Benjamin Culff

Video Game Design And Production BA (Hons), Video Game Enterprise, Production And Design MSc

Ben grew up playing video games, which led him to study courses dedicated to video game design, production and enterprise at BCU. Before arriving at BCU, Ben was struck by a cardiac arrest, which motivated him to succeed in his chosen industry. Whilst thriving on his chosen courses, Ben completed a placement at Lab42, a UK based game developer, where he now works as a Level Designer alongside spreading awareness of cardiac arrests and campaigning to make defibrillators accessible everywhere.

“I loved playing Minecraft when I was younger. With its open world and endless possibilities, I could be as creative as I wanted. I think this is what led to me wanting to pursue a career in video game design and going to university was an obvious choice for me as it would be beneficial for getting into the industry.

When I was at sixth form, I collapsed from a cardiac arrest whilst working at my part-time job. Luckily, I’m in good health now and have been since, but this experience led me to think hard about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, however long that would be. It put life into perspective for me and made me realise that I wanted to pursue something that I’ll enjoy.

When looking at universities, BCU stood out to me because it offered a two-year undergraduate course, meaning I would finish my degree and have my master’s under my belt by the age of 21, unlike others my age who would be in their final year of their undergraduate degree.

I also spoke to BCU’s health and safety team about my condition after my cardiac arrest, and I was pleased to hear that they already had defibrillators on-site and were very accommodating to my needs. Immediately, I felt supported and reassured that I’d made the right choice choosing BCU.

The experienced team of lecturers at BCU have many years of industry experience between them, which was priceless to us as students. Their industry connections lead to end of year showcases, where students can present the games that they make during the academic year to industry.

To prepare for this, our modules would focus on presenting our work and learning to share our ideas clearly, which grew my confidence and gave me the skills I needed to communicate my ideas in the workplace. The lecturing team also use their industry connections to set up interviews with companies who are looking to employ graduates.

During my postgraduate study, I was able to complete a placement at Lab42 as my final module, with the work I completed on it being graded by my lecturers and going towards my final grade. When I finished the placement, the company kindly offered me a full-time position as a Junior Level Designer. As the work was similar to what I’d been doing on placement, it gave me a smooth transition from university into my career.

I’ve since been promoted to Level Designer and I’m working on some exciting projects that are yet to be finished, but my first published piece, Human Fall Flat, was actually something I worked on during my placement. I was so proud to see my name in the credits and know that the work I did on it was before I had even graduated from BCU.

It’s interesting to me that the games I enjoyed playing when I was younger aren’t the games I play now. Because I work on open world games at work, I play competitive games in my spare time as they’re so different from what I work on every day, so it’s harder for me to view the game critically for its design choices and other aspects! But I’m incredibly lucky that something that was once a hobby is now my job.

Alongside my job, I take every opportunity to spread awareness of cardiac arrests and I also campaign to make defibrillators accessible everywhere, as cardiac arrests can happen to anyone at any time.

My campaigning work started when the BBC Three contacted to me to be part of their ‘How Not To Die’ series, where I spoke about my experience with a cardiac arrest. This led to other news outlets and media companies contacting me and gave me the opportunity to work with charities such as Tamworth Have a Heart, Community Lifesavers, and the British Heart Foundation.

For anyone interested in pursuing video game design, I would research the gaming engines out there before starting the course. There are YouTube tutorials out there to watch, and the two main engines Unreal and Unity are available online for free, so play about with them so you’re familiar with them before you start.

To me, I AM BCU means being a part of one of the most diverse universities in one of the most diverse cities in the country, where unique characters are formed to change the world for the better."