Schooling the next gen – Behind the scenes at Skåne’s The Game Assembly

The Game Assembly (TGA) is widely cited as one of the most important facets of the success of Skåne’s games industry – read our in-depth piece on the region here for more background on that. Here, we talk to Linda Nilsson, Education Manager Malmö, about the programme and its students.

How did The Game Assembly get started?

At the start of the century, the games industry really started growing in Sweden, and so did the demand for new employees, So, in close cooperation with Massive Entertainment, TGA formed with a vision to educate highly competent future game developers.

A curriculum was established with a unique concept, focused on interdisciplinary teamwork, and where the game programming students create and use their own game engines. TGA started in 2008 with two programmes, Game Programmer and Game Artist. Since then, the school has grown to offer five programmes in Malmö: Game Programmers, Animators, Artists, Technical Artists and Level Designers.

TGA students send in their work to The Rookies (a community for non-professional digital artists) every year and has been ranked a top 10 game development school in the world since 2017. In 2019 TGA expanded and started a second school, in Stockholm.

The Game Assembly is a school for Higher Vocational Education. This is a concept where programmes are created in accordance with the needs of the labour market and in close cooperation with employers in the industry. The programmes are in Swedish and government funded. The TGA has a board responsible for the quality and content of the programmes, consisting of employees from game companies in the region as well as student representatives.

Is it a struggle to keep up to date with a rapidly changing industry?

Since a main goal of ours is for our students to get employed in the industry, we find it essential to evolve together with it. We adapt and develop the programmes almost every year, making sure that we use the latest software and that our educators are up to date with what the industry needs. TGA has a highly competent workforce of full-time educators. They have years of experience from the industry and understand what it takes to create and release a game. Professionals from the industry also visit and give lectures: Swedish, Danish, Finish and British companies visit throughout the year.

A mission of TGA is to educate developers, which is why we make sure the students learn to make games in cross-disciplinary teams. Half of their time consists of making games with students from the other programmes. Eight games are created during the two years in school prior to the internship phase, starting with the most basic to more advanced 3D games.

The Technical Artist programme is shorter and they join in on the 6th-8th game projects. More advanced games are made from scratch where the programmers create their own engines, which gives them the skills they need in order to conquer most of the already existing game engines in the business.

Working in groups gives valuable insights into obstacles one can face while making games and understanding the difficulties of other disciplines. They also develop the communications skills needed to be successful in the games industry.

Giving and receiving feedback is a big component, and we focus on helping each other in order to create both a caring and a creative work environment.

The programmes are high paced and we have incredibly dedicated and passionate students who work hard to stay on track to finally be employed at a game company.

How many students do you see graduate every year?

The last couple of years we have graduated around 80 students a year. Next year it will be closer to 100, and more to come with our school in Stockholm. The vast majority of graduated students get employed in the industry quickly. Several former students work abroad, for example in the UK, Japan and Canada.

Do you work with local developers to place students?

Every year TGA hosts an event called ‘Meet and Greet’. Our students get a chance to meet professionals, show their work and apply for internships. All the programmes finish with a 4-7 month long internship at a game company.

The event has been a great success for both parties and usually over 90% of the students secure an internship placement. After that, Game Habitat, a game community organisation situated in Malmö, hosts a Meetup where the companies and students get a chance to mingle and get to know each other even further.

TGA is an important part of the eco-system of the industry, providing companies with future game developers. We receive great feedback from companies saying that TGA students are considered junior developers by them, already contributing at the beginning of their internships.

Do you track the success of your alumni, both in getting jobs or setting up their own studios?

We do a follow-up six months after graduation, and last year close to 90 per cent were working in the industry by then. Our alumni network is of great importance to our school and something we truly appreciate. We stay connected through closed social communication hubs where news and ideas are exchanged, or meetups are arranged. Alumni also visit the school to hold lectures or lead workshops. Many like to stay in touch and talk fondly about their time at TGA!

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