Media Design School launching VR programme

Auckland’s Media Design School is getting into VR in a big way.

The school will become the first tertiary provider in Aotearoa to offer a qualification with a dedicated stream focusing on virtual reality and augmented reality. Currently, in the Graduate Diploma of Creative Technologies (GDCT) programme are able to select from streams such as 3D Animation and VFX, Graphic Design or Web Development.

Enrollment is currently open for the programme. Chief executive officer Darryn Melrose says it’s a big deal to be expanding into VR and AR, saying the school has “always been at the forefront of championing emerging technologies, and Virtual Reality is no exception.”

Says Melrose: “VR and AR have so many applications across a wide range of sectors and offering a dedicated VR/AR stream to our students will enable them to further develop their practical skills in a supportive, hands-on learning environment.”

Game Development Programme leader Himanshu Khanna – who worked on major game titles like the FIFA and Need For Speed franchises and at Electronic Arts in Singapore before coming to New Zealand, where he spent time at Gameloft – has high hopes. “It’s becoming increasingly clear VR isn’t a fad. Right now we’re at the stage where we’re experimenting.”

But New Zealand can “definitely” become a world-leader in VR, he asserts. “We want to be at the edge of that. There’s so much interest.”

Students are enthused, too, he says. “We can be the next VR hub.”

But, Khanna explains, there’s another growth area worth focusing on: mobile gaming. “The cool thing with the games industry now is the barrier for entry is low,” he explains.

A big part of that lower barrier for entry, he explains, is that more people than ever have a smartphone capable of running games. “Almost everyone has a high-end mobile. Mobile is a big part of the games market.”

And the profusion of mobile devices means that developers and designers need to think globally, he says.

The Media Design School was the first tertiary institution in the Southern Hemisphere to provide specialised gaming degrees for aspirational game developers. The first games-related programme launched in 2002, with bachelor’s degrees introduced in 2011.