‘The gaming industry stigma must go’: MM chat to Access Creative College, the pioneers looking to make waves in the education system

For the modern generation, gaming has become part of day to day life.

From consoles to hand-held mobile games, the gaming industry is big business and proven to be one of the largest and wealthiest industries in the world due to its continual growth.

With that said, the industry is largely unrecognised by the education system and often waved away as a pastime rather than a professional career. 

Manchester’s Access Creative College, part of the Access to Music branch, has set about to change this mentality with their new course for school leavers.

Through their new course, the company is aiming to blood up and coming young talent into an industry that is becoming more influential as time goes on.

MM went down to speak to staff and students about the college’s innovative work and future plans for expansion.

From Sweden to Manchester

Head of games and media, Mikael Hellberg, 25, grew up in Sweden and, like many of his current students, found the gaming industry through his own hobbies and interests and feels he draws on his own experiences when it comes to education.

“When I initially moved here I began to realise how complex the English education system is and I think that not even British people really knows how it works in truth.

“In Sweden it is much simpler as the system is streamlined throughout all age groups and when I was the age of our current students there was one qualification for all and that was that.”

On the measurable differences between the two education systems, Mikael said Sweden was way ahead of the UK in their emphasis on group work.

FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS: Mikael Hellberg has brought innovative Swedish teaching methods and ways to the Manchester Access Creative College

“From an early age kids learn the importance of the benefits of working and interacting with others and learning to appreciate the value of what other people have to say.

“Personally I think this is something that the UK needs to work on as, when we get 16-17 year old students here, they are all lacking that necessary range of collaborative skills which is fundamental in this industry.”

The Higher Education debate

One of the college’s teachers Guy Bramwell-Smith earned himself a degree in mathematics prior this role at the Creative College and spoke of his new found admiration for vocational subjects.

“Previously I would’ve recommended the university route as the way to get into the industry as, from my own experience, having a degree has been very important to me as it has allowed me to become a teacher and to be able to teach maths.

“However, learning from my own experiences and in the working world, I would stress that unless your career specifies that you need a degree in order to progress than I think vocational practical courses like this is the way to go.

“I think there is a huge stigma towards the gaming industry, but we’re here to change that.”

TO UNIVERSITY, OR NOT TO UNIVERSITY? Guy Bramwell-Smith says vocational practical courses like Access Creative College’s are now the way forward, certainly in gaming

Speaking on the opportunities that he hopes the course would bring, Guy explained that, from the end of a qualification at Creative College, students would be able to go to university to either do a bachelor in arts or bachelor in science but their aim was for everyone to get a job straight away.

“If you can get a job straight away than why pay £9000 a year to delay your career?” said the 25-year-old.

A second chance

For students Jordan Chadfield, 25, and Luke Durrans, 17, the gaming college was a catalyst for new beginnings and a welcome breath of fresh air having previously struggled with the academic framework of mainstream education.

Jordan explained how she had been trying to break into the gaming industry since she was 16 and the struggles she found finding an educational outlet that would allow her to pursue her dream.

“I would admit that I was bullied as a child and gaming was my escape from that as it allowed me to forget about the negativity that engulfed my life at the time.

“With that in mind, I was naturally drawn to working in the gaming industry as it contributed so much to my life.

‘ENGULFED BY NEGATIVITY’: Student Jordan Chadfield, bullied as a child and who sought solace in gaming, could be New York bound and says the course has changed her life

“I was creative and I loved to draw but when I came out of school in 2009 it was hard to break in as there were no courses.

“After trying and failing several times with various courses, I was fortunate to find this and only now do I think I’m beginning to make any progress.

“Now that I’ve started this course, I can easily say that this is the best decision I have ever made.

“I’ve already been offered a job as a 3D model artist with a company in New York and that for me has made all the difference.”

Luke also experienced the same social isolation as a child and saw gaming as his escape mechanism.

“I suppose I’ve always been interested in games and being creative is my thing really.

“It is one of those things that has been derived from being alone a lot through childhood. While others would be outside, I would be inside being productive.

“I like the fact that there is always something to do in the creative industry, there is no rule book like there is with a lot things in school, and I’ve just wanted to have an outlet for many of my ideas which I’ve found here.”

Plans for the future

Although nobody knows what the future holds for the first batch of students at the Creative College, Mikael stated his desire for a possible expansion of the college in order to gain the respect of industry professionals.

“I think in everything I do I want it to be the best, so I suppose my personal ambition is to make this the go-to course in the UK to study games development.

“We are aiming to start up an active games studio alongside the Creative College to bring ourselves closer to the industry.

“Getting our students involved will be crucial to this and we will want to work with the likes of Xbox and PlayStation on this ideally.

“Slowly but surely we’ll want to evolve this and make the studio commercial and ultimately give our students the real-life experience of an industry environment and the process of creating and promoting a game.

“In terms of streamlining practical education, I see that as the game changer.”

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