Breaking Into Video Game Design

 I've spent a bit of time recently, helping my clever son to edit his own first publication for Kindle, a  career guide about breaking into video games design. He has always been keen on writing - and very good at it, I think - but then I would say that, wouldn't I? This isn't a big book, but I do think it's one that could be very useful for any young person who thinks he or she might want to work in the games industry.

For years, Charles has known that he wanted to work in video games. As a very young child, he was always drawing and colouring in what came to be known in this family as his 'disasters': pictures full of 'happenings' - usually pretty disastrous ones! People would come into our kitchen and look at all these drawings pinned up on the wall and say 'well - er- yes!'  For a while, we thought he might want to study art, but it didn't turn out that way. Instead, he did an honours maths degree. He had always been mad about board games, games of all kinds really. Every careers advisor he had ever spoken to had said that he would need to be a demon programmer, but when he did two years of computer science at Glasgow University, he found out that he didn't enjoy it much! None of this dampened his interest in games though.

After graduation (and a few months as a kitchen porter) he worked in the games industry for a couple of years - including a spell with Rockstar - on short Quality Assurance contracts, getting his name on several major titles in the process. Then he was accepted onto a postgraduate masters course in Video Game Development at the University of Abertay in Dundee - a course about which he speaks very highly indeed. Now, he and three colleagues from that course have set up their own development studio, called Guerilla Tea - also in Dundee.

As he would say himself, he knew what he wanted to do and to be - just didn't know what that job was called.  Design, in video games, involves not just coming up with ideas (although that's a part of it)  but making the game itself work as a game. He tells me he uses his maths and his QA experience a lot. Also all those years of creating disasters and writing about them!

If you're interested in the games industry and how it works - even if you aren't actually aiming for a career as a video game designer - you could do worse than download and read this guide. I think it's very nicely written but it also gives a fascinating overview of an industry which is changing and developing so rapidly that our kids generally know more about it than we do.

Bird of Passage - The Cover

Here it is, at last - the cover for my new novel, which I'm scheduling as an eBook for Kindle, with a publication date of around the 18th November - that's if I can get enough concentrated time to finish the final edits and the formatting.

The cover is by a young digital artist called Matt Zanetti, a partner in the new Dundee based video game development company, Guerilla Tea. You can see some more of Matt's amazing art on GT's website, (quite different from this) and he was recently featured extensively in 3D Artist magazine. I find this cover very moving. Bird of Passage is a novel about institutional cruelty, about childhood trauma, betrayal and abiding love and it seems to me as though the cover brilliantly reflects all of these things - I couldn't have asked for anything better.