New way into video game industry for Kiwi gamers launched by Otago Polytechnic

Kiwis looking to turn their video gaming passion into a career have a new way into the industry thanks to Otago Polytechnic.

The tertiary education provider is opening the Game Design pathway to learners from next month. It sits within the New Zealand Certificate in Digital Media and Design course. 

It's been developed in collaboration with Swedish-based Futuregames, regarded among the best game development learning providers in the world," the polytechnic said.

The Game Design pathway will focus on creating virtual worlds for games or work within the field of virtual production.

Otago Polytechnic recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Future Games, which will provide professional development for staff, mentoring for student projects, review and feedback on Otago Polytechnic's games courses, as well as a range of learning materials.

"The programme has been developed and our amazing staff are ready to go," Professor Federico Freschi, Head of College: Te Maru Pumanawa College of Creative Practice and Enterprise, said.

"It has capacity for 19 students in Semester 2, which starts in July, and we are accepting enrolments now.

"This offering builds on our existing suite of games-related programmes and taps into our growing expertise in empowering people into careers in the fast-growing gaming industry," he said.

Students for the new pathway will explore world building, content creation and game design using Unreal Engine, a widely used game engine that can be harnessed for a range of environments, including PC, PlayStation, XBox, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android.

The programme will also enable students to learn about real-time 3D art and design, lighting and atmospherics, interactive logic and narrative game design.

The move was welcomed by game designer Edwin McRae, who told Newshub that it can be really constructive to play a wide range of video games.

That way if people are interested in game development "they understand the full range of what's possible in the games industry space as opposed to just the AAA highlights".

The designer, who worked on Path of Exile, said the increase in opportunities was a "direct response" to the huge growth of the industry in both New Zealand and around the world.

"So there's just been more and more demand for well trained graduates to join game development studios. And there are so many more studios than there were five years ago, 10 years ago," he said.

It also has the potential to reach even further, into virtual worlds and even movies.

"It branches into augmented reality and virtual reality," McRae said.

"There's a lot of talk about the metaverse at the moment. All of these areas are growing and cinema is using video game technology more and more, particularly game engines like Unreal to create virtual settings for movies.

"All of the different kinds of mediums are starting to blend together and kind of learn from each other."