How The Prince’s Trust and NextGen helped Shivani get started in the Games Industry

We recently spoke with Shivani Rambaran about how The Prince’s Trust ‘Get Started in Games Design’ course, delivered in partnership with NextGen, helped start her journey to working in the Games Industry.

Could you please introduce yourself?

Hi, I'm Shivani, and I’m a Junior Designer at Triangular Pixels.

What was your creative and career background before starting at Triangular Pixels?

It's been a bit of a roller coaster for me to be honest! I studied digital technologies in college, and then I did an apprenticeship in digital marketing, but I just didn't feel like my heart was in it. I decided to run a website development business for about a year. But again, I felt like something was missing. I then worked in healthcare - a complete career switch - and I loved the opportunity to help people and organise workshops. When COVID hit, I unfortunately had to make the tough decision to leave due to travel.

Then, in November 2020, I came across an advert for Unity Learn and made a LEGO Microgame. Before then, I did not really realise that you need people to make games, it just hadn’t dawned on me as a career option. I just loved the whole experience of making a game, making the characters move and jump and all the animations, and it really excited me. As I was becoming more interested in game design, I saw another advert for the NextGen and Prince's Trust ‘Get Started in Game Design’ programme and I just joined. On the taster day, I realised that it was the perfect course for me, a beginner who didn’t know much about game design and game development.

The course really helped boost my confidence - after that week my confidence was through the roof! I thought that if I was able to complete that course, and pitch a game in front of Sony Playstation, then maybe there was a place for someone like me in this industry. I started working on my portfolio, speaking to people in the industry, attending game events, and then I heard of the position at Triangular Pixels via the Kickstart Scheme.

Could you tell us a bit about the course and what happens over the week?

The first day you're introduced to the whole team and your tutors and you are given a breakdown on the whole sort of game development process. You learn about how to come up with an idea, X statements, how to create a presentation, and how to pitch a game.

Throughout the week we met a lot of people working in multiple areas in the industry. It wasn't just focused on game design, although it was a heavy part of it. A lot of it was focused on meeting people in the industry, hearing about various roles, how they got started and what tips they had for young people looking to join the industry. After the programme, I had essentially built a small network of people in the games industry, and also from the course itself. The students that were on the course with me stayed in touch and we created a Discord group where we chat and share resources. It is great to have a network of peers who are also starting in their career, and just bounce ideas off each other.

You highlighted the importance of networks, what advice would you give someone new to networking?

One of the things the tutors mentioned in the programme was, if you don't reach out to someone you never know whether or not they will accept your request. It can be a bit daunting to just connect with someone who is a complete stranger, but if you do make that leap of faith, the worst that could happen is that they ignore your connection, but at least you tried! If they do connect, then reach out and speak to them. Most people in the games industry, at least in my personal experience, are quite open because they've been in the same position that I have been at some point in their career.

Also, a guest on the course mentioned the Limit Break Mentorship programme, which I then looked up and was paired with an industry mentor who I meet every month. This has opened quite a few doors for me, helping to grow my confidence and being able to ask any burning questions that I have about game design.

Could you tell us a bit more about your mentoring?

The Limit Break Mentorship programme is designed to help people who are underrepresented in the industry. It's a way to meet someone who is a bit more senior than you and learn from their experiences. There’s a lot of nice and friendly people on the platform who have joined to help people start or progress in the industry, which gave me a bit more confidence to reach out.

Have you been involved in any other courses?

I did a lot of online courses via Future Learn. They've got quite a few short courses on their platform, particularly for game development. I also attended this year's Games Careers Week. The confidence that I had gained through the Prince’s Trust propelled me to join some of their events. I was definitely out of my comfort zone but I'm glad that I got involved. I ended up attending most of the sessions during the Games Education Summit, and it was great! I met a lot of nice people through the events that were run during that week. I just regret that I didn't have enough time to attend all of it, though some have been added to the Grads In Games and BGI YouTube channels to watch back.

How are you finding your first role in the games industry?

It is a first step for me and I'm learning a lot through my current role. It is still quite early to say whether this is what I'll be doing throughout my career in the games industry, but the thing that I like a lot about this industry is that it's quite flexible. There's a lot of designers who end up programming later on, or going into art. At the moment I do love game designing, so we'll see how it goes.

How did you find work via the Kickstart scheme?

I was quite pressed for time because the Into Games Kickstart programme is for young people between the ages of 16 to 24, and I found out about it a month before my 25th birthday. I quickly made a game and released a prototype, created my portfolio, showed it to a few people for review, and then just started applying for positions. I went through the job centre who were really helpful, but I actually found out about the role from someone else who was also on the Prince’s Trust course. So again, one thing that I learned from that whole experience was that networking is super important!

Overall, would you recommend the course?

Yes, definitely! I am an advocate for it online and even shared my certificate on LinkedIn. It's just a week but the amount of things that I learnt is incredible, and the amount of people that I met and connected with is amazing.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking the course?

I would definitely say take the course even if you're not 100% sure that you want to go into designing, as there's various topics that are covered in the course. It’s the perfect course if you feel that you would not be able to join the games industry because you don't have enough experience, like myself. I didn't go to university to learn game design and game development and a lot of people who are in the industry did, so I did feel a bit hesitant, and questioned whether I was the right fit for this. But then I went out and spoke to people, and speaking to people made me realise that, even if I didn't have a degree, if I had the passion and I made games in my spare time and wanted to learn more about it, there would be people out there who would want to help.

The Prince's Trust programme is a great programme that actually helped me to build my confidence and my portfolio. I remember when I spoke with the Prince’s Trust to join the course, they asked me “What's your passion? What do you work on in your spare time?” That's when I spoke about the LEGO game that I made. It was a simple thing, it came with premade code bricks and involved using LEGOs to make models, but by using those assets to create something showed my passion to get into games development. So even if you do a small thing, it's still something you made, you need to believe in yourself and move forward.

Finally, what games are you playing at the moment?

I am currently playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and I'm going through a Crash Bandicoot marathon! It's just great nostalgia, as a kid I used to love playing Crash. I would play it every single day after school, before school, anytime I could get, so it's been great nostalgia. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is just a lovely game, the visuals and everything in it is brilliant.

There’s another small indie game I found called A Hero’s Guide to Gardening. It's targeted for children, but I got drawn to it because of my love for gardening. The narrative behind the game is great and I love how they speak about really deep concepts like depression, sadness, anxiety, using gardening as a theme. It's just really heartwarming and well designed.

Thank you Shivani! You can check out some of Shivani's work here, and register your interest for future 'Get Started' courses with The Prince's Trust here.

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