North East Connected

Students put skills to test in Digital Dragon’s Den

SUNDERLAND College students have pitched ground-breaking ideas for new computer games to a marketing maestro, in a “Digital Dragon’s Den”.

Stephen Hey, marketing director at Chillingo – a leading games publisher owned by EA – was the digital dragon alongside NextGen tutors Ant Cain, Matt Hall, Tony Pringle and Peter McGlasham eager to be impressed by the presenters, who are all studying on a pioneering industry-led course at the college.

Considered by the industry as one of its leading marketing gurus, Stephen has been one of the leading lights of the interactive entertainment world for over two decades.

He has played a leading role in the launch of some of the biggest games in history and the most anticipated in recent years, such as Call of Duty, Star Wars Lego, Battle Copters, Worms and the hit mobile game Iron Force.

Sunderland College’s NextGen studio, which became the “Dragon’s Den” for the student pitches, creates a professional environment to help students prepare themselves for what will be expected of them when they reach the world of employment.

During his visit, Stephen took time to speak to students about his career, offering guidance and insight into one of the world’s most fast-moving industries.

 Ideas pitched by students included a role-playing game, set in the world of the Jabberwocky, World War Blitz animation, a potion creation simulator and a Wonderland 3D virtual reality experience.

 Stephen, who has worked for Connect2Media, Ocean Software and Infogrames Entertainment in the past, said: “What impressed me most about the work was the breadth of ideas and the way the students had thought through how they would be best delivered.

 “I’m blown away by the NextGen course at Sunderland College – it provides a broad range of skills for students and allows them to find their own particular area of expertise and interest, which will direct them towards a hopefully rewarding career in the industry.

 “The day was great and the ideas really exciting, but there is also the fact that this helps prepare students for when they have to sell themselves in interviews or pitch ideas to potential clients.”

The students who took part in the masterclass are studying the innovative new course, NextGen Level 3 Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills.

Created by NextGen Skills Academy, in partnership with leading companies such as Sony, Microsoft and Ubisoft Reflections, the college was selected as one of only five in England to run the employer-focused programme.

Students have unprecedented access to mentors and industry experts and are set working projects by leading companies in the sector.

NextGen Diploma student Robyn Dyboll, who pitched a 3D murder mystery puzzle game, said: “It was a great experience and offered us a chance to gain some great insight into what life is like in the industry as well as some inavaluable guidance on what we did well and what we could do better.

“Getting positive feedback from someone so highly regarded in the tech and games sector was brilliant. It really is something I just couldn’t get on any other course.”

Ant Cain, NextGen Diploma lecturer, added: “It’s great to welcome Stephen back to Sunderland College. He is not only an expert in his field, but a natural born communicator, who puts the students at ease and offers invaluable insight that helps prepare them for life after they have graduated.

“His knowledge of the marketing and sales side of the industry is second to none, so it was fantastic for the students to speak to him about harnessing their creative skill and making a product that people will want to play that is also a commercial success.”

The college has already welcomed BAFTA and Emmy-nominated visual effects creative director, Phil Attfield, to the NextGen studio and is planning an exciting programme of workshops and masterclasses in the new year.

For more information about the NextGen 3 diploma in computer games, animation and VFX skills course, email, call 0191 511 6000 or

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