2015 saw Media Design School at Torrens University be named ‘No. 1 digital design school in Asia Pacific’ in the Autodesk CG Student Awards. But the good news continues as we learned that two of our graduates, Tom O’Brien and Claire Barilla, have been listed in the MCV Pacific Thirty Under 30! A huge congratulations to them both!
The list, now in its fifth year, recognises the brightest young talent working in the video game industry across Australia and New Zealand. Eligible candidates must work in any sector of the local interactive entertainment industry and be under 30 years old.
The class of 2016 included games journalists, designers, lecturers, content creators and many more professions from big-name companies like Sony, GX Australia, Microsoft Xbox and Ogilvy.
So we were particularly thrilled that Tom and Claire have made it onto this prestigious list. Although it’s hardly surprising when reviewing their experience. Both Tom and Claire have been incredibly active during the course of their studies at MDS.
As a student ambassador, Tom has regularly volunteered to assist with events including our Girls in Game workshops as an advocate for women in games. He already has two shipped games under his belt which won ‘Best Student Game’ at Play by Play in 2016 and has twice been accepted into the MDS Accelerator.
Claire is also a frequent speaker, ambassador and volunteer in the industry. She graduated job-ready with a position secured at PikPok, one of New Zealand’s largest game studios and has already had three papers published in Gamasutra.
We caught up with Tom and Claire to find out a bit more about what has perhaps given them the edge…
What excites you most about the future of gaming?
CLAIRE: To me, games is the most exciting medium to be working in right now. It is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries because of how interactive and active an experience it is. It is often compared to film, but unlike film, where the audience is a passive participant, video games have the player as the cornerstone of the interaction. Video games are the next great form of art, an indisputable fact to anyone who has played and experienced anything as beautiful as Abzu or Journey. They provide exciting interactive experiences and, with the advent of things like AR and VR, they will only get more interactive and exciting. Games have the ability to entice, scare, exhilarate and calm; they connect you to others, they make you cry or laugh and can facilitate deep emotional connections with fictional characters.
TOM: Games, as an interactive medium, allow players to experience stories in a much more personal way. As technology advances, we have the opportunity to craft increasingly immersive experiences for our players. Being able to tell stories where the player feels as though they are a part of a different world is incredibly exciting, and I cannot wait to see the experiences that people create in the future.
In your opinion, what gives someone the edge in the industry?
CLAIRE: YOU give yourself the edge, it is literally all up to you, everyone starts their career in games on the same page. There is nothing special about any one particular field or institution, it is up to you to put in the time and effort. Become active in your community, go to every game development meet-up and event, talk to experienced people, ask all the questions, volunteer for all the things. It is up to you to put in the time and effort into building your portfolio and your network. Become a face that industry people see regularly helping, volunteering and being active in the games industry, because you will be the one that they come to when they need help or a position filled.
TOM: Being passionate about what you do and not being afraid of putting yourself out there. So much of being in Game Development revolves around working with other people – if you show that you are excited to learn and passionate about games, that will go a long way.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at MDS?
CLAIRE: The most valuable thing that I learned at MDS was how to do things for myself: how to take agency over my work and push the boundaries of established systems. The lessons I learned there helped me know when something was or was not acceptable. It taught me a standard for game development and how to surpass that.
TOM: Say yes to as many opportunities as possible. Through MDS I was fortunate to be afforded lots of exciting possibilities, such as showcasing games at various events and developing my games commercially alongside my studies. You meet so many interesting people through these avenues which allow you to form relationships with a much wider community of people.
Can you briefly describe a project that you’re working on at the moment that you’re particularly excited about?
CLAIRE: Obviously I can’t talk about anything specifically that I am working on right now, but at this point in my career I am excited to be learning a whole different area of game development. I have done a lot of art and a bit of programming, but now I am learning about how to actually run a studio and make game development a sustainable business.