A realistic look at what the study of game design and development is like if you’re keen to take it to the next level


PEDESTRIAN.TV has partnered with Swinburne University of Technology to give you a behind-the-scenes look at video game production.

If you’ve ever seen the TV series Mythic Quest on Apple TV, you probably think you know what it is like to work in the game creation industry. There are a lot of mind blowing ideas, designers who create amazing graphics in 24 hours, and people who are sitting in a dark room, testing the games before the fans. While it sounds incredibly fun, in the real world there is actually a lot more to it.

Of course, being an avid gamer is a bonus, but the industry is also innovative, creative, hardworking, and requires a combination of skills. If you are considering a career in the world of game design, we spoke to André Trevillian, a game and interactivity speaker from Swinburne University of Technology who explained to us what the fieldwork really looked like.

PEDESTRIAN.TV: Did you always know you wanted to work with video games, or is that something you fell into?

Andrew Trevillian: It was a passion for me when I was a teenager. At the time, there wasn’t much of a game industry in Victoria, so I studied graphic design. I spent many years working as a graphic designer and typographer and taught a bit as part of that as well. Then I moved on from there to game design.

I discovered this during my graphic design studies; I gained a lot of knowledge about photography and architecture which was very useful to me as a transferable skill set in game and level design.

PTV: Is studying game production in college different from what people expect it to be?

TO: There is a lot of collaboration between disciplines when you study or when you work in games. There are a variety of disciplines involved, from animation and user interface design, game design, programming, and audio. All kinds. So, a lot of people think when they plan to come to college to study games, that they will come in as a person of ideas. It will be a designer who will be the one to come up with the ideas and tell many others what to do. But that’s not how it works.

People need to have a good understanding of a wide variety of skills and a deep understanding of one or two.

PTV: You teach game design and development. Why is it not called a “game”?

TO: Gambling is the pursuit of a leisure activity – you play video games. Game development is the professional activity of making games. One challenge that I think we have with the coming students is that playing video games doesn’t qualify you to work in video games. When I say “qualify”, [I mean] that does not prepare you. Having a great appreciation for games is good, it’s great. But it is a profession. It is a practice. And it is an artistic and creative practice. It is necessary to make this distinction.

The other thing about this word “gambling” is that it is also associated with gambling. So when we talk about the gambling industry in Australia we are talking about poker machines and casinos. But when we talk about the game development industry, we are talking about the practice of making games.

PTV: What’s the biggest misconception in game education?

TO: That you will come and you will graduate, and you will find [traditional] use. There is no guarantee you can make in the creative arts or game development industry. It’s a bit like teaching people to be in a band and release a record. You know, you get your animators, your artists, your programmers together, you put them in a room, and they develop a project and then that project is something that can be brought forward. Or maybe it’s something that’s canned or could be released, and it’s really a hit and it’s great. Or it’s out, and no one is buying it. And it’s not that good.

So really, this is a difficult area.

PTV: What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the industry but may not have the skills to code or design games?

TO: Well, first of all, you can still develop those skills. We encourage students to get involved with independent developers in our local community. We encourage them to organize game jams, with 48 hour rapid prototyping events, usually based on a theme. And I always encourage my students to get involved in projects beyond what’s in the program, not only to make more connections in the industry, but also to create a stronger portfolio.

PTV: Is there anything else people should know about the Australian games industry and where it is heading?

TO: Only that nobody who tells you [where it’s headed] will be right. It is a volatile industry. It goes through cycles of boom and bust and cultural changes of direction that are very difficult to predict. So you want to be an adaptable person, or you want to develop the resilience that will make you an adaptable person.

Interested in learning to design games? Apply to Swinburne University of Technology and gain the skills to enter the world of game development.

Image: Mythic Quest