Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming)

In the past couple of years, Christopher Howlett has gone from packing groceries to Grinding Gears. Here, he tells us about his journey to programming for one of New Zealand's most successful games studios.


Before Media Design School I was working on the graveyard shift at Pak'nSave, trying to build up an art portfolio and taking on the odd freelance design job.

I was initially planning on taking the Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art) degree as I already had a design degree and I wanted to apply those skills to a game development environment.

This soon changed as I started becoming obsessed with trying to understand how the art tools I was using (Photoshop, Maya, Blender) actually worked. It frustrated me that I was able to use these tools people had created but didn't know enough about how they worked or how to modify them, so I decided to try to teach myself a bit of C++. 

I fell in love with the tiny amount of C++ I knew and made a last minute switch to the Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming) so that I could learn more. 

When I first started Media Design School, it was a great experience being around a group of people with the same passion for game development and it was comforting to know that, like me, a large portion of my class had little to no programming experience when we started.

Our first year was an amazing introduction to math and programming. I don't think I'd ever learnt so much in such a short period of time before!

We had some great opportunities at Media Design School. For example, during our third year we were able to present our final project at the Media Design School booths at Armageddon and Digital NatioNZ. 

It was a great experience watching thousands of people having fun playing our game. Knowing that you and your team have created something that such a large amount of people can enjoy and get excited about is really special.

Currently, I am working as a programmer for Grinding Gear Games. My job primarily consists of adding new gameplay features to the game as well.

I'm enjoying everything about my job, really. Working with great people, on a great game, which is on Steam, in C++ is amazing! I really couldn't ask for anything else. Being able to go on twitch and see people having fun with / being killed by content I've created is an incredible experience and something I never thought would happen when I first started the degree.

If I were to give any advice to someone who is considering studying with Media Design School, I'd definitely advise working on personal projects on the side. Being able to apply what you learn at MDS to something other than course work is very valuable. 

I also think one of the best things about my experience at Media Design School is that our year group was a very co-operative class. There was no any anger, arrogance or arguments between us. Instead, we worked together, helping each other out and sharing cool stuff we found out about programming rather than keeping it to ourselves. I'm sure we're all better, happier programmers because of it!