Games Industry Careers
The games industry is massive, worth $384.9 billion annually (predicted as of 2023). Any industry of this scale needs a constant stream of new talent to maintain production rates and standards, and to bring in fresh ideas and innovation.
Here at ACC, providing that new talent is of the utmost importance to us and we’ve created a series of bespoke curriculums to put you ahead of the competition But don’t take our word for it. Let’s hear from Guy Bramwell-Smith, Pathway Manager for Games at ACC Manchester, and CEO of SlingShot Studio, an amazing game studio that is a crucial part of our efforts to boost your career opportunities.
Hi Guy, tell us about yourself!
I’m Guy, Pathway Manager for Games at Access Creative College Manchester, as well as the CEO of SlingShot Studio. Originally I studied Mathematics at Salford University and was leaning towards being an accountant or working in insurance. My first full time job was in the insurance industry, but it wasn’t for me.
I only got into game development later on in my career. I have always been creative and loved video games, but I thought that games as a career wouldn’t be an option for me as there were no games courses when I was a student. I knew how to make games, because I learned how to code during my studies, when I was supposed to be studying for my exams. I was dabbling in Unity but it was just a personal passion.
Then an opportunity came my way that changed it all. I managed to get a short term contract working for Access Creative College as a freelancer in 2016, as part of their partnership with PGL. For six weeks over the summer, I delivered a bespoke, week-long course for young people at one of PGL’s resorts who preferred to be at a computer making games, rather than taking part in the rock climbing and other outdoor activities that PGL are known for.
I absolutely loved teaching people how to make games, and seeing their excitement when they got something working. I realised that even if I couldn’t be a professional developer myself, I would still enjoy helping young people become one.
I applied for full time work with ACC that same year, and although I was not ready for a full-time teaching position, they saw that I wanted to do it eventually, and brought me in for an administrative role. After a lot of hard work, I completed my teaching qualifications with ACC, taught GCSE mathematics, and worked my way up to being Pathway Manager for the Games at ACC Manchester. I also managed to pick up a BAFTA nomination for the Young Game Design (YGD) Mentor of the Year at the 2018 YGD BAFTAs for my efforts.
I love working at Access. It’s the creative outlet that I always wanted, even while working in insurance. The fact I didn’t have these opportunities when I was a student, drove me to make the course we deliver as creative and developmental as I could. Seeing how much talent our students have inspires me to improve my skills. Some of them are now even working in their dream jobs.
To go even further for the grassroots of the industry, I launched SlingShot in 2022.
What is SlingShot?
SlingShot Studio is an independent game development company I started in November 2022, with some help from some of my most talented alumni. We’ve steadily grown into a 41 person strong, independent game studio, focusing on mobile and PC development.
Our workforce is mainly current ACC Games students who are motivated, talented, and driven to get into the game industry, and we aim to give them an entry route into their careers. We’ve already released our first game GO!Samurai on Android (out on iOS soon), with a PC game (Released in August or September 2023) and a second mobile game in the works. We’re planning to release three or four mobile games and one big PC release a year.
Why did you start it?
At Access Creative College, we provide all the skills necessary for learners to gain entry into the game industry and I think we are the best institute at doing that. However, the hardest hurdle for students to overcome in gaining entry to industry is that, regardless of the skills we develop in college, the most valuable thing to employers is work experience.
Due to the nature of the gaming sector, it has been very difficult sourcing said work experience. The vast amount of companies require non-disclosure agreements to be signed before anyone sees any work being created, which can only be signed once you are over 18. With ACC predominantly educating 16 – 18 year olds, this has been quite a significant barrier, which is why I created SlingShot Studio.
I decided I wanted it to be a company I could put my creativity into, but also provide initial industry experience for young talented creatives who need that first lucky break. SlingShot’s employees are now primarily ACC Games students.
How do you connect ACC students with SlingShot?
I have an agreed partnership with Access Creative College to solely take on current students for SlingShot’s work experience programme. As I currently teach here, it is the ideal partnership for SlingShot, as I can teach them all the skills they require to work for the company.
We always give everyone a chance to prove themselves. Regardless of what skills someone has, or their background, if they can show that they are committed, they have a place at SlingShot. There is a stigma attached to the games industry, that it only caters to one particular demographic. I think we are making some good strides in this department because we have such a diverse group of talent that work for us, and it really shows that the game industry is for everyone.
What do our students get out of working for SlingShot?
Every ACC learner at SlingShot Studio has an official job title and role. This depends on their current skill set and the value that they can add to any of our products. Our recruitment model means some learners, mainly second years with more advanced skill sets, work on the higher end mobile and PC projects.
Newer ACC students with skills that are not yet developed enough for professional production start with testing roles, moving on to more tertiary tasks such as creating simple prefabs and assets. When their skills improve and they’ve had more training, we then assign them to shadow one of the more advanced employees helping out with the higher end programming or art related tasks. This process means we are consistently developing talent and skilled staff.
We incentivise them with work experience, but also provide commission based income, based on their attendance and contribution to each product. This has worked incredibly well, as they can see the benefit of punctuality, alongside developing their practical skill sets. The more committed they are, the more they can make.
What are your goals/aspirations for SlingShot?
To become a leading developer in the Northwest on all game platforms, as well as being a catalyst for change in the economic landscape. The UK has moved away from a production based economy to being a service based economy, primarily due to labour costs. However, we do have a great education system and a huge number of highly-skilled, creative young people.
With how quickly the game industry is growing, we are missing an opportunity to invest time and resources into creating a renaissance in production; using highly skilled creatives to develop the next generation of innovation in games. We have some amazing companies in Manchester, including TT Games, D3T, Cloud Imperium. It is the dream for SlingShot Studio to join them and help boost the wider UK game industry.
How is ACC supporting you?
Access has been fantastic throughout the process of me building this company. At every point, everyone involved has been nothing but supportive. It is clear that ACC can see the benefit this opportunity has to learners and they have helped me every step of the way, from very kindly allowing SlingShot to use one of their buildings whilst in the incubation period to helping us market the brand, and offering support and advice. All of this is clearly aimed at boosting the experience of their learners and has led to a formal partnership between SlingShot Studio and Access Creative College.
As stated above, all ACC students will leave us with professional, purchasable products in their portfolio, which is something that no-one can take away from them. The employment opportunities that come from experience like this, pre-university, will be massive.
In terms of how their contribution helps SlingShot, due to the high standard of teaching at Access Creative College, I have a wealth of talented young creatives who have the skills and willingness to learn that are perfect for SlingShot. These students help us to continuously develop products, and keep the company moving forwards. It really is a win-win for everyone involved.
Are you passionate about games and gearing up for a career in industry? Get a helping hand from ACC and SlingShot, with one of our cutting-edge games courses. Check out what’s on offer here.
Jay Featherstone: From ACC Birmingham to life on tour as Enter Shikari’s drum tech
Former Birmingham Music Performance student, Jay Featherstone, joined ACC as a passionate drummer with aspirations of being a touring musician.
Since leaving ACC back in 2016, Jay has worked as a drum tech for bands including chart-topping Enter Shikari, and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.
Though Jay’s performance goals have taken a back seat, his tech role sees him travel all over the world, attending some of the biggest festivals and meeting people from all areas of the industry. To find out how he built his career, read on!
Q – Drum Technician sounds like an amazing job! Obviously you studied Music Performance at ACC Birmingham because your passion is drumming and playing drums.. Which drummers inspired you to pursue it yourself?
I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to play drums. I feel like I was born with it, but I only really started being inspired by other drummers when I was 10 or 12. Moose, then drummer for Bullet For My Valentine and Ben Joliffe from Young Guns were both on a tour I went to and remember thinking they were the coolest looking guys ever.
I started playing and then became massively inspired by Travis Barker. It wasn’t until I started studying and playing his parts that I got good and took it seriously.
Q – Can you tell us about your experience as a student at Access Creative College and how it prepared you for your current role as a drum tech?
I attended ACC Birmingham at a really tough point in my life. I was really struggling with anxiety and my mental health in general. Life wasn’t so fun, so it was hard to get the full enjoyment out of my course.
I often wish I could’ve done more. The college was great and supported me through it and made sure I was still able to achieve academically. I was at college with the mindset of learning how to perform as opposed to touring as part of a crew, but anything you can learn about touring or performing in any capacity just makes life on a stage much more comfortable. I probably benefited most from actually playing songs on stage at college and just being exposed to performing.
Q – How did you initially get into your career as a Drum Tech, and what led you to work with Enter Shikari and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes?
It actually had nothing to do with music! I was playing drums solidly but working in a restaurant full time with no real industry prospects. When the first lockdown happened, my friends kept saying to get an Xbox and play online with them. I resisted until I had a crash on my bike, broke both wrists, damaged my spine, knocked myself out and got beat up pretty badly. I downloaded Warzone (Call of Duty) and for the following six months that was pretty much all me and my friends did all day.
I got pretty good and followed Frank (Carter) on Instagram who posted that he’d been playing but his scores were low. I asked if he wanted some tips and he responded saying ‘yeah sure let’s play.’
We played and it was cool. We stayed in touch and when the Download Pilot event happened the following year we hung out and have stayed in touch since. I always used to tell him I’d do anything to tour so he told his drummer (who already had a great tech) that if anyone he knows needs a drum tech, he should put me forward. I got a call a couple of weeks later from Rob (Rolfe, Enter Shikari) and the rest is history.
Q – A lot of people will want to know the ins-and-outs of being a drum tech for their own aspirations – What are some of the key responsibilities?
Everything on the drum riser is my responsibility. I tune and change all the drum heads when necessary, polish the cymbals and replace cracked ones, polish the hardware and the drums, hoover the drum rug, make sure the electronics we have are set up correctly and set the kit up to Rob’s preference.
I also stage manage for Shikari so I do a lot to look after the rest of the band. Pre-show is my busiest time, I’ll be preparing their water and drinks, putting out stage towels, laying setlists, making sure the guys have anything they need and that I know their plans for a show. Often (vocalist) Rou will take a walk into the crowd and I’ll go with him to make sure everything is okay.
Q – Can you share some of the best experiences you’ve had while on tour?
Oh man, there’s been some real dreamy moments. I often tell people this and I don’t think they actually believe me but I regularly stand side-stage during a show and cry my eyes out. It’s so overwhelming but cool to just sit and be appreciative of the position I’m in – touring with a band I’ve been a fan of since I was a child. It’s such a privilege and that reality often brings me to tears.
I’d say my highlights include being out in Japan doing Knotfest and getting to watch Slipknot, or maybe Reading & Leeds mainstage last year with my mum watching on the BBC at home.
This one time at one of the shows in London, I was able to give a drumstick, pick and setlist to a young man with learning difficulties which is something real close to my heart. I’d spotted him upstairs during the show and sprinted up as soon as the show finished to catch him before he left. His mum and brother were with him, and me and his mum chatted and cried together. I introduced him to (Enter Shikari guitarist) Rory and it was just such a moving and positive experience.
Q – What’s the biggest challenge or major mess up to have happened whilst on tour!
I’d like to say *touch wood* that not too much tends to go wrong. I’m relatively vigilant. One time I left Rob’s practice kit in a venue and had to get it delivered to the next one. There was also a time where I got distracted by something onstage and missed my queue to fire confetti which was really not ideal!
Generally though – touring is challenging. It’s so easy to look at the highlight reel and be like ‘Oh okay, yeah this is the dream’ but the dream really isn’t always that dreamy. It’s emotionally draining – hard work and long days. It impacts your energy, your body, your mental health. It’s a very taxing lifestyle and definitely isn’t for everyone. You also have to live in close proximity on a bus with 15 other people! Generally it’s ace and there’s no way the negatives outweigh the positives, but it’s worth noting that it’s not always just a breeze.
Q – Enter Shikari headline Slam Dunk Festival this weekend (congrats!) and we want to know your dream festival headliners – you can choose three!
Oh that is really tough. If we can bend reality – Queen, Slipknot from 15 years ago with all original members and maybe Linkin Park.
Now as a reality – Architects, Blink-182 and Frank Carter because without being biased, he is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
Q – What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in music production or live sound?
It’s a people’s game, so be a nice person. You can be the best at what you do but not very nice and you’ll never work, or, you can be bang average and barely know what you’re doing, but if you’re a nice person and willing to learn, you’ll have a full calendar.
It’s also a game of opportunities, it’s all about the right place, right time, so the key is to be everywhere, always. Hard I know, but you have to say yes to everything and then talk to everyone you can, all the time. Put yourself in front of as many people as physically possible. That’s the key to it. Shoot shots, take risks, be bold but be delightful, and you’ll succeed.
Inspired by Jay’s journey? At ACC, we offer our creative students the chance to get infront of industry, use kit that’s in real workplaces and work behind the scenes in some of the UK’s biggest creative workplaces.
It all starts with an application. So if you’re ready to join us this September, get that application submitted!