The evolution of the gaming industry – A lecturer’s perspective
We asked Rachel Rowley, Lecturer in Computing and Games at Wrexham University, to provide insights from her firsthand experiences as a woman in the gaming industry.
She also shares the compelling reasons why aspiring students should choose Wrexham as their gateway to an exciting career in Game Art & Design.
Women in Gaming
Rachel spoke on the topic of women in gaming following a successful weekend helping run Global Game Jam Next. This is a game creation event aimed at under16s, which saw 40 children unleash their creativity and dive into the world of game design.
She said she is seeing a change in the ratio of girls to boys showing an active interest in Computing and Gaming: “I have certainly noticed a generational shift with the number of female and female presenting people showing an active interest in gaming which is fantastic to see.
“The weekend saw an almost 50/50 split between boys and girls which shows a massive variation even in the short space of time from when I was a student in 2019.”
Her observations from the weekend show a growing trend of women in gaming spaces, which is being seen globally. According to WomenInGames.org, global activists for women in games and esports, ‘approximately 50% of players globally are women.’
Rachel with fellow academics Matthew McDonald-Dick (left) and Richard Hebblewhite (right)
Rachel continued to draw upon her experience when studying: “When I was a student studying Computer Games Development, I was the only female on the degree.
“I absolutely feel there is a generational change from what was previously, a heavily male-dominated industry.”
What started as an interest in art and light gaming as a hobby, evolved into Rachel’s love for conceptualisation and creativity. This combined with a mentoring scheme on her Masters, helping undergraduate students with their projects, sparked the desire to teach the subject.
Video Games and Mental Health
While recalling her academic journey, Rachel opened up about how being able to both create and consume games has helped with tough periods of mental health. This led to her wanting to conduct more research into the relationship between the two as part of her dissertation.
Video games have a long-standing reputation of being problematic when it comes to mental health. Rachel wanted to flip this notion on its head and demonstrate how gaming can be used to relax users and create a form of escapism.
“The aim of the project was to create an interactive game designed to alleviate the symptoms associated with Generalised Anxiety Disorder,” she said.
“When a person is suffering from depression or anxiety, they may not have the motivation to leave the house or socialise. I wanted my project to give the end user a sense of fulfilment by completing tasks to provide an intrinsic sense of worth.”
Rachel conducted research before embarking on this project into colour theory, what people considered relaxing environments and soundscapes. The result was her first-person, underwater immersion game aptly named ‘Breathe Deep.’
“The idea of underwater was a common theme of relaxation that showed in my research. The user explores the deep ocean environment and uses breathing techniques to calm the mind.
“There is the potential to add ‘biofeedback,’ where the player wears a strap, and the game provides real-time feedback on the user's breathing.”
For prospective students aspiring to enter the world of Gaming, the choice can be overwhelming. Rachel provides an insight into why Wrexham…
“We punch well above our weight. We provide students with a plethora of outreach, competition, and networking opportunities. You will have the opportunity to have your work and projects played by thousands of people at recognised gaming events.
“We get you industry and career-ready, by ensuring that you are developing and continuously adding to a portfolio.
When it comes to student support, Rachel added: “One of my favourite aspects of my role is that I can sit down with students and offer one-to-one guidance throughout their studies. Very few universities can boast this level of support.”
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