Nathan holding two trophies in front of a background featuring imagery from Unbound and Battlefield

Nathan Russell

Video Game Development MA

Nathan left school with no qualifications but had big dreams about working in the gaming industry. After pushing himself through college and an undergraduate degree, Nathan arrived at BCU ready to excel on the Video Game Development course. Nowadays, he is a Senior UI Technical Artist at Criterion Games and has worked on everything from Sonic and Battlefield to Need For Speed. 

“I left Secondary School with no GCSEs which meant when I went to college, I had to start from scratch. After doing a Level 1 and 2 diploma in IT, I found a Games Development course that sounded really promising and did a Level 2 and Level 3 diploma. After college, I completed my Games Development undergraduate degree in Wolverhampton, before choosing to study at BCU for my Master’s degree in Video Game Development.

Studying at BCU was great fun, as the course was run as if you were working at a real-life game studio with multiple disciplines, which gave me opportunity to make two really cool video games.

I originally wanted to be a 3D Artist, but I began to realise that I enjoyed technical art more, as I got to use both sides of my brain, both the logical side and the artistic. I learned the foundation skills needed to work on a creative project such as iteration on different scales, from features to the whole project, scoping work and managing my time, working within a team and problem solving.

Nowadays, I’m a Senior UI Technical Artist at Criterion Games, which is owned by EA (Electronic Arts), and I’ve been there for three and a half years.

It was hard at first to get a foot into the industry but luckily enough, a studio took a chance on me and from there I have gained experiences year in, year out, that have allowed me to move to bigger companies and progress up the career ladder of my chosen role. My current goal is to climb the career leader of my role to a Principle or Director level.

A typical day for me includes meetings of many varieties such as feature planning, daily syncs with feature teams to discuss progress on a given feature and studio updates, as well as building UI, creating visual elements and hooking them up to logic I have created in our node-based system on features that I'm a part of, which sometimes can vary from one to three features depending on their size. I also support less experienced members of the UI TA team, teaching them how to use the Frostbite editor and help them problem solve. A big part of the job is cross disciplinary collaboration, and helping solve problems within the wider team when it comes to making things work in editor.

At first, I struggled with office working, sitting behind a desk all day and hyper focusing on work meant that I was eating terribly and burning myself out mentally, but I’ve learned to take care of myself and started to plan my days out better to accommodate for exercise and proper time to make healthy meals and not just always ordering takeout and carrying on with work.

Burnout can be a hard thing to notice but once you know the signs and start to check in with yourself by slowing down and being retrospective by thinking about how your day to day is going or week to week, you start to notice behaviours that are associated with it and you are able to tackle them by taking the time to rest or get something off your chest instead of bottling it up.

My proudest achievement since graduating has been working on big IPs that I played growing up which includes Sonic, Battlefield and Need For Speed, and having come so far from having no GCSEs.

My advice for anyone considering studying the Video Game Development course at BCU is to be open-minded, patient and caring with others that you’re working with. Making creative projects in a group is a stressful and challenging thing to do for people that have experience doing it, so imagine how hard it is for people with little to no experience. Remember, you all want the same thing, a good, finished product but you're all also at different levels of experience so you need to support each other.

My advice to fellow BCU graduates starting out on their careers would be to keep organised by carving out time to work on your portfolio and break down big overwhelming tasks into smaller goals and sub goals then work through them one at a time. Before you know it, you will have something to show for your effort.

Also, remember to also give yourself time to wind down and relax. And most importantly, always ask for feedback from your peers as you will be too close to your work to be able to see the issues with it.

For me, I AM BCU means I am a part of a legacy of creativity.”

Nathan is pictured holding two trophies in front of a background featuring imagery from Unbound and Battlefield.