Students pitch ideas to gaming guru

Creative students at Sunderland College have pitched their unique computer game ideas to a marketing guru who has launched some of the most high profile titles in the industry.

Stephen Hey, marketing director at Chillingo, a leading games publisher owned by EA, led a Dragon's Den-style masterclass with students on a pioneering new course at the college.

The experienced marketeer has been involved in the interactive entertainment industry for more than 20 years and has been instrumental in launching games such as Call of Duty, Star Wars Lego, Battle Copters, Worms and the hit mobile game Iron Force.

He visited the college's NextGen studio, based in its multi-million pound Arts Academy, to speak to students about his career and to listen to their pitches.

Game ideas included everything from deadly jelly cube experiments and robotic spiders through to medieval knights and a horror puzzle set in a hospital.

Stephen, who has worked for Connect2Media, Ocean Software and Infogrames Entertainment in the past, said: "The facility at Sunderland College was really impressive but the work of the students was even more so. I saw several games that I really wanted to play more and others that had real potential.

"The attitude of the students was really commercial which meant the game concepts in development were not only creative but were being made with real consumers in mind. Chillingo celebrates Indie game development talent and anything we can do to nurture this is a great opportunity."

The students who took part in the masterclass are studying the innovative new course, NextGen Level 3 Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills.

Created by NextGen Skills Academy, in partnership with leading companies such as Sony, Microsoft and Ubisoft Reflections, the college was selected as one of only four in England to run the employer-focused programme.

As part of the course, students have unprecedented access to mentors and are set working projects by leading companies in the industry.

NextGen Diploma student James Wake, 26, and his group pitched a stealth-based adventure game to Stephen. Called Motherland, players are dropped behind enemy lines and must avoid detection from hazards such as spotlights and guard patrols while infiltrating an enemy base.

James said: "Overall, Stephen was really impressed with what we have achieved in a short amount of time. He provided a couple of suggestions of extra game mechanics which could help improve the game and add an additional challenge to its design. He wants to play all of the groups' games once they are completed which is a great opportunity for us all.

"Stephen has had an extremely successful career and we were extremely lucky to have the opportunity to have someone of his stature visit the college, offer feedback and talk to us about his background."

Matty McGrory, programme leader for the NextGen Diploma, added: "Stephen's visit to the NextGen Studio was invaluable for our students. Not only did they gain a greater understanding of the marketing and sales side of the industry, but Stephen's first-hand knowledge of games development and the feedback he gave to the students will be a crucial factor in their skills and careers development."

The college has already welcomed BAFTA and Emmy-nominated visual effects creative director, Phil Attfield, to the NextGen studio and is planning an exciting programme of workshops and masterclasses in the new year.

The college is holding a series of open events in January where people can find out more about the NextGen Level 3 Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills and other courses available. For full details about the course and open events, email , call 0191 511 6000 or visit

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:10 pm CDT

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