Bafta has reformed its initiative designed to encourage children to consider training for careers in the gaming industry.
In 2010, Bafta – the British Academy of Film and Television Arts – set up a series of workshops at the EGX game convention prior to opening its Young Game Designers (YGD) competition. The winners of the competition are given industry contacts to help them forge a career designing games.
Now the organisation has rejigged the YGD competition to offer year-round activities to 10-18 year-olds, to educate them about what a job in the gaming industry entails.
The Bafta Young Game Designers programme is supported by the Nominet Trust, and the partnership will focus on tackling the gender gap in the gaming industry.
“Even if it’s not intentional, people who create these tools that we use influence the way in which we act. And it’s very important to get a whole range, a really diverse range of designers, and makers and creators so that the tools we use are more appropriate.” Said Dan Sutch, head of development research at the Nominet Trust.
“So one way we can do that is by creating a competition and a programme that really supports those who aren’t very well represented in the sector at the moment.”
More on skills and education
A recent survey by independent research agency Populus found more than half of gamers are now female. But there is still a lack of women working in gaming.
A new YDG website gives young people access to resources such as videos and interviews with award winners, nominees and internet celebrities, to provide details of what the games industry is like to work in.
Two new awards have been added to the programme to highlight mentors and inspirational people who have guided participants towards the industry.
Mike Bithell, writer of popular indie game Thomas Was Alone, spoke at the announcement about how mentoring and support, even from the most unlikely places, helped him into the industry.
“I needed a lot of help, I needed a lot of indulgence, I needed the privilege of having that indulgence, I needed my dad to bring home a computer, it was black and white,” said Bithell,
“I had a specific history teacher who told me that I didn’t have to do essays any more. She said that, as long as I could fit all the learning outcomes she needed for her piece of paper, I could submit computer games.”
In September 2014 the national curriculum in the UK changed and children are now required to learn computing in schools from the ages of five to 16.
“It’s really important that it’s being recognised by the formal education system that these things are important, but it’s not enough,” said Sutch.
“It’s really easy to think that coding is all you need for creating games and creating websites.”
He thinks teachers should not focus too much on the coding element of jobs in the gaming industry, but also understand that it has many other elements to it.
Sutch said: “It’s helping teachers understand not only the kind of size of the industry and the sort of jobs, it’s the whole variety of how it links to design and music and physical education and physics and maths and the whole range.”