Women in gaming: Interview with the Games Partnership Director at NextGen Skills Academy

Article written by Andy Turton, Director of X4 Technology.

With the competition of landing a role in the games industry high, preparing the next generation of talent with the skills they need to hit the ground running in a games studio couldn’t be more important.

As part of X4 Technology’s Women in Gaming series, I spoke to Marcia Deakin, Games Partnership Director at NextGen Skills Academy, to hear about her career story and also, find out more about the work she is doing to help prepare individuals for a career in gaming.

NextGen Skills Academy is an industry-led education initiative that aims to develop the next generation of talent for the games, animation and VFX industries by ensuring that the education they offer aligns with the requirements of the industry. They offer higher level apprenticeships, short courses and online learning, which are all designed to meet the needs of employers by working closely with the likes of Creative Assembly, Playground Games, Sony and Ubisoft.

You have an extensive career in gaming, what attracted you to the industry?

I started out my career in around 1998, where I was working for Sony Music. The gaming industry always looked massively exciting and one of my friends worked for Take2 at the time so, I learned a lot about the industry through them.

I actually fell into the gaming by accident, when I managed to secure a role with Eidos through a call with a recruiter. The never-ending creativity and innovation is what’s kept me in the industry 20 years’ later.

Do you feel there is enough awareness of the breadth of career opportunities in tech industries such as gaming in schools and universities?

One of the key areas where the gaming industry struggles is reaching parents. The UK is world beating in games, and it really is a career hub across engineering, development, design and creative. So, part of what NextGen Skills Academy is doing, is speaking to schools and engaging with young people to educate them on the career opportunities the industry has to offer.

Games development companies must work with apprenticeship schemes to identify what skills are needed from employees in those apprenticeship roles. They have the ability to set standards and rules for the rest of the industry.

You were one of 100 most influential women in UK Games. Do you feel efforts to improve female representation are building momentum in the gaming industry?

Yes, as an industry we are very aware, and I have definitely seen more of the younger generation pushing hard to make it more accessible and more integrated.

Sexism and equality are a problem throughout all industries but the games industry publicly addresses this.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for females in the gaming industry?

Nothing discernible – working in gaming is really interesting and a well-supported career. My advice to women looking to work in the industry would be that it’s a great place to work and there are opportunities to be grabbed. Enjoy your time but be aware that some of the old stereotypes are still in place. However, most people are supportive and here to offer advice and guidance if needed.

How accessible do you think the games industry is to individuals from varying backgrounds (underprivileged, BAME, disabled, etc.)?

BAME & gender mix have been challenging but there has been progress here on how to attract individuals from different backgrounds. Perhaps there has been an over reliance on graduates in the past, however, this is being altered.

At NextGen Skills Academy, we work with colleges exclusively and this is helped and supported by really good relationships with businesses in the industry such as the likes of Creative Assembly, Playground Games, Sony and Ubisoft.

What are the most essential skills that students take from the NextGen Skills Academy apprenticeship and diploma that allow them to thrive in the gaming industry straight away?

They take away fundamental skills that educate them on the how and what of a software package. Our apprenticeship and diploma offer a broad based education that takes into account the entire pipeline, helping our students to transition straight into the industry. We also have a big focus on working collaboratively in a team, which is an essential skill when working gaming.

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