The Legacy Project - 2020 Update
July 13 2020 | Studio
Over the 6 years since it’s foundation, the Legacy Project has grown and now holds partnerships with leading organisations such as BAFTA, NextGen Skills Academy, Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse and ELAM - the East London Academy of Music and Arts which was originally founded by Chase and Status’ Will Kennard.
In 2019, the CA Legacy Project won the education award at the Gamesindustry.biz Best Place to Work Awards.
INTRODUCING THE LEGACY PROJECT
The project originally began as our social responsibility programme; the studio had grown to about 200 staff at that time and we wanted to give something back to the local community. However, it’s evolved as Creative Assembly has grown – it's a passion project and with more passionate people coming into the studio each day, the scope and impact of the project has also evolved.
The core pillar of the project is education. We recognise that education beyond Further Education in the UK is increasingly becoming a privilege, under-represented groups in the games industry such as Black and ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by education barriers. However, the desire of many young people to learn technology or STEAM related subjects is increasing. As one of the largest studios with 700 developers, we house so many experts who are eager to share what they’ve learnt to benefit future generations.
We began our outreach work on a small scale; visiting schools and giving education talks. It expanded to providing mentorship, studio-based workshops, supported game design competitions and contributing to game design curriculums. The question we always ask ourselves with any activity is whether we can provide a quality interaction that has the potential to really help these students. If we aren’t adding value, then why do it?
Our focus is on schools and colleges in our local community, on establishments that we know have a high quality bar with their curriculums, and on those who are actively working to address inequalities in society. That’s why we work so closely with ELAM (the East London Academy of Music and Arts). ELAM is situated in one of the most deprived areas of England. Over a quarter of their students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and 70% of their students are from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. The success of ELAM’s work is clear as they are seeing fantastic results for their students; 70% of their game trainees received distinctions compared to 15% nationally.
Our outreach work is formed of our army of CA Ambassadors. Our CA Ambassadors have gone from strength to strength; we now have around 100 within our studio, all committed to sharing their knowledge, experiences and skills with the wider community. In 2019 alone we attended 86 separate outreach activities, which averages almost two sessions a week every week.
Now, some studios may be concerned about that time commitment. We are firm believers in the long-term benefits of outreach activity, not only for the students, but also for our own staff. They hone their skills as mentors, as leaders and educators and they bring back these experiences for their team to benefit from. The enthusiasm from the students we work with is contagious, and our developers always return re-energised to the projects.
WHAT WE'VE LEARNT: BEST PRACTICE TIPS
- The one thing that makes this project work and I mean really work is a genuine passion for what we do and sharing that with others. Having people within your organization who truly want to see the program succeed will ensure it is always something that is authentic and meaningful.
- Find your own way of engaging with the next generation of developers. Align it to your culture, your games and who you are as a studio. It becomes obvious when it’s about filling a quota or doing it purely for brand purposes. The public are very perceptive and will see through that approach and it will have a negative impact on how others view your studio. It should be led by the team up, choose activities that enthuse your team.
- Everyone is inspired by stories. We as human beings are naturally curious and seek out others that elevate us in a variety of different ways. That might mean some want to find out more about the subject you talked about or follow the same path themselves. Share the stories you have in your studio and it will inspire others to share theirs too.
- Whether our ambassadors engage with a 5-year-old and encourage them to press the buttons on a code-a-pillar or meeting a graduate who joins the studio on their first day. It makes a difference. Have faith in what you do. They might feel like small interactions, but it builds into a bigger movement overtime.
- Don’t be afraid of giving developers time away from their desk to engage in things that matter to them. You will get a lot more back when they return to their day to day work. They will potentially have just spoken to someone you will be hiring in the future and your developer will be talking about why they love their career, project and employer. That enthusiasm spreads and will be reflected in their work and those around them.
- That said, don’t do anything and everything that is requested of you. Quality interactions with students, teachers and parents will have an impact day, weeks, months and sometimes years after you have interacted with them. You want to make sure that was a positive thing. So be clear what you can offer and only offer that.
- Create some useful resources you can send to students, teachers and parents that interact with you or ask for support. This might be something you can share yourself such as facts, information or videos. It might also be a case of signposting to other fantastic organisations such as Digital Schoolhouse, Into Games, Next Gen Skills or UKIE.
COVID-19 / ADAPTING TO VIRTUAL-ONLY SUPPORT
Much like all other areas of the studio, we’ve adapted. Many of our ambassadors are providing virtual mentorship, virtual developer-led sessions and we’ve also been focusing on our Creative Chronicles livestreamed Q&As, being able to reach many more aspiring developers.
We’re also looking at the next step for the Legacy Project – analysing what we’ve achieved and developing our plans to reach our long-term aspirations. We are always learning, and we want to do more.
As we move into the next decade, we are continuing to focus our efforts on underrepresented groups. We recognise that social mobility and diversity are so interwoven that by working in low socio-economic areas, we have the potential to make a big difference. We want to understand the career barriers and unlock the career aspirations for many young people; giving them the best start into our brilliant, creative industry. Alongside ELAM we will continue working with organisations such as Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse, with BAFTA, Women in Games and Pixelles, who all do fantastic work to break down barriers.
Since the start of The Legacy Project, teachers, students and parents have gone away with more knowledge about our industry than before and we have been able to show them what a professional game development environment looks like, rather than tell them.
After taking part in our motion capture experience days, we know that students have gone away and changed their GCSE options as a result, so that they can enable a pathway to the games industry.
Since 2014, many of the schools we actively engage with and support have seen a continued uptake in the number of students taking Computer Science as a GCSE option. On top of that, these schools are introducing this subject at an earlier stage than before as they have gained confidence in the subject. This has had the secondary effect of seeing more students who identify as female following this career path.
It’s fantastic to see more diverse game students but we recognise much more needs to be done. Our industry is still not as rich and diverse as it could be. We continue to develop The Creative Assembly Legacy Project and more and more ambassadors are joining the program all the time. We continue to listen to educators, students, parents and our developers to understand the current barriers as we recognise they are ever evolving and changing.