AIE – Academy of Interactive Entertainment

Education spotlight: AIE – Academy of Interactive Entertainment

The future of the games sector is bright. As part of our education insights series we highlight local independent institutes achieving exceptional results and mentoring the future of the Victorian games industry.

Creative Victoria congratulates all the graduates across the games education landscape and wish them the best as they embark on careers in this most exciting industry. We also can’t wait for the next generation to start their courses and to be inspired by the opportunities that lay ahead.

AIE students are busting stereotypes

AIE is known for its industry connections with visits and pitch feedback from local Victorian studios like PlaySide, Digital Lode and Big Ant.

They are also known for their games and VFX courses. This means staff are responding to emerging technologies all the time to keep up with the ever-evolving industry.

A dedicated subject for VR and AR was introduced about four years ago but content must be updated and new devices—like the Occulus Quest 2—are brought in each year as new tech comes onto the scene.

There has also been major shifts in studio and revenue models in the industry. A new Bachelor program slated for 2024 will guide students’ understanding of gaming’s impact in the world.

As course instructor Murray Lorden explains, “We have to think about where games fit into society … and even just looking at different business models for games, there is a whole kind of moral and ethical side to it which is certainly part of thinking ‘what might you build and what sort of business do you run?’.”

Student interests are also shifting in exciting new ways. New tech means new skills, new industry collaborations and emerging games for change. Students are eagerly applying their skills beyond just commercial entertainment.

“We had students who are working on firefighter training simulators, we had students working in architectural visualisation, Telstra created a job for one of our students that they didn’t have before because they thought the skillset was great,” says Deputy Head of School Frank Farfalla. “A student was in biomedicine and was really interested in the graphical representations side of that, so they did a course with us. We’ve had a lot of students with success in the game industry but also outside that industry.”

The boyish basement stereotype is long behind us. Games are much more mainstream today and this is reflected student enrolments: “The [gender] numbers are much, much closer to half than they ever have been before,” says Farfalla. This shapes the creative direction of the games. As Game Design and Production Instructor Joel Hayward explains:

“They always bring their cultural values into the course which is really cool and so you see that in the game ideas, you see that in the stuff that they build. It’s just great for the industry.”

AIE run programs with secondary schools to encourage students from earlier on to envision themselves as game designers.

AIE’s Game-Changing Students: Justin Etchell

man looking at the camera

Justin is a second-year programmer whose work on building a game without an off-the-shelf engine has given him invaluable understanding of the inner workings of game technology. He has inspired other students by showing what's possible with this approach.

The tools that Justin has built have helped the team’s non-programmers learn how constraints can spark creativity. “Custom tooling built specifically for our game allowed artists to get instant feedback in-engine and empowered designers to iterate on level layouts rapidly,” says Justin.

Brooke Feely

Brooke is a first-year design student who made a game-changing career-shift after 15+ years of hospitality work.

“A friend pointed out my passion for games, creativity and managing teams could actually be transferred to Game Design but I was worried about joining the tech industry as a woman in her 30s,” she says. “The simulated studio environment and incredible support provided at AIE smashed those concerns immediately—and has been entirely life-changing.

“In less than a year I've learned crucial game dev skills: documentation (including level concepting); C# programming; 3D art modelling and texturing; Sound Design; Q&A testing; and created games in-engine within tight deadlines (both solo and as a team)”