Video Game Digital Art - BA (Hons)

The BA Video Game Art undergraduate degree course responds to the growing demand for skilled, team-orientated, reflexive graduate professionals ready to succeed. Interactive entertainment and video games development are key sectors for contemporary culture, economic growth and employment locally in the Midlands, nationally and globally....

Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses.  Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.  

 

Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Undergraduate
  • Study mode Full Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School School of Games, Film and Animation
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

The BA Video Game Art undergraduate degree course responds to the growing demand for skilled, team-orientated, reflexive graduate professionals ready to succeed.

Interactive entertainment and video games development are key sectors for contemporary culture, economic growth and employment locally in the Midlands, nationally and globally.

This accelerated two-year course gives you a guaranteed video game development placement in our in-house studio, which will take place over the summer term of the course. The workplace simulation approach of our department (School of Games, Film and Animation) has been championed by the influential 2009 Livingstone Next Gen Report, which cited us as a national best practice example for developing new talent for the games industry.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

The course covers both core and technical art skills. It starts with helping you develop your core art skills, so expect to be doing a lot of drawing and studying topics including colour theory, composition, value and tone. Once we’ve covered the fundamentals we’ll move onto supporting you develop your technical and digital art skills. You will focus on 2D and 3D graphics covering, texturing, user interface design, environment art, character art, animation and art pipelines for interactive products.

Your first position in the video game industry

Building upon your core and technical art skills, in the first year you will be tasked with a specific role within our in-house game development studio over the summer term. This work experience gives you the opportunity to apply the knowledge and professional practices you’ve learnt on the course in a safe and supportive environment. Typically for these projects you’ll be using industry-standard game development tools such as Unity and Unreal. These summer projects have in the past been mentored and supported by external partners such as Red Bee Media, FreeStyleGames and Codemasters. The work you’ll produce during these summer placements can act as excellent portfolio pieces, demonstrating your ability as both a professional artist and effective team member.

Putting you in control of your final project

Throughout the two years of your course, you will be provided with a structured programme of learning, in line with your chosen specialism of video game art. The course culminates with a project you define yourself which targets a specific subsector of the games industry, such as character art, concept art, environment art or user experience (among others). You have the choice of either proposing your own individual project or collaborating with other students to create another video game project for your portfolio.

Best in class facilities and staff

Teaching takes place in a modern production studio based in Birmingham City Centre where you’ll be provided with studio space to complete projects.

You will be taught by staff with significant experience in the video game development industry, having worked with game developers including, Free Radical Design, Codemasters, Freestyle Games, Sega and EA Games.

Real experience

So, by the time you graduate, a whole year before most students, you’ll have two years of tangible, games development studio experience under your belt, ready to launch your dream career as a games developer.

Alternatively, you can choose to apply for one of our one-year Gamer Camp courses, to gain even more in-depth skills and experience. 

"I have been fully supported throughout my journey to become a professional artist. I found the practical, studio simulations to be particularly useful as they both helped me in my art practice and gave me tangible production and development experience." Mark Sutcliffe, 2014-16

Why Choose Us?

  • This fast-track programme provides a rare opportunity to secure a BA (Hons) degree in only two years.
  • Guaranteed placement in our summer development team in your first year of study.
  • Teaching is delivered by our team of industry practitioners, who collectively have over 100 years of video game industry experience, having worked on franchises such as EA’s ‘Battlefield’, Codemaster’s ‘Formula 1’ and Sega’s ‘Sonic’. They have also taught, trained and mentored students, graduates and practitioners, who are now successful industry developers, working at studios and publishers which include Ubisoft, Microsoft and Rockstar North.
  • During the two-year course you’ll work on numerous projects with periodic input from industry partners. Previous partners and mentors have included Codemasters, Pixel Toys, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, Microsoft’s Rare Studio and Rockstar North.
  • On the course you’ll learn a range new skills and art disciplines relevant and appropriate for careers in the field of video game development, such as concept, environment, character, GUI and animation.
  • This course will develop you to be able to move into employment, or further study, for example on our Industry-recognised Master’s Courses, Gamer Camp, which is a finishing school for game developers (coders, artists, designers and producers) based at Birmingham City University. On our Masters courses, you’ll get intensive, practical training from our top industry-experienced team, you’ll tackle real game briefs set with input from globally recognised developers/publishers, and you’ll experience all stages of the games development process, ultimately providing you with a great portfolio of work to get a job in AAA Video Game Development.

Gamer Camp logo 710 px

Entry Requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.

Essential Requirements

120 UCAS points

In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good digital or physical portfolio.

LEVEL 2 QUALIFICATIONS
GCSE
  • GCSE English Language at grade C/4 or above
  • GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above
  • Must have been achieved at the point of enrolment
Irish Leaving Certificate (Ordinary Level) See level 3 entry under Irish Leaving Certificate for full details
Scottish National 5
  • English Language at grade C or above
  • Maths at grade C or above
  • Must have been achieved at the point of enrolment
IELTS 6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in each band.
Plus one of the following Level 3 (and above) Qualifications
A Level and Advanced VCE
  • BBB / 120 UCAS points
  • Excluding subjects General Studies & Critical Thinking
  • A maximum of 4 subjects are considered. These can be other A/S Levels (as long in a different subject) A-Levels or Level 3 equivalents.
AS and AS VCE Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications (AS Levels must be in different subject to A-Levels) to obtain 120 pts
Access to HE Diploma
  • Pass with 60 credits overall. At least 45 credits at Level 3 with 20 credits at merit or distinction
  • Information, Communication Technology and Business subjects preferred but other subjects also considered
  • Pearson BTEC National Extended Diploma (2016 – present)
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF) (2010 - 2016)
  • BTEC Level 3 National Diploma (2002 – 2010)
DDM
Foundation Studies (Art and Design, and Art, Design & Media) Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications to obtain 120 pts
IBO Certificate in Higher Level
  • Students who do not complete the IB Diploma will be considered on the basis of their IB Certificates if they obtain a total of 14 points or above from three Higher Level Subjects
  • Considered with other acceptable level 3 qualifications to meet 120 UCAS Tariff Points
  • For students who do not already hold a GCSE in English Language at Grade C/4 or above Standard Level English Language (not literature) English A - Grade 4 or above or English B - Grade 5 from the IB Diploma will be accepted
  • For students who do not already hold a GCSE in Mathematics at Grade C/4 or above Standard Level Maths, grade 5 or above from the IB Diploma will be accepted
International Baccalaureate Diploma
  • Obtain a minimum of 28 points overall
  • For students who do not already hold a GCSE in English Language at Grade C/4 or above Standard Level English Language (not literature) English A - Grade 4 or above or English B - Grade 5 from the IB Diploma will be accepted
  • For students who do not already hold a GCSE in Mathematics at Grade C/4 or above Standard Level Maths, grade 5 or above from the IB Diploma will be accepted
Irish Leaving Certificate (Highers) Pass the Irish Leaving Certificate with a minimum of 120 tariff points, achieved in five Higher level subjects. This must include English Language and Maths taken at either Ordinary Level (minimum grade O1-O4 (or A-C/A1-C3)) or Higher level minimum grade H1/H7 (or A-D / A1-D3 up to and including 2016
OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma DDM
Scottish Advanced Higher
  • Achieve a minimum of 120 tariff points achieved in either three Advanced Highers or from a combination of two Advanced Highers plus two Highers.
  • Where three Advanced Highers have been taken achieve a minimum of grades CCC
  • Where a combination of Highers and Advanced Highers have been taken you must achieve (grades of CC in two Advanced Highers plus grades of CC in two Highers).
UAL Extended Diploma in Art & Design Merit overall / 120 UCAS points
Other qualifications
If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.

Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
Additional information for EU/International students
Essential

Please see your country page for further details on the equivalent qualifications we accept.

In addition to the academic entry requirements listed above, international and EU students will also require the qualifications detailed in this table.

EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications Requirements
IELTS

6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in each band.

If you do not meet the required IELTS score, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English courses. Please note that you must have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study on the pre-sessional English course. More information.

International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses).

In addition to the above, applicants will also need:
English Group A - Grade 4 or above
OR
English Group B and Ab Initio - Grade 5

Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.

 

International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).

Mature Applicants

Applications from mature students (21+) with alternative qualifications and/or considerable work experience will be considered on their merits.

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 2 years
  • TBC

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Guidance for UK students

UK students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.

Applying through UCAS

 Register with UCAS

 Login to UCAS

 Complete your details

 Select your course

 Write a personal statement

 Get a reference

 Pay your application fee

 Send UCAS your application

International students

There are three ways to apply:

1) Direct to the University

You will need to complete our International Application Form and Equal Opportunities Form, and submit them together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.

2) Through a country representative

Our in-country representatives can help you make your application and apply for a visa. They can also offer advice on travel, living in the UK and studying abroad.

3) Through UCAS

If you are applying for an undergraduate degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND), you can apply through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

You can request a printed form from your school or nearest British Council office. You will be charged for applying through UCAS. Birmingham City University’s UCAS code is B25 BCITY.

Portfolio Guidance

You will be required to submit a portfolio to complete your application.

A digital portfolio can be submitted via your applicant portal, and we ask that this is submitted within four weeks of making your application. Please see our portfolio guidance page for tips on putting your portfolio together.

Applicants from selected locations in the West Midlands may also be offered an opportunity to present a portfolio in person. If this option is available to you, you will receive an email with further details once you have submitted your application.

Personal statement

UK / EU students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.*

The personal statement gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

  • Course choice - Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?
  • Career plans - If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.
  • Work experience - Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.
  • School or college experience - Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.
  • Non-accredited skills or achievement - eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

*Non-EU students are not required to submit a personal statement when applying for this course.

Course in Depth

Year one

During the first year, teaching methods may include practical sessions, lectures and group debates, featuring input from both University staff and guest lecturers from industry, providing you with a wide range of practical knowledge and insight. 

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 160 credits):

The purpose of this module is to give you the opportunity to learn and then apply fundamental art techniques and methodologies. Students will work individually to produce a sketch book based upon a defined theme. Sketching can be used to develop ideas at various stages of the design process. For example, to establish an overall form and using perspective drawings and construction lines can assist the artist in developing ideas by considering how the object will look from various different views. The work students will be given mirrors creative industry advice about art practice and will require an element of research and skill application.

The practical nature of the module will enable students to apply knowledge gained and in applying the art theory, students will have to examine a range of foundational art techniques required by all creative industries. In industry artists spend much of their time tackling complicated design briefs. Therefore, employers desire artists with highly developed problem solving and practiced art foundation skills.

The purpose of this module is to give students an up-to-the-moment introduction to the working methodologies of 2D video game production. This module allows students to experience the challenge of completing the research, concept and development phase of a 2D video game project.

Working in small art teams, students will research appropriate art styles and comparative game products to define their own unique art style. The focus of the module will be on 2D game development disciplines, for example; 2D environment, concept, 2D character, GUI/UX and sprite animation.

The purpose of this module is to give students to opportunity to learn and then apply fundamental 3D modelling techniques and texturing methodologies. Students will work individually to produce a game ready 3D prop asset for use within a game engine.

The purpose of this module is to give you an up-to-the-moment introduction to the working methodologies of 3D video game production. This module allows you to experience the challenge of completing the research and development of 3D video game environment assets.

Working in small art teams, you will research appropriate production workflows and shade creation methodologies to define and develop your own unique game environments. The focus of the module will be on 3D game development disciplines, such as 3D environment, prop, texture and lighting.

The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling you to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines.

You will be tasked with completing a project over a short development / production period. This project may be set either by an academic or course industry-partner.

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules.

The module is an opportunity to learn about the nature of interaction within game products and experience the challenge and thrill of developing a fun, gaming experience.

The ethos of the module is that of a ‘Game-jam’, where student teams will be tasked with completing a game brief inspired by either; a broad theme, a defined genre or a defined reference product. This project will be small in scope and scale, a micro-project.

The video game micro-project will enable students to take a code, art, design or production role within a small development team.

The module is an opportunity to learn about the nature of storytelling, audience engagement and the variety of methods and tools a writer or communicators has at their disposal to engage, inform, excite and elicit emotional response from the audience The ethos of the module is that of a ‘Story-Jam’, where student teams will be tasked with completing a narrative challenge game brief inspired by either; a broad theme, a defined genre or a defined story arch.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Year two

During your second year, there will be a further opportunities to learn from guest lecturers. 

You will undertake one major project module, where you will go through the process of scoping, defining and pitching the creation of your own project, which may include your own art assets, a new product, or even working with an industry partner to respond to a brief they have set.

If you are creating your own product, you may wish to partner up with the students with complementary skills such as programming, design, production and business.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 180 credits):

The purpose of this module is to give students to opportunity to learn and then apply fundamental 3D sculpting and texturing methodologies for game character development. Students will work individually to produce a game ready 3D character bust/asset for use within a game engine.

The purpose of this module is to give students an up-to-the-moment introduction to the working methodologies of 3D video game character art production and this module allows students to experience the challenge of completing the research and development of a 3D video game character asset.

Working individually, students will research appropriate production workflows and retopology creation methodologies, to define and develop their own unique game characters. The focus of the module will be solely on the 3D game development disciplines of character artist. This is due to the complexity and distinct specialisation that this role has within industry.

The purpose of this module is to give students the opportunity to learn and then apply fundamental 3D animation techniques and skinning methodologies for game character development. Students will work individually to produce an animation ready, 3D game character asset for use within a game engine.

The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration &/or your own professional practice. The module enables you to create either an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines or your own self-defined project.

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practice-based portfolio.

The course is structured around teaching you new skills and allowing you, where and when possible, the freedom to experiment and experience putting your new skills into practice through stakeholder-directed live projects.

Typically, this means modules are split into taught modules and studio-based project modules.

Taught modules

In the taught modules the focus is on your personal development as a professional artist, where you will also learn professional project management methodologies to help you deliver you design projects. You will take modules which focus on the development of skills for specific roles within the sector. For example, you will gain an understanding of the history and fundamentals of game design, looking at 2D and 3D game spaces and analysing advanced and strategic game design.

Studio-based project modules

The BA (Hons) Video Game Digital Art course is all about providing you with the crucial experience-based learning you'll need for your career. To this end during the summer term, you will be required to attend an in-house work placement. During this placement, you will be required to attend full-time and have opportunity to use development tools such as Unity and Unreal.

Assessment

This is a two-year accelerated undergraduate degree course with professional game development studio experience embedded as part your learning journey.

You'll be assessed in a variety of different ways, including practical project work – both group and individual – presentations, written reports and practical portfolios.

Assessment is embedded into the course, which will mean your learning experience isn't constantly interrupted by assessment. You are also assessed on your work within a project delivery team while you are based in our simulated in-house studio environment.

On the course, you'll be taught by established industry professionals with a wealth of expertise and enthusiasm, who are experienced at recognising and responding to the rapidly changing demands the industry.

Projects

At the beginning of every module you will be given a project brief. Throughout the module you will then have taught sessions to help you fulfil the brief, followed by tutorials to monitor your progress and give you guidance and feedback.

Below is an example* from the 2D Art Production module. Please note, this is just an indicative brief and the actual briefs may vary every year.

Overview: Ghosts & Goblins – MetalSlug – Rygar – create a contemporary classic

Take ONE of these classic games and create concepts for an updated version for the Target Hardware – Tablet (iOS, Android). It must include the following key features: a main Character, multiple enemies, environments (at least THREE GUI elements), pre-visualisation and art style.

You have three art styles to choose from for your updated game: Scooby Doo (Original), Loony Toons or Steven Universe. Please pick ONE art style and after analysis/research, create a Style Bible for your new game. This art style must be used to inform future art production decisions.


End of year showcase

The end of year summer showcase gives you the chance to showcase some of the work you’ve completed over the past academic year to high profile industry guests. 

Employability

Enhancing your employability

Courses within the School of Games, Film and Animation are built upon workplace simulation and industry-standard work, ensuring you behave less like a student and more as a professional, gaining the workplace experience and attributes you need.

As well as gaining course-specific skills, you could also gain broader tools through our Graduate+ programme, which will help enhance your employment options by helping with careers development, employability activities, volunteering and part-time work experience.

Leading up to and upon graduation

At the end of your studies you’ll complete a final major project, this project may lead you to working directly with a client. This direct contact will give you the experience, confidence and freedom to put into action all you’ve learned on your studies. Allied with this course-specific experience, you will also have access to a range of support staff and services from the University’s Careers Service, who can help with:

  • Reviewing CVs, covering letters and application forms
  • Career planning and decision making
  • Preparing for interviews and assessment centres
  • Developing portfolios
  • Networking with employers
  • Advice about self-employment and entrepreneurship

Working on live projects

Students on the Video Game degree courses at Birmingham City University work on live briefs with real clients.


During the summer on the first year of your course you’ll have a guaranteed placement in an in-house development studio. Our students previously worked directly with The Wellcome Trust on an interactive, online awareness campaign which involved making, video games, web apps, mobile apps and video material to promote The Crunch initiative.


Students have also worked along postgraduates to make a mobile version of the PlayStation 4 Xtreme Drone Racing game which is being developed as part of the PlayStationFirst initiative. The mobile versions features racing against 40 drones in a variety of locations in Birmingham, geotagged content and extensive drone customisation.

Placements

During the summer term of your first year, you will have the opportunity to work in a wide game development team as part of the in-house placement element of the course. Previous projects have included a ‘Doctor Who’ interactive comic book project with the BBC and Red Bee Media, an integrated web and mobile suite of mini games with The Welcome Trust and Xtreme Drone Racing with Sony PlayStation First.

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Graduate stories

Students progress into roles with video game development, wider interactive entertainment and creative art roles, working as technical, concept, environment, character and VFX artists, or technical and character animators. Our graduates have gone on to work for many major game development studios.

By focusing on portfolio creation and ensuring that you have a dedicated arts practice, you can achieve your career goals.  Through commitment and hard work, Scott was able to find work in his chosen disciplines soon after graduating.

Scott Woodhams - employability tab- VGDA

Scott Woodhams
Technical Artist, MediaTonic Games

A typical day involves implementing artists’ work into the game, fixing any graphical issues and creating art, whether that’s through 3D modelling or painting in Photoshop. I enjoy the problem solving part of my role the most and the job-like structure of the course made the transition into industry really smooth for me. All the art skills and knowledge I learned are indispensable in my day to day activities. I wouldn't be able to do this job without it.” 

Find out more about Scott's role

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

The UK remains one of the world's leading study destinations

The UK remains one of the world's leading study destinations for international students.

The first-class experience offered by universities are reflected in the world’s largest survey of international students. International students are more likely to recommend the UK than any other leading English-language study destination.

Facilities and Staff

Parkside and Curzon Buildings
NTI-facilities-2
NTI-facilities-3

Our School of Games, Film and Animation is based in the Curzon Building, a £63 million development, located on our City Centre campus.

We help you learn a specific discipline such as digital marketing, programming or art and put that discipline into practice by offering flexible teaching space, dedicated development studios and open access work areas for group projects, as well as course-specific facilities.

Our staff

Shaun Magher

Course Director MA Feature Film Development

Shaun has spent 30 years working as a Director, Creative Director and Animation Director within the UK and International Film and Television industries. A graduate from St Martins school of Art (1985) and the National Film and Television school (1989).

Shaun’s work spans Feature films, TV series, commercials, station branding, promos and music videos, working with clients such as Warner Bros, Virgin, Universal, BBC, ITV, Cisco and studios such as Aardman, Slave, Manga, HRA, Passion pictures and many more.

Shaun’s key skills are Development, Visual storytelling, and Direction. Shaun joined BCU in 2015 when he returned to his home city of Birmingham and set up a unique master’s course, the MA in Feature Film Development.

More about Shaun