As the virtual reality (VR) industry has grown so has the need for more developers and creatives to enter the space. Whilst this has so far been filled with professionals keen on getting into the tech, the space is evolving in such a way that companies are seeking graduates looking to enter the field. Which is why universities and other institutions have begun offering courses primarily aimed at VR videogame development. The latest comes from a partnership between Ringling College of Art and Design and Flight School Studio, the team behind Manifest 99, Island Time, and Oculus’ Evolution of Testicles.
The collaboration came about when Flight School co-founder Brandon Oldenburg reached out to Ringling College with an idea to help students develop a real, playable, and commercial VR experience, creating the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program in Virtual Reality Development in the process.
This was made all the easier thanks to Oldenburg having previously graduated from Ringling College in 1995, whilst also being a member of the Ringling College Board of Trustees. Additionally, since his graduation he has been actively involved in mentoring and recruiting Ringling College students from many of the College’s majors.
“We discovered that we were losing talent to other studios, either from timing or because the bigger studios were better known,” Oldenburg explains in a statement. “So we started leading workshops, where we’d be on campus for a few days and really get to know some of the students. They also get to know us, so our recruiting became more informed. And this really worked for us. Seeing how we all worked together gave us an idea of how certain students would fit in a collaborative environment, like our studio.”
With the studio and college working together it’s a win-win for both them and the students. The college gains professional expertise and insight into building its major, the students receive hands-on experience designing for VR and learn about the production of VR assets, while Flight School benefits from the fresh thinking and design skills of the students.
“Working with professionals holds our students to professional standards—and to professional expectations and parameters,” explains Morgan Woolverton, interim Department Head for Virtual Reality Development and Game Art. “When you are a student, you are often only responsible to your own creative vision, but opportunities like this teach students to find their voice, to find their creative solution within an existing client framework. And that is what it takes to be a great creative.”
This is the inaugural year of the partnership, with three Game Art students working with Flight School to create a VR videogame that will be introduced at SXSW 2019. As VRFocus learns more about Flight School’s next project, we’ll let you know.