Education spotlight: Collarts

Education spotlight: Collarts

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.

It’s all about play at Collarts 

What is play? What is fun? Students at Collarts go back to the basics to explore these questions.

Games and play are everywhere, not just in the digital. Collarts has a new program for students to learn game design regardless of the medium. They experiment across all the exciting forms that play takes place—from tabletop and card games to the digital. Many enter the course with digital design in mind but find their ideas resonate with—or transfer well to—analogue games.

For these students, paper prototyping is a fast way to envision different rules. For others, there’s a suite of software tools available that the course supports. Focussing away from solely the digital has opened doors for external partnerships with roleplaying and tabletop communities like ARC (Australian Roleplaying Community) and TGDA (Tabletop Game Designers Australia).

There’s been a massive spike in awareness and popularity of tabletop games. “The difference between when I was growing up and now is quite frankly astonishing,” says Head of Game Design Tim Westhaven who’s been playing Dungeons and Dragons since he was six years old.

Collarts students exhibited their card and tabletop games at PAX earlier this year, giving attendees a window into their eccentric imaginations. One was “a cross between a high school and Breaking Bad,” explains Westhaven, “Another one was a psychological horror game on being an amnesiac, either a patient or doctor, in a hospital where people were stealing organs.”

Higher Ed, especially creative courses, is all about students exploring their personal styles. “They’re coming into themselves both as adults and as artists,” says Westhaven. This is more important than ever in an industry where studio sizes are shrinking.

While this year’s trend of large global and local studios downsizing could deter people from entering the industry Westhaven explains this is a “direction that not only digital but … game design regardless of the medium is taking. You are going to be looking at much smaller teams.” Rather than being spooked, instead students across the sector are showing more and more interest in pursuing solo or small-team game design.

Smaller teams are appealing because they ideally set the conditions for greater creative independence. Meanwhile major international studios can have a reputation for overwork and crunch culture. “I would like to think that we can show our students a better way,” says Westhaven.

Many Victorian indie studios are proudly outspoken against exploitation (Australia is home to one of the world’s first Game Workers Unions). But our local industry also represents the potential of small studios when it comes to creative experimentation.

Following the footsteps of our local game-makers, students are now leading the industry in new directions, reimagining and pushing the boundaries of play.

Want to see what the Collarts students have been working on? They’ll be showing off their games at The Game Expo and PAX in 2024.

Collarts’ Game-Changing Student: Violeta Gordana

Violeta is drawn to psychological horror and creating innovative and accessible tabletop games, with two that have been showcased at PAX AUS. The game Void Over Valentine aims for inclusivity by incorporating a magnetic mat, laser-cut braille pieces and printed braille cards, catering to diverse abilities and ensuring an engaging experience for all.

The other, Dr. X, is a Print to Play tabletop RPG (Role Playing Game) that intertwines several narratives, puzzles, riddles, and timelines, where players are plunged into an 1800s sanatorium with locked rooms, shifting environments, and mysterious hallways.

“[Collarts’] focus on tabletop games has been instrumental, providing a real-world platform to test mechanics and allow my projects to evolve and flourish,” reflects Violeta.