Games Art looks at concept artwork, plus 2D and 3D character design.
For you, what is the value in seeking out a game education?
AR You can learn a lot from online tutorials, but for me, it’s the shared experience of learning from others that’s important, as well as the opportunity to develop creative ideas and open up to new ways of thinking and working.
Chris Knowles Being in a formal environment instils the discipline to produce good quality, effective products in a timely fashion, which you wouldn’t get at home. University provides the time for students to develop, gain and share expertise and improve their communication skills so that they can pitch their products to clients. Making games can be a challenging but rewarding career, and we want to ensure our students are ready for that. An educational environment provides a chance to experiment and to make mistakes that aren’t costly.
What sets your offering apart?
CK We have a student-centred focus, and provide excellent individual support and guidance. We have committed staff who have a wealth of industry experience and who bring a real enthusiasm for their work. Our Games Software Development course has recently been revalidated in line with the new Creative Skillset requirements to ensure that our course is relevant and prepares students for industry.
AR And our Game And App course has a focus on indie startups and is very enterprise focused. Students have recently voted Sunderland the top University in the North East in the annual WhatUni Student Choice Awards.
What kind of facilities do you offer?
AR We have two campuses, which are perfectly placed to ensure a life-changing student experience, and a suite of Cintiq [graphics tablets] in the design centre. We use industry-standard software, including Unity and Maya, and our Game Hub ensures that each student gets their own workspace.
CK We also have game laboratories and are part of the PlayStation First Academic Development Programme, and the university is a member of the PS4 development kits and supporting software programme, too. That grants us the licence to Sony game console devkit hardware and software. We also use 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Unreal Engine 4 and Visual Studio 13.
What industry ties have you built?
CK We’ve developed partnerships with a number of major companies, including Microsoft, Sony, Cisco and BlackBerry. These partnerships allow students to experiment with cutting-edge and current applications, and many partners provide hardware and software for our courses, including Sony, as I said, but also Microsoft console technologies, and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets.
AR We’re also a leading partner in the Sunderland Software City initiative, which aims to develop the software industry in our city and region.