Education spotlight: JMC Academy

Education spotlight: JMC Academy

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.

JMC is a hub bursting with creativity

Being a creative academy, JMC has its sights set on fostering cross-collaboration with its students.

“Making a game is a team effort and you’re going to be working with a lot of people,” says Senior Lecturer Matt Sapulovic.

The games and animation departments work closely together, audio and music students collaborate with those in game design and acting students come on board to make use of JMC’s high-tech motion capture system — it’s great practice for teamwork.

As Head Lecturer Az Valastro explains, students are also equipped for independent and solo design—something that many express interest in.  They learn skills across all areas of development, from programming, 3D modelling, drawing and more. “All students start off at the very beginning of their degree trying literally everything,” says Valastro.

Staff are especially passionate in steering students to try new things beyond their comfort zone. “They really are pushed to create things in multiple different styles,” says Sapulovic, while an international study tour to Japan is an illuminating treat that helps students better understand Victoria’s own industry landscape and diversity of style.

Students are discovering their creative identities through their game design journeys, as Valastro explains. “It has been such an interesting look at the way students have pivoted from wanting to make and clone games that already exist to then making their own games about things they are really passionate about. I’m really noticing with the students I have now, they’re looking at the games they enjoy, what they enjoy, and being able to piece together new things that they wouldn’t have thought was possible before.”

Students’ diverse perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences drive their creative innovation. Reflecting on demographic shifts, Valastro explains, “We have always had a really large number of gender diverse students, tonnes of our lecturers are gender diverse and a good half of our cohort identify as trans and LGBT.” Plus there are still ongoing shifts. “We are noticing a larger number of mature age students coming on which is awesome, people who are finding what they want to do a little later on.”

JMC’s Game-Changing Students:  Bianca Sawangsri (she/they) and Toney Evans (he/him)

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Image: The Farming Game by Toney Evans

Bianca and Toney are both driven and uniquely creative games students. Bianca uses her time at JMC to focus on her game design and illustration skillset and Toney, who has a software development background, is focusing on game design and 3D modelling.

Bianca and Toney have wowed their teachers with their support for their peers and their open-mindedness towards all kinds of collaboration. They’re currently working on a game called Osaki. The game is inspired from JMC’s international study tour, where students visited Japan to absorb all things animation and games in Tokyo and Osaka. Osaki follows the story of Saki, a little fox born into the world bringing with her an omen of a lost evil.

Players make their way through modern Japan with the help of Gods and Spirits alike and discover their place in this changing world. Inspired by games like Unravel, "Osaki" is a 2.5D platformer with a linear narrative exploring themes of fitting in, survival, and self-discovery.

They plan to take Osaki into production over their next trimester of study. Interested in seeing more from the JMC Game Design students? Keep an eye on JMC’s events page for upcoming info on their grad show, open to the public in early 2024.

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Image: Saki the fox: Character design for Osaki by Bianca Sawangsri and Toney Evans