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Teesside Game Graduates: Where are they now?

From games development to animation Teesside is one of the most prestigious Universities for computer games related courses with graduates going on to work in some of the most well-known gaming companies in the world.

Teesside University has a large range of courses covering the games industry such as Games Animation, Computer Games Art and Indie Game development.

Many students go on to work in prestigious companies which most say they owe to the industry professional and expert teaching on the courses.

The students also have access to a wide range of industry standard technology including a motion capture suite.

Teesside also run a number of events for those studying the games and animation related courses that help develop employability called ExpoSeries.

Students talk and interact with potential employers through ExpoTential in their first year, ExpoTalent in their second year and ExpoTees in third year.

The ExpoSeries sees people from the public and industry guests attend each year to see student work.

This is helped by the fact the university has set up good links for summer placements with Microsoft, MediaMonks, Hammerhead VR, Animmersion and Dojo Arcade.

We spoke to a range of Teesside graduates to find out more about their experiences at Teesside and where they are now. 

Giovanna Mateus graduated in Games Design and is now doing her masters at Teesside.

Felicity Green studies computer animation for games at Teesside and was attracted to the course due to the percentage of students that went into industry following their degree.

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Felicity Green

She has fond memories of her interview at Teesside saying: “Before my interview a student chatted to me about the university and we played unreal tournament until I was called in, it was a good first impression!”

When speaking about the Universities links to games she said: “I was considering another university too but when I enquired about students that went into games they didn’t have many examples and preferred to talk about students working on high profile movies instead. Teesside were very happy to discuss their links to the games industry. The motion capture studio was a draw too.”

Discussing what she learnt she said: “I think the focus on communicating with other departments in first year was a valuable lesson that I’ve carried into industry, as well as the software and skills we’ve learned.”

Felicity also felt that tutors tried to instil good professional working attitudes onto others which she felt was valuable in times of stress.

Alongside this she felt the contacts she built up during her time were invaluable.

On how the course helped prepare her for industry she noted the Journeyman project saying: “It taught me all the things that can go wrong during development, and how you need to be prepared for them and how to try and avoid the negatives.

“It taught me the importance of planning, showing up, doing the work, being on good terms with your team and being considerate to those around you.

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A still from Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2

“It also taught me valuable software skills and gave me access to things like the motion capture studio which wouldn’t have been something I could have done outside of uni.”

She now works at Rockstar North as an Animation Development Assistant and feels if she hadn’t studied motion capture or how to use motion builder she wouldn’t have had the skills or knowledge to get the position.

Felicity also noted contacts from Teesside saying: “They helped, as they vouched for me after the interview.”

She never imagined she’d end up at Rockstar North saying: “I heard so many stories of people coming out of university and never getting anywhere in the games industry, I feel I got very lucky.”

Teesside also runs its very own commercial studio TUCan studios which has multiple graduates working there.

Jonathan Sullivan graduated in 2010 and is one of Teesside’s earlier graduates of the games art course when it was just in its infancy.

He found the course through the recommendation of a former Graduate.

He emphasised the importance of having a good show reel above all else.

On the most valuable aspects of Teesside he commented: “It was networking, from which I have got this job and pursued others.”

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Jonathan Sullivan

He spoke about what he learnt during his time at Teesside saying: “You can’t do it all yourself, and you need to make failures early. Achieve the goal of the brief first, and then expand on it, that will create your best work rather than planning unattainable masterpieces.”

He also said: “Self-growth and contacts can only be acquired at an institution like Teesside.”

Candidly he spoke about where he thought he’d be and end up: “I thought I’d be doing my own thing, turns out making video games is hard!”

He graduated at an unfortunate time and said: “We had a massive recession, and the industry had pivoted from everyone being trained for Triple A 3D, to affordable small-scale indie 2D.”

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A still from Rockstars Red Dead Redemption 2

He persevered though and now also works as an Animation Development Assistant at Rockstar North, previously having worked freelance. He commented on this saying: “Rockstar North’s cinematic team is now 25% Teesside grads, we’ll hopefully have the company by 2030!”

Jonathan feels he owes a lot of personal growth to Teesside too and a fantastic network of other capable people, having also suffered from depression at the time.

On the industry, itself he said: “It cannot be stressed enough how difficult this industry is and if you are not 100% serious no one will hire you, it’s just that simple.”

Tom Lavery studied character animation at Teesside along with a 3D character animation master’s and chose to study there due to its great reputation.

Speaking on what he learnt he said: “It gave me the building blocks to my career, as well as that, having my degrees allowed me to immigrate to another country. without them I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

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Tom Lavery

Specifically, on the master’s course he said: “It was more tailored to what I needed to break into the industry. The discipline and tight deadlines really helped. it felt like I was already a professional.”

He also notes the importance of networking events like ExpoSeries which he felt put its students and graduates in front of employers.

Tom had little to no knowledge of how to actually animate when he started but now works at Mercury Filmworks in Ottowa, Canada as an animator for the Disney series Tangled and said: “Teesside was Certainly THE first step in this journey for me.”

Dave Cockburn is a Games Art Lecturer at Teesside University and spoke on why Teesside is so recognised for its game and animation courses saying: “It comes down to how long the courses have been running along with the fact the industry has grown and changed and the courses reflect that.”

He also feels students value Teesside saying: “The staff bring all the planning and professionalism that the industry dictates yet still manage to deliver courses which are interesting and current.”

Speaking about why the courses stand out he said: “We run courses that mirror industry such as Journeyman and Beta arcade, we also attend EGX and Rezzed to make sure what is being taught is current.

“This also helps out from an employability point of view, with our best students having no problems finding employment.”

You can learn more about the courses Teesside has to offer on their website here.

You can also find out more about Animex 2019 – A Festival of Games, Animation and VFX here.

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