MDS celebrates 10 years of gaming and a $300 million per annum industry pipeline

This weekend Media Design School celebrates 10 years of Game Development courses and a $300 million per annum industry pipeline with Decade Arcade, a free graduate show and industry conference comprised entirely of Media Design School alumni, at their Wynyard Quarter campus, in Auckland’s innovation precinct.

Games created by the current cohort of Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art), and Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming) students will be on exhibit.

“This is the first big event we've been able to do as the Games department since COVID, so we're showing all this year’s third-year games in the graduate exhibition on Friday, with the addition of some alumni games including Skynoon, Mythos Party, Titandrum, Fork Knights, and successful arcade games from previous years,” said Jordan Browne, Programme Director, Bachelor of Creative Technologies and Bachelor of Software Engineering, Media Design School.

Decade Arcade Programme

On Saturday more than a dozen Media Design School alumni, all artists, programmers, designers, and producers, are featured in Decade Arcade’s programme including Calliope Ryder, Lead Game Producer Weta Workshop, Janet Ang, 3D Generalist Ninja Kiwi, and Ashley Eung, Senior UI Artist Playside to name a few.

“When we first developed the Bachelor degrees in Games our biggest challenge was convincing parents that studying Games was a viable career choice. Ten years on, the industry has now grown close to $300m p.a. in revenue so we no longer have these types of questions from parents,” said Darryn Melrose, General Manager Design and Creative Technology, Media Design School.

“The Games industry future is bright, and we’re excited to play our part in helping fuel innovative Games companies with the talent they need,” said Darryn.

“Even though games as an industry have been around since the 1970s, it is a relatively fledgling and new field, and for it to be recognised in three-year degree format with government support is important.” said Ivan Khmel, Programme Coordinator, Bachelor of Creative Technologies, Media Design School.

“I’ve always admired our Games industry and other areas of the IT and Business community could really learn from their approach. They focus on the global market and as a result they take an active role in supporting and assisting each other locally,” said Darryn. “They also know that they need talent to grow and take an active role with us to prepare students with the skills they need to succeed.”

Media Design School's game-centric degrees

Jordan explains the differentiator for Media Design School is that they have offered dedicated degrees for Game Art and Game Programming for the last 10 years. The degrees are game-centric from the start, all the way to the end, everything is focused on game art and programming, and even theory classes are about game design or game history.

"It is really big achievement, really ahead of the wave."

“We have a direct pipe to most of the larger game studios,” explains Jordan. “This week we've had four companies coming in and interviewing students within the class with vacancies for junior roles, they just come to us at the end of the semester and pick them up. Great evidence of our reputation.”

NZGDA alumni survey statistics

“According to the recent NZGDA survey statistics there are about 270 alumni of ours working in the games industry in New Zealand, out of only 900 people, so that’s 25% of the industry,” said Ivan. “It's testament of the fact that the graduates we're producing are of good quality, and some are now Chief Technical Officers at studios, leading game projects, producers,” said Ivan.

Jordan said the industry in New Zealand is really punching above its weight, smaller than the Australian industry, but with more revenue.

The New Zealand games industry and Media Design School go hand in hand, in a gorgeous symbiotic relationship. One that is long built, and constantly nourished with events. The community is strong.

"What we do enables students to pursue their dream jobs in this particular industry, which is extraordinarily technical,” said Ivan. “On Saturday we are hosting a number of industry speakers and all the speakers are alumni. They're all working in the industry as artists, programmers, designers, and producers.”

"The course taught us everything we needed to step into the game dev industry, and the valuable advice from lecturers still sticks with us," said Tiffanny Rawson, 3D Artist at Ninja Kiwi.

"I'm honoured to be a part of the Media Design School journey over the last 10 years, seeing the programme grow into what it is now - the best games programme in New Zealand and possibly Australasia," said Matt Oades who graduated in 2016, also taught at Media Design School as a lecturer for a number of years, and has been an environment artist at Torn Banner (Canadian Studio) making Chivalry 2 since 2021.

“It's a celebration of the course and its longevity,” said Jordan, “but it's also a celebration of the students who are finishing this year as well as the students who came before them. It's showing that, it's not just that we graduated juniors this year, it's that those people are also going to go on to do bigger things as well.”

"Media Design School's games courses gave me every opportunity to grow as an artist to confidently jump into and thrive in the gaming industry. Having passionate tutors with real world experience provided me with a unique learning experience,” said Alex Ujdur, 3D Artist at Outerdawn.

New Zealand gaming industry opportunities

Jordan said Media Design School is in a good space with industry, as the go to for emerging talent in gaming.

“A lot of people, especially in New Zealand, don't realise they can have a career in games here in New Zealand, and are also unaware that you could study games, so a big part of doing events like Decade Arcade is also putting the New Zealand games industry and Media Design School into the spotlight so that young people can see that there's a path for them in this space.”

Jordan said it’s linked back to STEM subjects in high school, an approach to learning and development that integrates the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“You know, as that gets stronger, I think people will have a better understanding of our industry,” said Jordan. “You're not going to see it represented and reported on the 6:00 o'clock news, maybe in the future, you will.”

Jordan’s love for the industry is palpable. Ten years teaching and still loving it as much as when he started. The same goes for Ivan, both agreeing the quality of the students’ work continues to be outstanding year on year.

“Media Design School has this kind of the reputation and we’re connected, so we can help our graduates get into industry but that wouldn't continue to work if the quality of work wasn't also good,” said Jordan. “We've got a great relationship with industry, but the reason they keep coming back is still because they're getting incredible talent.”

The reason the New Zealand games industry is successful is because it's playing on an international field, making quality games that rival those made overseas, and only judged on the merit of the offering, not the country of origin according to Jordan.

“It’s an incredible achievement for all the graduates who have now grown into senior positions, and the school has become really embedded as a part of the New Zealand games industry's identity. All the faculty are incredibly proud, and we hope to be able to do it for another 10 years.”

The Graduate Show kicks off at 5:30pm on Friday 18 November, and Conference Day and Games to Play runs from 9:00am – 5:30pm Saturday 19 November. All free. RSVP here.

By Julia Cornes

Communications and Public Affairs Officer

Decade Arcade is the first event of this magnitude, with an all-star industry line-up that are all graduates of Media Design School
Falsepine is a game created by Media Design School students under the team name Voyager Softworks
Falsepine by Voyager Softworks
Mythos Party is a game created by Media Design School students under the team name Skyward Studios
Mythos Party by Skyward Studios

Mythos Party is still currently being developed, though the Beta is available to play on Steam!

Jordan Browne, Programme Director of Games at Media Design School
Jordan Browne, Programme Director for Games
Decade Arcade is the first event of this magnitude, with an all-star industry line-up that are all graduates of Media Design School
The illustrious MDS alumni industry panel for Decade Arcade this Saturday
Pneuma is a game created by Media Design School students under the team name by Panda Egg
Pneuma by Panda Egg