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Games without frontiers

You’re just wasting your time.” “You’ll ruin your eyesight – get some fresh air!” “All that sitting in a darkened room can’t be good for you.” “Stop playing those silly games and do something productive.” It’s an all too familiar refrain to teenagers throughout the world.

BSc (Hons) Computing (Games Programming) student Alex Parry-Brown, however, provides a perfectly rational riposte: “The way I see it, older generations might sit there and think you’re wasting your time sat playing that game, but then my mum, for instance, sits and watches tv for three hours – I just think watching tv for three hours is your entertainment, I’m engaging with other people around the world, and depending on the game, you learn skills.”

Alex Parry-Brown

Alex raises some good points, and it’s hard to argue with him when you consider that the UK games industry generated over $7bn in 2021, according to Ukie, the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment.

Global Game Jam logo

A stepping stone on this journey, Alex, along with a group of fellow Edge Hill students, got involved in the Global Game Jam (GGJ), an event designed “to bring people together worldwide through the shared joy of game creation”. In a nutshell, players and programmers from across the planet get together to create games based around a specific theme. The catch? Attracting over 35,000 people in 95 countries, it all has to be done over a 48-hour period.

“I anticipated it would contain long hours of continuous work. I learnt an entirely new technique of programming to implement this – and a seemingly endless struggle against minor errors. Having managed to develop a game which works, having a start and end point, I believe the end result was great given the time scale and only working in a team of four.”

Having access to the new Games Lab in the Tech Hub was a huge help. This resource gives students like Alex a taste of a life working in the computer games industry.

“I hope to work in either software engineering or computer games programming – I’m applying for a variety of organisations. Eventually I’d like to become a senior AI [Artificial Intelligence] games programmer at a large developer, or lead a team or project on a game.”

A week’s placement with the BBC’s games development team, reward for winning a national University Technology Challenge, has consolidated these objectives and “made me 100% sure I want to go into game development.” Other than discovering an entirely new programming language, the biggest lesson was the pivotal role of team-working: “There are just so many members doing different things – a user experience team, quality assurance testers, the game developers and designers – so in order for all that to work at once everyone has to know where everyone’s at.” Now graduated, Alex has recently taken up a Senior Software Engineer in Test role at the BBC.

Who said computer games were a waste of time?

December 13, 2022