Media Design School Alumni Shaping the Future of New Zealand's Thriving Game Industry
Over the first weekend of September, Wellington played host to the annual New Zealand Game Developers Conference (NZGDC), a gathering that brought together hundreds of game developers, industry professionals, and enthusiasts. Joy Keene, organiser and advocate for the event views the conference's essence as a way to unite industry players, facilitating the exchange of ideas and the formation of new connections, from game developers to potential investors.
Media Design School was proud to serve as a partner sponsor this year for the NZGDC, reflecting our unwavering commitment to fostering talent and driving innovation in New Zealand's rapidly growing game development industry. “This year Media Design School was a partner in the conference – we've grown with this industry, and our students and alum are an important part of it,” says Jordan Browne, Programme Director of the Bachelor of Creative Technologies and the Bachelor of Software Engineering.
Our participation in the conference showcased the school's commitment to nurturing talent and driving innovation in the gaming industry. “The video game industry in New Zealand is incredible, and we're delighted to be a part of it. It's extremely rewarding to see students who graduated years ago now in senior positions, and in some cases, leading studios,” said Jordan. Notably, many of the conference's attendees were Media Design School alumni, demonstrating the institution's role in shaping the future of game development in New Zealand.
Amongst our alumni at the conference was Blake Wood, who, in his first year at Media Design School, created Dolly and has since risen to become Art Director at Dinosaur Polo Club, the studio behind games: Mini Metro and Mini Motorways. Blake’s latest project Darkroom earned him the top prize at the Kiwi Game Starter Awards, granting him $25,000 to help support his work.
Rourke Gray-Mason, Media Design School graduate-turned-lecturer, has been working with fellow lecturer Jeremy Teal on their own game Pinball Hero under the company Lazy Bones. The duo were recognised as runners-up for the Kiwi Game Starter Award. “The Kiwi Game Starter is an annual competition aimed at giving a leg-up to smaller productions. It was an honour to be a finalist this year and take home $15,000 to develop Pinball Hero,” said Rourke.
Rare Parrot Games, consisting of MDS alumni, won the Kiwi Game Starter Award in 2022, with their game Warrior Chef exhibited prominently at the conference. “Everywhere you go, you bump into someone from or related to MDS in some way. It really makes you feel right at home here,” said Jeremy.
MDS student projects weren't overlooked, with Falsepine and Pneuma, games developed in 2022, also finalists in the Pavs, showcasing the school's commitment to nurturing future industry leaders. Such nominations speak to the level of games produced by MDS students, embodying the quality that the New Zealand game industry expects.
It was humbling for Media Design School, to find its community with not one, but two of the top spots earned for the Kiwi Game Starter, and multiple nominations, presenting the passion and tenacity that carry on from their studies into their careers.
Beyond awards, Cleo Renshaw, a third-year Bachelor of Creative Technologies student, was given the unique opportunity to present her third-year research project at the conference. Her research focused on exploring the creation of meaningful narrative experiences for players in games.
"The conference not only reaffirmed how energetic and forward-thinking New Zealand's game development community is, but the active role of our students in shaping it. It was inspiring listening to Cleo talk about her third-year Bachelor of Creative Technologies project on designing games that can foster meaningful experiences and seeing industry members respond with deep enthusiasm and curiosity for her ideas,” said Sofia Piven, Lecturer in the Bachelor of Creative Technologies programme.
The New Zealand gaming industry continues to grow at an astounding trajectory and is on target to earn more than $1 billion by 2026, highlighting it as one of NZ’s fastest-growing tech sectors. This economic significance underscores the tremendous potential that gaming holds for the New Zealand economy, having generated over $400 million in revenue in 2022 alone. In fact, 74% of the population identify as gamers, with almost half also identifying as female. This growing diversity is a testament to the inclusivity of the industry and its potential for continued expansion.
With a legacy of successful alumni and a commitment to innovation and excellence, Media Design School looks to contribute to the industry's continued growth. By dedicating itself to nurturing talent and producing top graduates in the field of gaming, Media Design School hopes to push to the forefront of this exciting journey, shaping the next generation of game developers and propelling New Zealand's gaming industry to new heights.
At the conference, we were also excited to see many other MDS alumni presenting from their established careers:
- Andrew Welsh (Developer, CerebralFix) “Where did it go?” - A guide to tracking modes in Augmented Reality
- Andre Gottgtroy (Game Designer, MYTONA) Power of AI as a Game Designer's Toolkit
- Ben Hart (Lead Game Designer, CerebralFix) What I Wish I Knew When I Became a Game Designer
- Benjamin Carnall (Principal Engineer, OCP) An Insight Into Navigating Unreal's Source Code
- Izzie Kirkpatrick & Pedro Klein (Art Director & Technical Director, Liquid Static Studio) Game Tools for Non-Games: Unreal Engine in Untraditional Applications
- Larisa Isaeva (UI Designer, PikPok) "It depends": A UI Artists journey with UX Design
- Niamh Fitzgerald (COO, Dinosaur Polo Club) 4 Day Work Week Experiences
- Sebastian Barber (Interactive Media and Game Developer) Making Educational Games Kids Want to Play
- Tash Verhoeven (Producer, Geo AR Games) Getting into the Industry: Expectation vs Reality
Find out more about our range of Game Development programmes here: Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art), Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming) and Artificial Intelligence.