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Professor Chris Headleand

Head of the Games Development Department, Staffordshire University

The skills that video games students learn are inherently multidisciplinary and can be applied in all different sectors. It’s what makes a games degree sought-after.

Human beings are hard-wired to enjoy games, says Professor Chris Headleand, Head of the Games Development Department at Staffordshire University. “It’s a natural, fundamental desire in all of us,” he explains. “We learn how to play before we learn how to talk.” 

Career opportunities in video games industry 

This may explain why billions of people globally have a deep-rooted passion for video games. According to trade body Ukie, the UK industry was worth £7.05 billion in 2022. But it’s not just the playing of video games that has become so staggeringly popular. More and more students want to be part of the video games sector and are craving jobs as artists, designers, programmers and developers. As such, they are turning to universities that offer degrees in these subjects

Celebrating 20 years as a games educator 

Staffordshire University has the largest games department in the UK, with more than 1,800 students across two campuses. In the academic year 2023/2024, it celebrates its 20th year as a games educator. “As a dedicated games department, we run many specialist courses, from concept art all the way to games programming,” says Professor Headleand.  

“Of course, we can’t afford to sit on our laurels because this is such a fast-moving space. Innovations are happening all the time. When we design a course, we aren’t preparing students for today, we are preparing them for what they’ll encounter in three years.” To ensure undergraduates are taught the most appropriate skills, the department works closely with industry partners and colleagues — plus technology companies outside the sector — to understand the type of expertise they require. 

Broaden your employment horizons and consider
jobs within and beyond the games industry.

Video games landscape and opportunities in the UK 

For anyone considering a games education, Professor Headleand has this advice: “The UK games sector is an amazing place to work,” he says. “There are some big, long-standing studios here that have been creating Triple-A titles for many years, plus hundreds of smaller independent operators. However, the skills that games graduates learn are inherently multidisciplinary and can be applied in all kinds of sectors. A games programmer is fundamentally a computer scientist who understands design, interaction and engagement. So, broaden your employment horizons and consider jobs within and beyond the games industry.” 

Games technology found in numerous industries 

Professor Headleand knows games graduates who have found careers in various sectors including logistics; sales and marketing; manufacturing; and banking. “Video games technology is found everywhere,” he says. “It’s in virtual reality exhibits in museums and zoos. It’s in simulators that train surgeons and pilots. It’s in wearable activity trackers and state-of-the-art exercise bikes in the health and fitness sector.  

“That car manufacturer’s configuration system that helps customers create bespoke design features in their vehicles — it’s probably been built by a games graduate. Gamification is being deployed in many non-game environments to make routine tasks enjoyable, engaging and interactive.” 

Preparing students for emerging technologies 

As technology continues to develop, students can expect games education to become more exciting. “The number of tools available to us now — and the things we can do within a games engine — has moved so far forward,” explains Professor Headleand. “There are more large-scale studios producing incredibly detailed, high-budget games that are works of incredible fiction. We aren’t far away from being able to call these games ‘interactive movies’ — so that’s something we should be prepared for … It’s an exciting time for students, and we want them to find their dream careers when they graduate. Ultimately, it’s our job to ensure that they don’t just leave here with a certificate but that they are prepared for the world they are entering.” 

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