Livingstone: Graduates don't know how to make games

Eidos boss warns that university courses are failing students

Eidos' creative director Ian Livingstone has shot out at games specific university courses, claiming the graduates they produce are not fit for purpose.

"Universities are not producing enough of the type of people we need," he told Crain's. "The industry needs mathematicians, physicists and artists."

"There are something like 81 courses in the UK dedicated to computer games," he added, "but universities get paid for putting bums on seats and they're turning out students who know all about the history of games, but they can't make them."

His comments echo those of other industry veterans, such as Frontier Development's David Braben, who warned of the irrelevance of much being taught in games courses.

"One of the things that is very worrying is there are over 80 games courses in Britain and the sad thing is they aren't really teaching what we need for games at the moment, which is a frightening thing," Braben commented in 2007.

Braben went on to say that he estimated only 25 per cent of graduates would be able to find work in the games industry. These comments were in line with earlier ones made by former Tiga boss, Fred Hassan.

"What companies have been telling us is that very few of those graduates that come out of 'so-called' games courses are fit for purpose," said Hasson. "In fact one quote we had back from a company was, 'we don't know if we'd even use them for QA'."

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Latest comments (4)

Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
EIGHTY games courses. Jeez. I doubt even 80 graduate artists will find jobs in the games industry here this year. And certainly not 80 graduate animators. which raises the question of why universities are continuing to teach people when there's so little chance of finding work in that field. I sincerely hope universities are being realistic with freshers about how difficult they'll find it to get work in the industry.

The industry here is going to be bitten in a few years (3,5,10 - who knows?) by the current tendency to outsource artwork to India or China etc., albeit maybe necessary right now. There are very few art/animation positions going right now compared to the number of other roles, and when those outsourcing/offshoring studios become too expensive to run then the industry will look to bring those functions back over here. Except it won't have been training enough artists etc. in the meantime, and bringing the functions back inhouse will be extremely difficult.
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Alex McLean Studio Head, Codemasters10 years ago
Much as I'd like to support the games degree courses, in the case of programmers, with notable exceptions, they often fall short. In programming my preference would continue to be for maths, physics, comp sci, AI, engineering and other "hard science" grads over pure games undergrads. Partly this is down to the often lower standard of mathematical / logic ability in the latter. This is perhaps not surprising when the entrance qualifications required from sixth form are usually that much lower for the more vocational degrees. This isn't elitist - other industries demand smart, innovative and hard working people and so should games.

The exception is perhaps the masters courses - I think the games M.Sc / MA courses are often better, especially if taken after a "traditional" undergraduate degree.

But it's all very well moaning about it - the courses exist and people are enrolling on them - it's up to industry and academia to work together to make them fit for purpose. Select the right people for these courses, make sure they have the requisite level of ability and passion going in, and teach them what they really need to know...
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.10 years ago
The US has also seen a dramatic rise in "video game" college courses. From looking at some of their syllabuses it seems their focus is less on the hard sciences and more geared toward art, history, theory and philosophy.

I hope this can be attributed to simply being a young area of coursework and will eventually move into a form more applicable to the real world.
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Mat Bettinson Business Development Manager, Tantalus Media10 years ago
That's a very sobering thought and I absolutely agree, all this talk about how graduates aren't fit for this and that ultimately can be self defeating.

At last year's GCAP event in Brisbane, I sat in on a panel session regarding games industry recruitment. I came away with a deep sense of how your view on the subject is completely depending on where you're sitting and that the entire situation could improve if all the parties - candidates, educators, industry - could just have a think about it from the perspective of the other guys for a change.

If you ask someone in the industry what they want, they'll tell you they want students who are great at making games already so they can plug their immediate staff shortfall without investing money in training. Well of course they will. Educators will point out that they're not software-package tutors. Educators are largely following market forces where the students are their livelihood. Is it a great idea that the educational offerings follow the whims of students?

I can understand why students stampede towards game courses, they sound a lot more sexy than traditional university subjects. I think largely this is because there's a lack fo understanding about how traditional subjects apply to game development.

I also have to ask why we're forcing tertiary education to be about generating candidates that can hit the ground running in game development. What happened to well-rounded multi-dicipline tertiary education and subsequent on-the-job training? That's how society has worked for hundreds of years. These days there's talk of subsidizing the sciences due to falling enrolement. Why not spend the money on marketing what kind of groovy jobs you can get with english/art or maths/physics under your belt?

Some blame must also be laid at the feet of students themselves. I think many are smart enough to realise that they'll get a job in the industry if they work out how to build a home-brew game, or a decent art portfolio etc. Yet we don't see a huge amount of this - they seem to expect us to be impressed that they completed their coursework in some games degree.

They seem to view university as a thing that they have to do so it's increasingly about making university as fun as it can be. Ostensibly by choosing a course most aligned the most with what they consider enjoyable.

I don't think that's playing to the strengths of tertiary education. My message to students is to go do proper foundation courses in the classics and then, because you have more time on your hands than you ever will when you're working, apply your knowledge and aquire further skills to do the fun stuff that you want to work in for a career.

I don't think we see enough of this. How can it be encouraged?
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