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Tempting art students into gaming

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Tempting art students into gaming

Art college and video games may seem like an unlikely match. But a project run by a Scottish university is trying to persuade art students to consider a career in the games industry.

Every year the Dare to be Digital project brings together teams of students over the summer to create their own games.

The aim is to showcase the skills of the students and help them find jobs making video games.

The organisers say they are also trying to dispel stereotypes about the games industry by promoting it as a career option to art students.

"When we go to art colleges, we find it is not something they have thought about doing," said Sarah Johnston, Dare marketing officer.

"We try to encourage artists and animators that the gaming industry is something they could get into," she told BBC News Online.

Corner shop job

Among the students who took part in this year's competition was Sally Greig, who graduated with a degree in drawing and painting.

But like many art students, she did not have a job to walk into, and instead spent the summer working in a corner shop.

She had never thought about a career in games until she heard about the Dare project, run by the University of Abertay in Dundee.

"When you leave art college, you don't get any practical advice about how to get a job," said Ms Greig.

"Art students are pushed towards the insular arts community, which is usually a choice between working in an art gallery or being a struggling artist.

"There needs to be more communication between a fast-growing industry like gaming and art schools.

"There is a vibrant games industry in Dundee which is not being promoted to students."

Image issues

Her team came up with an online graffiti game called City Scrawlaz, designed to appeal to teens.

The project won the Dare award for creativity, worth £2,000, and there has been interest in the game from the BBC.

The organisers realise that the games industry has an image problem, which may never change.

"There will always be an image of hardcore gamers and programmers," said Ms Johnston.

The result is that the Dare teams tend to be largely male. This year, there were only two women on the teams and they were both artists.

"We are always saying, 'come on girls, it is something for you'," said Ms Johnston.

"We try to promote it as another career option, telling them they could be the senior designer on a game seen by millions in the world."

Jobs to go

The Dare competition is now in its fourth year. It started off as a Scottish project but is now opening its doors to teams from across the UK, as well as from abroad.

Teams of five are given financial and practical support to develop their ideas into a prototype game during a 10 week period in the summer.

Some of the games created by the students have been sold to publishers to be played on mobile phones.

And the competition has opened doors in the gaming industry. Six Dare students are now working for games giant Electronic Arts and others have got jobs in smaller studios.

"People see the games industry as very technical," said Ms Grieg.

"It is like the beginning of cinema, when it was all about getting the manufacturing right. "But it is changing."

The winners of the Dare competition showcased their games at the recent European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) in London.

Her team came up with an online graffiti game called City Scrawlaz, designed to appeal to teens.

... great, a video game which promotes NEDish culture disgust.gif

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