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James Ackroyd

Computer Science MEng

I studied on the 4 year MEng Computer Science course at Warwick, having originally applied for the 3 year BSc (as the 4 year one wasn't available when I applied). When I heard about the possibility of staying for another year I immediately transferred over, as it was always my aim to complete a masters degree while at university. I'm very pleased that I did, as it gave me the opportunity to cover some more modules that I was interested in but didn't have the time to study in my third year. Not only that but the large group project was particularily good, and I really enjoyed leading our team and working more closely with the lecturers.

I have always had a great interest in computer games, and used to write them (as best I could!) from about the age of 7 onwards. While I was at uni I found myself naturally interested in modules such as AI, Graphics, Neural Networking and Robotics, and found them all to be very enjoyable. As time went on at uni the thought occurred to me that I might have the opportunity to get a job writing games, which is why in the 4th year I came up with an AI based project to write a mini 'game' that demonstrated some DAI group pathfinding agents. I graduated in summer 2004, and started to look for possible openings as a computer games programmer. However, before I'd really had much time to sort anything out, I happened to be back in Warwick visiting friends, and decided to call in and see Meurig Beynon, the professor that I has worked with on my final year project. He knew of my interest in becoming a games programmer and told me he'd been approached by someone involved in recruitment for Rare Ltd, looking for good graduates to join the company. He forwarded my details on to Rare and within a week I'd been offered the job!

Naturally I accepted and so I have been working in my dream job as a games programmer for the past two years. I've found that an awful lot of the things I learnt during my uni course have been put into practice on a day to day basis, especially with my specialisation in AI. I even had a good discussion about multi-layer perceptrons during my interview! I've found that a general computer science degree is preferable to a Games Programming course as the theoretical grounding it gives you in such a range of topics is invaluable. Also, in an industry such as this where technology is changing so rapidly, it's far more valuable to understand the concepts behind the technology, and be able to apply them to the current problem that you're faced with, than simply know the systems that were available at the time.