Surviving the zombie apocalypse is Media Design School's (MDS) latest plan to entice young students into the world of game development, and in turn, enrol at its school.
This week, the Auckland-based tertiary institute launched Pick & Shovel, a website based around the popular indie game Minecraft. The first competition on the site, Robots vs Zombies, sees players build elaborate fortresses to protect themselves from zombies, in a modified version of the game. Users submit photos of their best pixel creations from the game world, in order to win prizes.
Jackie Young, marketing director at MDS, says she hopes the site will encourage casual gamers with an interest in the industry, to take a look at the institute's new game design and development degrees. The site already features MDS ads, information on its courses, and showcases previous work done by its students.
Young says it's important to only advertise the courses next to activities gamers enjoy or find useful, as they are usually wary of being promoted to. Pick & Shovel (which are two important tools inside the game) has tutorials, modification packages, and in the future, will host gaming parties and events with guest speakers from the industry.
"Building authentic communities is important for connecting with a demographic like gamers. Pick & Shovel is a way we can build awareness of our games degrees in a way that's appreciated by them," says Young.
MDS has had previous success with similar community-based campaigns, including one on Facebook last year which saw the school go from 16,000 likes to just under 200,000 - making it one of the largest Facebook pages in New Zealand.
Young admits a large number of the institute's new Facebook fans are from overseas, and it's likely the Pick & Shovel's community will be the same. However, this doesn't worry her.
"The campaign is definitely about New Zealand students, but it's also about increasing our international audience," says Young.
"It's an opportunity to profile New Zealand gamers and game developers overseas."
Young says the campaign will also help it attract more international students.
If Pick & Shovel is a success, Young says there's an opportunity to create identical communities for other games, or even other programmes at the school.