A FRESH batch of awards for students and staff has continued the University of Huddersfield’s dominance of two key competitions and reinforced its reputation as a world-class centre for the design and development of computer games, leading to successful careers in the massively burgeoning global industry.
At the 2019 Grads in Games Awards – which had entrants from 81 universities across Europe – Huddersfield continued its three-year run of success, scooping five prizes, including the Academic Award for Senior Lecturer Matthew Novak. No other university came away with more than one prize.
Also, the University’s five-year dominance of the annual Game Republic Student Showcase Competition has continued, with Huddersfield students coming away with four out of five first places. In two categories, games design teams from Huddersfield shared first and second place.
The Subject Area Leader for Digital Media at the University of Huddersfield, Dr Michael O’Grady, is delighted by the continued success of students and staff at awards schemes.
“The Games Team at Huddersfield is passionate and dedicated to getting our students to be some of the best in Europe,” he said. “Entering competitions, as individuals and as members of well-balanced teams, plays an important part in ensuring employability after graduation.”
The latest Grads in Games successes included the Student Hero Award, shared by Zachray Cundall, Ellie Brown and Helen Andrzejowska, the team members of Ocean Spark Studios, who have just completed the final year of their Games Design course.
The judges said: “In addition to successfully founding and running their own studio during their enterprise year at Huddersfield, they’ve set up an academy initiative to teach game development to people of all ages and abilities… they’ve been an inspiration to many and a real beacon for the games industry”.
Also there were Rising Star awards for Reece Parrinder – in the Environment Art category – and Melissa Hamer, for Character Art, while Ellie Brown was victorious in the Search for a Star contests, for her Character Art.
Judges said that Melissa
“showed one of the strongest character projects of the whole challenge, developing a nuanced and detailed character, complimented by an excellent portfolio presentation”; that Ellie’s “process of envisioning and creating a character from scratch showed how talented she was as a character artist”; and Reece’s project was “beautifully crafted with individual elements that were interesting and technically advanced”.
For the Academic Award, Matthew Novak was in competition with more than 30 nominees and definitely stood out, said judges:
“Described as a brilliant academic and hugely supportive of his students, it’s not a surprise that we also saw so many of them in the Search for a Star finals this year. With a strong drive to help people out, going above and beyond to provide guidance, constructive feedback and encouragement, the positive impact has had a huge effect on his students.”
Grads in Games draws entries from around the world, but the Game Republic Student Showcase is aimed at universities in the North of England, and Huddersfield has an unparalleled record of success. The 2019 event took place at the University of Hull and featured 100 students, 33 projects and five game awards. There were four victories for Huddersfield teams.
The Sumo Digital Game Design Prize was won by Tether (Matthew Throup, Sam Sharpe, George Blackwell, Nathaniel Whitaker, Peter Sutherland and Ruben Chatha), who also scooped the Rebellion Games Prize for game audio and the Rockstar Leeds Award for Best Team. In the Revolution Games Art and Animation category, the joint winners were Huddersfield students Jack Walker and Sam Sharpe.
The University has degree courses in Computer Games Design and Computer Science with Games Programming. Entry requirements are exacting, but the courses are increasingly popular, with some 200 students currently enrolled.
“We believe that we have the highest employability rate in the UK for a games course,” states Dr Daryl Marples, who is Course Leader for Computer Games Design and who won the Grads in Games Academic Award in 2018. He explained that students who were successful in applying for places had to display much more than an enthusiasm and talent for playing games.
“We need people who are fast thinkers, who can dissect games and demonstrate that they are creative,” he said.
Lecturer Matthew Novak added that a key to the success of the Huddersfield computer games courses was the focus on employability, including portfolio development, work placements and opportunities to launch student enterprises.
As a result, Huddersfield graduates are now working for many of the leading games development companies. Also, key figures from firms including Red Kite – based in the University’s 3M Buckley Innovation Centre – come into the University as part-time lecturers.