Goldsmiths and the National Film and Television School unveil innovative games collaboration

Two leading UK universities have announced a partnership that will see postgraduate students working across campuses and disciplines with the aim of creating ground-breaking games.

Goldsmiths, University of London, and the National Film and Television School (NFTS) will begin their Games++ joint project in February. The scheme will see programming specialists from Goldsmiths team up with creatives from NFTS, which is based 25 miles outside London in Buckinghamshire.

Students will partner on original games projects, share skills, attend masterclasses and workshops from industry professionals, attend industry events and visit studios. At the end of the programme, they will reveal their projects to a panel of industry experts for feedback and it is hoped they will have boosted their chances of landing a game industry job.

Professor William Latham, co-director and co-founder of the MSc Computer Games and Entertainment at Goldsmiths, tells us: “The key to this partnership is our common denominator – a desire to make our programmes flow through into the industry, giving our students the launch pad they need to start successful careers.”

NFTS Head of Games Jon Weinbren, who runs the institution’s MA in Games Design and Development says the scheme is part of continual plans to raise the bar in terms of their offer to students as they seek to do “more interesting and important things. The course here is basically for game innovators. There is a tradition at NFTS of final projects where specialists and crew, talent and artists from elsewhere are brought in. The students are already working with screen writers, producers, production designers and composers. This is a great opportunity to bring in real technical specialists in programming to work with us and form network partnerships.”

And it is hoped the newly formed partnerships will help to establish a culture of game innovation resulting in interesting projects. “We are very excited and eager to see what happens when you have people with strong art and design backgrounds working with people from the computer science and programming side,” says Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie, another Goldsmiths MSc co-founder. “Once they work together and have a different focus we hope they will do things they wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Games++ could ultimately lead to the formation of indie development companies, adds Leymarie, and he believes there will be three ways to measure the scheme’s success. “The first level will be that students from both sides want to work together. It will obviously then be about the quality of what is produced. A third level would be that something would happen after one of these collaborations – either students would find positions in companies, or they would start up their own.”

In terms of workflow, the projects are likely to begin on the drawing boards of NFTS students, who will then look to connect with their Goldsmiths counterparts and develop ideas collaboratively.

Weinbren explains: “The students here will do the initial design work. They will come up with the initial ideas and concept. Then we will bring in the people they will be networking with to inform on those projects. The process is a little different to other disciplines. The games industry is not as hierarchical as film and TV work – it’s about horizontal teams. A software engineer who has a great piece of procedural landscape generation that can spawn worlds could initiate a great game project too.”

Games++ will officially launch at an invitation-only event at NFTS on Thursday, December 6. And the organisers – who share common goals of engaging industry through their programmes – are hoping lots of leading lights in games will attend. Certainly the scheme is already winning praise from some famous names in the industry, including UKIE CEO Dr Jo Twist. “UKIE is working to improve the flow of talent coming in to the UK’s exciting games industry and this partnership between NFTS and Goldsmiths is exactly what we need more of,” she says. “Games are all about where technology, maths, physics and code meet art and storytelling, and I expect to see Games++ produce great results.”

Phil Harrison, corporate vice president at Microsoft and an NFTS governor, is also a fan: “The game industry is always looking for people with creativity and coding skills capable of bringing exciting new concepts, stories and worlds to life. I’m excited to see the results.”

Dr Maria Stukoff, head of academic development at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe welcomed the initiative as “A perfect student development studio to create innovative and ground-breaking games projects,” adding, “By bringing together top technical expertise from the Goldsmiths Department of Computing and creative game design excellence from the NFTS, I can see this acting as a fantastic incubator for future cross-disciplinary teams, which is precisely what the games industry needs at this stage.”