True diversity for roles in video games? Damn right!
Why I was inspired by 6 young people, mixed gender, race, age and all at a ‘Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre’, (SILC) in Leeds.
It was my pleasure to talk video games with Megan, James, Dominic, Sahid, Aiden and Michael. All pupils over at Broomfield SILC in Leeds. To give them a little experience of what it’s like to work on video games.
Helping them understand the games industry (£4b in the UK!) and how their favourite games are created, with a view to making it their career.
Having worked in video games for nearly 20 years, with Rockstar Games and Activison, this is an industry I have a strong passion for.
One of the voluntary roles I have as a businessman in Yorkshire is as an ‘Enterprise Advisor’ for the Leeds ‘Local Enterprise Partnership’.
This means partnering up with a local school and a coordinator (Becky in my case), to help build knowledge and experience around potential careers for pupils.
They get to work and interact with people from the ‘real world of work’ to discuss and experience a career direction they could choose.
The brief was a simple one; after previously meeting two classes full of students to discuss video games, it was time to return and focus on a smaller group and see how things went.
Will there be passion, engagement and a desire to learn about the games industry?
Broomfield SILC, Leeds, meeting the testing crew for this session.
I rolled up to Broomfield, rang the buzzer. After signing in and finding my way to the right department, Mark, one of the teachers in the school helped me set up the equipment for the class.
The vibe of the place, the number of staff, the facilities, showed me it’s clear this is a great learning environment.
For my session today, I wanted to get this team of pupils engaging with a video game on tablet from a development viewpoint. Entering problems they found into Word on laptops, and discussing and learning about the games industry.
I would teach them the basics of games testing.
What to look for, how to spot things while thinking about difficulty, whether it was fun, and all the usual testing ‘good stuff’.
Easy right? Well I’m not a school teacher, but I do teach and coach in businesses, and have taught teenagers in the past. But I was a bit nervous as this was a SILC, will it be too challenging?
The would be ‘test team’ all walked in, sat down, said hello and introduced themselves. Fortunately, they remembered me from the last games and careers chat 6 months previous.
Within 10 minutes my slight nervousness was gone! We were talking the language of games, fun and creativity!
We discussed favourite games, consoles, game industry history. Everything I passionately talk about with my friends.
Down to the work then.
After the opening discussions they all picked up the iPads. Working in pairs, play-testing the rather cute and fun ‘Clumsy Ninja’ title by Natural Motion.
Recording any problems found on the way (not many as this game has been out a while and is very polished), swapping the iPad’s so each could have a go, discussing levelling up.
I’ve got to say, they worked well together, and listened to pretty much everything I said. (always a bonus!)
For the final 30 minutes we discussed bugs, and the importance of reporting, and of course we revisited more of our favourite games!
1 hour and 30 mins gone, like it was 15!
Ok, the serious bit and the real message here.
I’ve worked in videogames almost 20 years, I’ve taught young people to be testers for over a decade. These Broomfield youngsters were mid-teens. The people I taught at Rockstar Games as new employees were late teens and early twenties.
What did I see? The same engagement with video games I have before, I felt the same passion as anyone I have taught before! The same.
Ok, the spelling wasn’t brilliant (mine isn’t most of the time!). The bugs were getting mixed up with features in the game, but this is the same problem with all new testers. It’s all training and learning.
The big question is, can this group of very diverse young people be games testers?
Absolutely! Good specific training, along with an understanding of their passion will help them have a career in games, for life.
Just tap into these young people, however challenging their lives may be. Understand how creative they can be, and let’s not forget meticulous, and you have a resource that creatives industries need.
With an open, supportive, fun environment, the ‘real world of work output’ is tangible.
How do we start this drive to better diversity?
It starts with schools like Broomfield caring about creativity (they really do). Truly understanding career paths that sit outside the ‘normal’ job descriptions and roles in society.
For example; a job in retail and commercial may well mean an environment that can’t adapt easily to certain needs (whether morally right or wrong).
Creative environments are able to do that more successfully, as they tend to be somewhat organic.
It also starts with parents helping their children to embrace creative industries like the games industry from an early age, as meaningful future employment.
Encouraging them to apply to be ‘beta testers’ online, something they can do at home, in their own time.
Most of all, it doesn’t take a mass of qualifications to get a foot into the games industry as a tester. For many, that desire for qualifications may come later as they become artists, designers, even programmers.
Let’s not forget all the other disciplines it takes to get a game to the shelf, Production, PR, Marketing.
I do understand that for many young people that attend a SILC school, this may not be possible. But why not for those that love the tech and aren’t phased by it. Who live video games and grin from ‘ear to ear’ when they talk about them.
Why wouldn’t we try to help them have a career in the games industry?
Let’s embrace diversity in society. By helping our young people who are the future of our industries, to understand how fulfilling a career in creativity and video games can be. Whatever life challenges they have.
Video Games. They aren’t ‘just’ a hobby!
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Mark Lloyd — Coach, Trainer, Mentor, Consultant.