This will be the first in a series of entries following the experiences of trainees on NI Screen’s Aim High Gaming Placement Scheme. First up is David Freebairn.
My background is in STEM subjects, having graduated with an MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at QUB before obtaining my Ph.D. in Medical Device Design and Engineering last Summer. That said, I’ve always retained a strong creative streak on the side with Art and Design subjects and a lifelong passion for gaming and the wider entertainment industry.
Initially, I applied for the Department of Education and Learning’s Games Development Academy (GDA) and was selected as one of 16 talented young programmers and artists from a wide range of backgrounds who each shared a common desire – to make video games in Northern Ireland. I couldn’t pass up such a unique opportunity to learn, network, and develop my skills amongst like-minded creative individuals with similar interests and goals. Our ultimate goal was to be selected for one of 6 Aim High “Gaming” placements. Aim High is NI Screen’s flagship training programme designed to grow the film, television and digital content industries (including gaming) in Northern Ireland by funding year-long industry-led placements in conjunction with trips to conventions and training events.
The GDA was an intensive 12-week programme run by the Colleges and local games companies, culminating in a 4-week placement within a company developing their projects. A combination of lectures, workshops, and practical game development, together with our own experiences and knowledge as gamers ensured we all had a good base of skills to create quality games. Put simply, the Games Academy has been a great opportunity for individuals like myself to turn my hobby into a career through a mixture of taught-lectures and hands-on, practical experience.
At the Academy, I worked with 3 other talented individuals, Glenn Osborne, Jack Rafferty and Duncan Foreman to develop Elysium, a first-person exploration game made with Unity. The resultant game and 4-week placement with Iglu Media earned me a spot on Aim High, where I have continued to work with Iglu Media (the first of 3 four-month placements) on their current game, E.1027, releasing on iPad this Summer. Developing games is the perfect cocktail of both creative and technical disciplines; a place where art and tech meet. If you’re passionate about games and interested in art, coding, or just creating cool stuff in general, my advice is to download the Unity engine for free, follow some tutorials and start making games today!