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Could You Be The Next Star Of The Games Development World?

31 Jul 2018

If you want to get into a career in games development then you need to get yourself on to one of the upcoming Star challenges by Grads in Games.

Grads in Games is an initiative by Aardvark Swift, a video games recruitment firm. The initiative’s aim is to help graduates bridge the gap between being a student and becoming a professional games developer.
Search For A Star
One way they help make students make that leap is by partnering up with leading games studios and coders across the United Kingdom (think Sumo Digital, nDreams, HackerRank, BossAlien, NaturalMotion, Red Kite Games or GaasWorks) to offer two sets of career-boosting challenges; one for first and second year university students and the other challenge for final year students.

Grads in Games’ Rising Star Challenge is aimed at first and second year students whilst their Search For A Star is targeted at students in their final year at uni.

The Challenges

Both the Search For A Star and the Rising Star challenges will test your coding or gaming skills and strong talent will gain access to internships, mentoring and even full time jobs in the gaming industry.

The five categories in which you can show off your talents are:

  • Games Programming
  • 3D Character Art
  • 3D Environment Art
  • 3D Animation
  • VFX

Since the games studios taking part all want to see your practical skills on display, you’ll need to make a fully working game in order to impress them and stand a chance of winning. It doesn’t need to be a fully blown epic of a game, just a small project to show that you have ideas and can make them work.

Why Search For A Star?

The Search For A Star Challenge has now been running for ten years. In its first year, only around 60 students from just 20 universities took part in the competition. Fast forward to this year and those numbers are now 1,000 students from 100 universities. In the last two months alone, Aardvark Swift has channelled more than a dozen graduates into jobs within the gaming industry.

Managing Director of Aardvark Swift, Ian Goodall, describes the Search For A Star Challenge as a bit like X Factor but for video games development students.

Going into more detail about what they want to achieve and how they go about finding strong talent for the industry, Mr Goodall says: “Originally, we started out with a programming competition. That’s where we know the games industry feels the most pain at the moment: finding really good coders.”

“What we did with the competition is we tried to mirror the typical recruitment process that a coding student would face when trying to get into the games industry. The first stage of the competition was, and still is, a C++ code test, because if students aren’t capable of coding in C++ or if they’re not up to a very good standard, then they’re not going to get past that first hurdle.”

“We wanted to take the best students that were out there, push them through some tests and some stages, and then hopefully come out with the real crème de la crème, if you like, of students in the UK,” added Mr. Goodall.

So, Why Should You Enter One Of The Star Challenges?

Well, first of all there gaming industry-related prizes such as high-spec graphics cards and art software licenses.

But, much more than that, you’ll be working with and receiving valuable feedback from leading names in the gaming sector. They’ll mentor you and bring on your skills. You’ll gain bags of experience and improve your gaming and coding portfolio. You’ll be networking with the people who can get your gaming career on track.

And, ultimately, winners of the competitions will go on to have a job interview with one of the leading game development studios which are taking part in next year’s challenges.

Explaining the real achievements which Search For A Star has brought over the last decade, Aardvark Swift’s, Mr. Goodall said:

“Ten years ago, many, many studios dismissed graduate hiring. They got inundated every year by weak, badly written CVs and badly prepared portfolios. They’d come to the conclusion that all the degrees out there were rubbish. They weren’t really too keen on graduate recruitment.”

“We’ve, quite honestly, taken students that would have never made it into the games industry and we’ve pipelined them successfully into many, many UK studios.”

“They would have been lost to the UK games industry, and they would have gone off and got jobs in IT or tech or banking or finance or whatever. I’m very proud that we put a lot of work in, but it actually does get people jobs. Simple as that.”

What The Gaming Industry Recruiters Say

But what do the people that matter think about Search For A Star? The influential recruiters who could actually land you a job in the gaming industry?

Here’s what some of them have said about the competitions…

“These sorts of challenges are vital to the industry’s future. Frankly, if you’re a student who isn’t entering Search For A Star or Rising Star competitions then we don’t believe that you’re serious about getting a job in video games.” – Simon Iwaniszak, Managing Director at Red Kite Games.

“NDreams has been involved with Search For a Star for two years now. We believe it’s important to encourage graduates at this stage of their careers and this competition allows them to showcase their skills with the real chance of employment at the end of it. The graduates that we recruited in the program have already made a great contribution to the studio. It’s also been a great experience for our staff, who have been involved in judging competition entries in a variety of disciplines.” – Tamsin O’Luanaigh, Talent Director at nDreams.

“Search for a Star has been an amazing event to be a part of over the past couple of years. We’ve seen excellent talent participate with several of those stars having bright careers at Sumo. It’s important to be able to support Search for a Star to help foster the best and brightest game developers for the future.” – Holly Youdan, Talent Acquisition Manager at Sumo Digital.

What Next?

Watch the following short video to find out more about previous Star challenges from Grads in Games now. And make sure you keep your eyes open for this 2019’s challenges going live and opening up for applications this September…

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