April 17th saw hundreds of students, developers and academics arrive in Sheffield for the 9th annual Search For A Star finals day, one of the UK’s biggest dedicated student games careers events.
With the events of the day taking place at Sheffield Hallam University & the National Videogame Museum, the Finals Day Conference is a free games careers event to bring together students, studios and academics from across the UK and Europe into a day packed with conference talks & opportunities to meet and learn from games professionals.
event photography: Preeyapon Narapol
For our 31 Search For A Star Finalists, the day also includes the last stage of their Search For A Star challenge journey, an interview with a panel of industry specialists. Discussing portfolios, technical knowledge and SFAS projects, the interviews allow our judges to really get to know the abilities and aspirations of our finalists before making a final decision on who goes forward to win.
Leading studios lined the expo & networking hall, with students able to speak with d3t, nDreams, Sumo Digital, Wargaming UK, TT Games, Bulkhead Interactive, Sheffield Hallam University’s Steel Minions game studio and of course Aardvark Swift & the Grads in Games team. nDreams even had a VR headset on hand so everyone could try out their incredibly fun game, Shooty Fruity.
It’s a great opportunity for the students to get some direct one-to-one time with studios, and also a chance for them to meet each other, some of the best and brightest of the next generation of the games industry all in one place!
Our conference track included in-depth advice, guidance and insightful talks from Philip Oliver of Game Dragons, Phil Owen from d3t, Tara Saunders from Sony London Studio and Jason Avent from TT Games, closing with a special Q&A panel session with previous Search For A Star entrants Jacob Beckley (Cloud Imperium), Emily Davison (XR Games), Neil Osbaldeston (d3t) and Shannon Symonds (Sumo Digital). Together they talked about their own experiences of getting their first role, studio life, work expectations, and passed on a whole host of invaluable tips to an audience just about to make their own journeys into the games industry.
For the studios and academics in attendance, we also held our annual round-table discussion on how best to bridge the gaps between industry and education. Course leaders and studio recruiters get a rare platform to discuss the current needs of studios vs the current expectations from universities.
event photography: Preeyapon Narapol
In the afternoon we took off to Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum at an exclusive prizegiving event, exploring the museum and playing on an amazing selection of 60 games, old and new, in between the award ceremonies. It’s a truly wonderful experience to hold a games event surrounded by such excellent reminders of the industry’s strong heritage!
First up was the Grads In Games Awards, recognising and celebrating the students, academics, studios and individuals who are doing the most to improve links between education and industry, and giving recent graduates the best possible start as a professional game developer. First introduced in 2018, we’re really pleased to have the GiG Awards return this year, with some staggeringly strong peer-nominated shortlists.
Our headline event for the evening was the Search For A Star & Sumo Digital Rising Star award presentations, the culmination of nine months of work and a showcase of some of the best students about to enter the games industry. Starting off with over 600 students across games programming, 3D art, animation and VFX, we’re finally down to the winning 8 across the categories. After they’d spent the day interviewing with our esteemed judging panels, it was wonderful to be able to celebrate these exemplary students for their achievement & we wish them all the best for their future gamedev careers!
It’s been a wonderful day of celebration and recognition for the future of the games industry, and we’d like to give a huge thanks to our Grads In Games partner studios, supporters and contributors who help made this celebration possible;
Sumo Digital, Epic Games, Boss Alien, d3t, nDreams, TT Games, Red Kite Games, Firesprite, First Touch Games, Furious Bee, Wargaming UK, Bulkhead Interactive, Splash Damage, Well Played Games, Game Dragons, Sony London Studio, Sheffield Hallam University, the BGI & the National Videogame Museum