By Rory Reynolds
THE SCOTS writer behind the global best-selling Grand Theft Auto video game series was a no-show at the opening of a new games lab yesterday – because of traffic.
Brian Baglow made his name from controversial game, in which players must speed through the city streets, running over pedestrians, and shooting up cop cars, to get to the next objective.
Edinburgh Napier University had hoped Baglow would unveil their new Interactive Entertainment degree programme and even delayed the event two hours in the hope he would turn up.
But they later conceded that traffic delays meant that the games developer and former student – now a PR consultant – didn’t make it to the launch in time.
The university has worked with Disney subsidiary Black Rock to ensure the new BSc degree course fully prepares graduates for the games industry.Last week the SNP voiced fears that hundreds of jobs could be lost to Ireland after its government offered tempting tax breaks for games firms.
But the course is expected to be a big boost to the industry, supplying fresh talent to the dozens of games firms based primarily in Dundee and Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is already home to Rockstar North, one of the most advanced games developers on the planet, while Dundee is the current centre of the Scots video game industry.
Kenny Mitchell, research leader at the Black Rock Studio in Brighton, part of Disney Interactive, says that the course is tailor made for rapidly expanding industry.
The former Napier student said: “Edinburgh Napier has a proven track record in game development and we see this is a marvellous opportunity to develop the next generation of talent for the game industry.
“Titles like Harry Potter and Grand Theft Auto that are world leading franchises, have fed into expertise from Edinburgh Napier.
“We see that talent base in this area in Scotland that can be developed for the next generation.
“The games industry is outstripping the film industry in terms of revenue and there’s a broad range of skill sets that we need to fill positions in are our studio and we’re finding these in Scotland in particular.
“This is a particularly exciting time for the convergence of the game industry and the film industry.”
The department has 24 Xbox consoles linked up to PC computers, allowing the students to analyse how the game was put together, and how the various layers came to the final product.
Sally Smith, Head of the School of Computing added: “This brings together a lot of our different disciplines with computing, we’ve been teaching programming, software engineering, networking for years.
“But highlights on this course are to be able to design and develop games, whether their games for your mobile or games for the XBox platform.
“Scotland in terms of the games industry is definitely punching above its weight.
“There are a lot of really good companies based here in Scotland and they need a lot of the courses like this BSc in Interactive Entertainment, in terms of graduates.
“It’s only with the talent pool like that we have here in Scotland that the games industry can continue to flourish.”
Chris Mann, a new student to the course, said that this is the right time for young hopefuls looking to crack the industry.
He said: “We have all the 24 Xbox’s linked up to the computers so we can develop on the actual XBox platform.
“That’s going to be the next generation, console development.
“It’s all merging and coming together, and this is the next stage of development.
“There’s almost certainly going to be jobs for someone in my position in three or four years.
“At the moment with the way the economy there aren’t too many jobs for anyone but there certainly will be in four years or so, this is the perfect time to retrain and get yourself into this position.”