The Livingston-Hope

We haven’t got long until the Livingstone-Hope review (an investigation into the education of aspiring game developers) announces its findings, the motivation behind this being that Eidos life president Ian Livingstone feels the core skills that form the foundations of game development are being overlooked. While it is unclear which areas of education the review will focus on specifically, schools and higher education have been mentioned. Many could say that the reason for this oversight is simply down to the industry still being relatively young in comparison to film and that it simply hasn’t been a mainstream form of entertainment long enough for the public to have a good understanding about what it takes to work within the industry. While this is clearly a contributing factor, a lot of it is most likely down to the industry itself.

To gain an understanding of this, you only need look at a few job advertisements to realise that every single studio wants something different from its employees. There is no clear cut definition of a programmer, an artist or a designer, yet every studio applies these broad titles to employees who in reality have very specific skill-sets. For example, some studios require that their designers work in a team as a purely creative force constantly generating new ideas, testing, rethinking them, working with the artists and programmers so that the look and feel of the game is perfect. Other studios have a smaller creative lead of maybe one or two people (possibly producers) and the designer’s role is similar to that of a level designer or event scripter in one. It’s little wonder people have no idea what they need to do to get a job in the games industry when there are so many different definitions of their chosen role.

We often hear about industry professionals giving interviews, and their skills or qualifications are very rarely mentioned. If they’re mentioned at all, they usually take a back seat to other subjects. While it may be very easy to point the finger at the games media for this seemingly gross omission, you have to consider that while these skills and qualifications deserve mentioning, they are far less interesting a read than what the interviewee thinks about where the industry is, where it’s going and who’s taking it there. This is just another example of how easy it is for confusion to spread about what it really takes to be a part of the games industry. If you are a young person looking for this information you will at some point or another read these interviews, find out nothing about skills or qualifications and take very little from it, but you will think that what you’ve done is valid research and be under the impression you are now better informed.

Another part of this research for school and college pupils will usually be to look at either a BA or BSc from a university. They will look at the descriptions of courses, find out the entry requirements and from there they work towards getting accepted onto that course in the hopes that they will leave fully-trained in their chosen discipline. However, there is the problem that universities are effectively businesses and need to make money. Unfortunately for the students, the popularity of game degrees has led to some courses being that merely in name, and name alone. As mentioned earlier, each studio has its own idea of what they expect from its employees and this is equally as confusing and frustrating for the universities as it is the individual, leading to some courses missing the mark in certain areas.

The problem is then further exacerbated by the fact that studios very rarely have entry-level positions available, and this is especially true since the recession began leading to a disproportionate number of graduates to the number of jobs available. Marry this with studio closures and cut-backs and you have hundreds of graduates competing against experienced industry professionals for the same jobs and that is simply a battle the graduates cannot win. Of course no one can blame the studios for hiring the more experienced applicants, it makes perfect sense, but it does leave graduates wondering where to turn to.

What the Livingstone-Hope review will reveal is still unknown, but it will more than likely discourage people from thinking that creating games is more of a creative process than it is one that relies on skills and knowledge. While the review will most certainly prove useful in rethinking our approach to educating young people, one can only hope that the effects will resonate further than that, and cause the industry to look at the way it presents itself to the public.

Depending on where you, the reader, are at the moment in your career, this message outlining the importance of skills would serve you well in your endeavours. For those in school, Maths, English and Science should be at the top of your list; with those, you can do pretty much whatever you want later in life no matter where you go. If you want to be an artist don’t just be content with drawing, learn a 3D modelling package or an image editor to complement your drawing. If you want to be a programmer then Maths will help you to no end, and learning different programming languages will always be useful. For designers, the key is to be able to show people why you’re worth employing rather than just telling them; create as much as you can and use anything available to you. Anyone looking to work in games whatever the discipline would do well to get hold of a free-to-use game engine and start creating games. Hopefully this will have been of use to some of you out there, and if not, check the following links for useful websites and the free-to-use engines.

Games Great news website with a section for jobs that outlines what each employer wants, great for witnessing the difference between studios.


Unreal: The most used engine of this generation, and with good reason. Great documentation, a massive community and new iOS support.

Source: Everyone’s favourite game company has their own engine, you can only download it through Steam but like unreal it has great documentation and a big community.

Unity: A lesser-known but incredibly versatile engine that has great tutorials to get you started.