Confetti Institute is helping a new generation of talent to level up
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Featured Image Credit: Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies
Here’s a scene that I’m sure will be all-too familiar to far too many of you. You’ve just graduated university, wallet several thousands of pounds lighter but with a head full of dreams and a heart full of possibility. You’ve spent the last few years learning, honing, becoming the best. The job market ain’t ready for you.
Except, it turns out, the job market saw you coming. The job market wants graduates that have come out of university with years of experience readily available. What do you mean you were busy working on your dissertation and attending lectures instead of fetching cups of coffee for a dead-eyed exec in an office in London, you lazy bum?
I get asked a lot about how I got a job playing video games all day and occasionally writing about them. The truth is, breaking into the games industry is hard. But Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies makes it look easy. It’s a school that places collaboration, passion, and honest-to-goodness experience at the forefront of everything it does. And after spending the day exploring the school’s state-of-the-art facilities and meeting some of its talented staff and students? Well, I kind of want to quit writing about video games and learn all about making them.
As a born-and-raised Nottinghamer (Nottinghamite? Notter?) Confetti has been around for as long as I can remember (or at least 1994). I have friends that studied there longer ago than I care to admit, but it feels like in recent years the school has been on a stratospheric trajectory. With courses not offered anywhere else in the world, dazzlingly expensive industry leading equipment, and a focus on making contacts and gaining experience, Confetti offers genuinely viable routes into gaming - and beyond.
Gin Rai, Confetti’s esports manager and course leader, tells me that the school’s entire attitude is based around four simple words: “do it for real”. It’s an ethos that seeps into every aspect of learning at Confetti.
“If someone tells you ‘hey, here's a new camera, learn how to use it’. What do you do? How do you learn how to use it?” Gin explains animatedly over Zoom. “You just don't turn it on and start taking pictures and having a go, right? Now think of that, but then strategise on the learning.
“So there's theoretically learning how to do something; watching a tutorial, reading a book, following a manual, and then there's practically doing it. And then what is the highest level of practically doing it? And that is linking it to a project, linking it to a client, linking it so that you're working collaboratively, developing your skills, soft skills, employability skills, hard skills, everything at the same time. That’s what ‘do it for real’ means. Rather than learning it and never applying it, it's learning to apply it and get hired and get paid and get a future doing it. For real. So that's the vibe.”
One of the strongest and most exciting examples of Confetti doing it for real can be seen in its esports production course - the only one of its kind in the UK. It’s a course with a huge focus on developing essential - and more importantly transferable skills.
“Esports production is essentially made up of all the things that we've been doing forever,” Gin tells me. “So all production technologies, you got TV in there, you got film and broadcast in there, you've got visual effects and graphics, you've got game technologies, some fundamentals of games design. So all of those things are amalgamated together in an effective learning package that represents what the esports production industry is made up of.
Gin explains the reason this course exists is to fill the gap between grassroots esports tournaments and the kind of big budget, arena-filling championships that are only growing in popularity. Hosting a local Super Smash Bros. night in your hometown might be one thing, but how do you go from that to something like the League Of Legends World Championships? It’s a question Confetti’s esports production course aims to answer.
“We teach you everything from the base level throughout all of the technologies that you would need to work in adjacent broadcast productions,” says Gin. “So not just esports, but the wider broadcast production industry. But what we've done is contextualised it to esports. So you can go right the way to the top end of broadcast tech and broadcast projects by learning what we're teaching you because the thing with the esports industry is it has to be a visceral, a vibrant, energetic experience, right? You're on Twitch, you're on YouTube, you're on TV, and it has to be immersive and enjoyable and exciting and explosive. And to do that the technology has to be just as innovative and emerging and disruptive.
“So by embedding that into our course provision we’re teaching you all the stuff that sits above and beyond that to future gaze and future proof so that the students can go into any industry adjacent or connected to broadcast and have an actual future working in the industry. And our students are out there getting hired before graduating! So it's really cool being the first to do it and do it well.”
Confetti doesn't just talk a big game. Students at the school have access to Confetti X, a £5million complex that gives them the chance to get to grips with the "very best facilities and technology for esports production and other emerging technologies". The venue has already played host to a number of major esports events, with many more to come. Having seen it with my own eyes, I can say it's absolutely stunning.
This commitment to practical skills and applied knowledge informs almost every aspect of life and learning within Confetti’s impressive corridors. It’s a place that engenders creativity and encourages exploration. I dropped by the school’s nine-hour game jam, led by Creative Technologies and Games Art lecturer Amelia Seren Roberts. For those that aren’t familiar with the concept, a game jam is essentially a collaborative effort in which a group of developers (Confetti students, in this case) come together to build a game in a limited amount of time, usually based around a specific theme.
In this instance, the theme was space, and the sheer variety of games on display was astounding. I saw an FPS being built using Unreal Engine, a Fruit Ninja style slice ‘em up, and a delightful Crazy Taxi-esque adventure that was pitched to me as “Uber Eats in space”. The idea of building anything from scratch in nine hours would fill me with an icy dread, but the room was filled with laughter and excited discussion. One student informed me it was his first ever time using Unreal Engine, but here he was - doing it for real once again.
“It's just a key focus in everything that we do,” Amelia explains as we watch the students happily working small miracles at their desks. “Every time you design a module - or even individual lessons - you think: ‘how can the skills that students learn in this relate to experiences in employment?’ So I focus quite a lot on durable skills.”
Amelia tells me that she often speaks with local Nottingham studios - places like Team17 and Dambusters - to find out what they’re ultimately looking for in a prospective employee’s portfolio so she can do her part in preparing her students.
“I tell my students on the art course that studios would love that you're making fantastic, beautiful, highly skilled portfolios, but they want to see credits. They want to see that artwork implemented into a video game, hence why that module has changed. And we've been pushing game jams to actually get students implementing their artwork into engine. But the other main thing that they actually wanted from our students was communication and teamwork skills.
“So being able to work as part of a large or even a smaller indie studio and communicate appropriately, professionally - they were more interested in those skills because technical skills can suddenly change! You might be up to date when you leave university. But if you don't continually keep up with the updates in that software, unfortunately, you'll be left behind in the industry as well. So it's all the more important developing that motivation for lifelong learning.”
Amelia adds that Confetti has worked to build relationships with studios far and wide. Students have worked on briefs issued by the likes of Rare and Warlord Games, building up that essential real-world experience as they progress through the academic year.
“I do wish that we were given these options when we went to uni as well,” Amelia laughs. “We've got a content creation course, we've got virtual production courses - all of these areas that would never have been considered academic study in the past. But it makes sense because if you think about the creative industries, they’re bringing in an awful lot of revenue. So I have to say at the end of the day, our aim is to get our students into industry. But not everyone will go into your AAA studios. There might be some who gravitate towards indie studios. Some might use their learned skills to go into architecture, or product design or something like that.”
The backdrop for my visit is Confetti’s Industry Week, an annual event that attracts some of the biggest and best talent from across the film, TV, and video game industries. Previous speakers include Becky Hill, JD Wu, and Victor Perez. This year you could visit the likes of Alysia Judge and Rhianne Murphy. But they’re not just here to tell you how great working in the industry is. Confetti encourages you to network, flaunt your experience, and build up an enviable contact list long before you ever head out into the ‘real world’. Students also work together to set up tournaments, interviews, and more.
As a working class kid growing up in the East Midlands, the idea of getting a job in - or even anywhere near - video games seemed like an impossible dream. Confetti has made incredible strides towards making that dream more accessible, and as I walk the halls and speak with staff and students, I can’t help but burst with hometown pride. Nottingham is shaping an entirely new generation of talent. I ask Gin what he would say to any kids out there who, like me, might have thought a career in games or esports was out of reach.
“The games industry is massive, and it has existed for a long time,” he says after a pause to consider his answer. “The esports industry is, I'm gonna say it's massive, but it's made up of so many different industries. Esports isn’t just one thing! We're thinking about event managers, we're thinking about sports, nutrition, training, and coaching production. Obviously tournament organisation and managing talent, and hospitality - it goes on forever. All of those things come into what esports is. It is absolutely humongous. So, to get involved in the esports industry or the games industry, there's so many angles of approach.
“The stigmas associated with working in games have gone now. And the stigmas of working in esports are going even faster. You know, what's the point in working in esports? Where you can sit around playing games all day? Well, actually, no! I'm working in production. I'm working in broadcasting. I’m seeing the world. To those that are going through education and thinking and considering esports as an area: Look at the jobs first. Look at the areas of employment. Don't just look at the games, look at the areas of employment and see how you can plug into that, because you will find an answer - and that answer is places like Confetti. Our studios have got somewhere to believe in. Somewhere to belong, and somewhere to be educated authentically in the subject that they're passionate about.
“Really long answer again, but you know how I roll.”
Topics: World News, Esports, PC