24 March 2023

Games entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl takes part in pitching session with Abertay students

Co-founder of award-winning games developer 4J Studios shares his industry insight with students and staff

Global video games industry figure Chris van der Kuyl gave his feedback on student projects and delivered a guest lecture as part of a visit to engage with Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics.

The co-founder and chairman of multiple award-winning games developer 4J Studios, best known for developing Minecraft for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo games consoles, used the day to share his experience of leading games companies across his career and to offer practical advice on how to create a successful video game. Minecraft is the best-selling game in history with over 238 million copies sold and nearly 140 million monthly active players as of 2021.

Students from Abertay’s Game Design and Production programme got the chance to present a game they are developing as part of their coursework. Titled Tiniest Kingdom, the game is of the base-building genre and tasks players with creating a functioning society for an ant colony.

The group presented storyboards of concept art, an outline of the narrative and a proposed structure, with Chris providing feedback and advice on scale, tone and feel.

During his lecture, Chris gave a history of the Dundee games industry and his own path to success and took questions from students on the diverse range of factors needed to make any game successful.

Chris said:

I’m always grateful for the opportunity to visit Abertay and engage with the incredibly talented students who study here. They are the future of the games industry so I feel it’s important to do what we can to nurture and inspire the next generation so that the industry in Dundee, and Scotland, can continue to punch above its weight on the world stage.

Chris is a visiting professor of digital entertainment at Abertay and was awarded an Honorary Degree in 2017 for services to the games industry and a CBE in 2020 for his contribution to technology.

4J Studios is one of the UK’s most successful games developers with 16 titles under its belt and 11 international awards. In October 2022, the company announced a move into publishing, with the first title, Skye Tales by Puny Astronaut, launching later this year. More titles are set to be announced, including future 4J Studios’ games and titles from fellow Scottish developers Ant Workshop and Stormcloud Games.

The partnership between 4J Studios and Puny Astronaut began in 2018, when 4J Studios made a six-figure investment in the Dundee-based studio which was founded by Abertay University alumni.

Tyrese Hague, a third-year Game Design and Production student said:

Pitching a game we created to someone as talented and knowledgeable as Chris van der Kuyl was an experience we will never forget. Not only did Chris give us valuable feedback and advice that will help us improve our game but he also shared with us important lessons from his incredible career that will help us navigate our own path after university.

Following the pitching session the group plan to use Chris’ feedback to refine their game and are considering entering it into this year’s Dare Academy, Abertay’s annual games design competition.

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