How to educate future game development rock stars?

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Every now and then game developers and companies working close to them get asked what schools should teach and what students should study in order to grow future game developers.

Both Finnish gaming industry and tech sector in general are in constant need of talent, talented developers and programmers to be specific. In order to help the industry (and the economy) government keeps asking how to improve the education system. As an industry HR professional and a former lobbyist for educational politics I should be thrilled. I’m not. Why? Because solving recruitment problems with education isn’t as simply done as said.

Last year I had a privilege to take part in a process “anticipation of competences and skills needs for gaming industry”, which was carried out by the Finnish National Board of Education. The goal of the process was to produce information about the competences and skills required in the gaming industry working life in the future.

As the result of the anticipation process we listed the competences required in the future gaming industry: community management, productization, target group scalability, ethics, data analysis, new technologies, gamification, serious gaming, partnerships, cultural knowledge, management, leadership and organizations.

So what exactly did we find out? Well unfortunately, as you can see from the list above, nothing that concrete. Students, future developers, need to understand how things like computers and Internet function. They have to have abilities to deepen their knowledge of different areas of things like “hardware”, “software” and “networks”. In order to make good and thus successful games they need to learn how individuals, communities and cultures function.

Of course if you take a look at recruitment ads you’ll notice that currently “everyone” (also Umbra) is looking for graphics programmers and backend developers. Despite this we, the game developers and service companies, don’t want a country filled with schools and universities teaching students to be masters of graphics programming or bachelors of backend developing. Why? Because the only thing that changes faster than the world in general is the world of technology. We don’t know what’s going to happen in tech and in our business a decade, a year, even a quarter from now. That’s why we don’t have a ready made solution for education either.

What we need to teach for students? Two words: understanding and abilities. What’s going on in the world. The more concrete stuff they’ll just have to figure out themselves. As Oscar Wilde wisely put it, “education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

If you’re interested, the whole report from the anticipation process (in Finnish) is here.


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