Interview by Kritika Gupta

Backstage Pass Institute

Mr. Surya.P is the Founder and President of Backstage Pass Institute of Gaming and Technology. He has over 16 years of experience in animation, visual effects and game development. In his long career, he has worked as a Technical Director for some elite companies such as Firefly Creative Studies and Innova Solutions.

Mr. Surya’s achievements in the Game Development industry

I graduated from the Vancouver Film School and started working in the year 2003, as a Character Animator at Firefly Creative Studios and then at Innova Solutions as a Lead 3D Artist. 

As a Character Animator, I animated a few characters in the visual effects shots, for the film Anji that won the National Award for the Best Visual Effects.

As a Lead 3D Artist, I developed game art assets and documentaries for the History Channel and visual effects for several projects, including one project that was screened at Cannes in 2007.

Early on, I understood that the demand for skilled resources was high. I realized that the game companies were not finding the right talent. So, in the year 2010, I started Backstage Pass Institute of Gaming & Technology with a vision to build the talent that meets the growing needs of the gaming industry.

Why choose the gaming industry as a career?

The Indian mobile gaming industry is growing at a double-digit CAGR (compounded annual growth rate). It is expected to reach USD 1.1 billion by 2020. The demand for specialists in all phases of game development is growing.

The reasons that are in favour of gaming are:

  • India is in the Top Five Global Gaming Market.
  • India will have more than 500 million smartphone users by 2022 as per the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
  • People of all age groups are playing games.
  • Games can educate you.
  • Simulation games are used to train pilots, and army personnel.
  • There are many engineers while there are fewer jobs. While the US produces 1 lakh engineers for a USD 16 trillion economy, India produces 15 lakh engineers for a USD 2 trillion economy. The IT jobs are getting saturated, and only skilled IT engineers are in demand.
  • According to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), only 6% of engineering graduates are employable every year. Most of the engineering graduates don’t have the required technical knowledge.
  • Game Design and Development is one of the top career tracks today, apart from engineering, that has excellent career opportunities.

Challenges faced as the Founder of the Backstage Pass

When we started, we had a tough time convincing parents about choosing a career in gaming. They only wanted their children to study engineering as they thought that investing time and money in a gaming course was a waste. As a result, even if the kids were interested, parents would pull them back.

However, we have witnessed a sea change. Today, parents are looking for courses other than engineering and are convinced that a degree in Game Design and Development is an excellent career option. So, they actively seek admission with us.

We started in 2010 with 8 students and have grown to over 320 students today.

Uniqueness of Backstage Pass’s curriculum

Backstage Pass’ curriculum is in-depth and up-to-date. We follow a hands-on approach to mentoring the students. Our curriculum is set by the Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University (JNAFAU). However, we have enough room to improvise and incorporate the latest requirements of the gaming industry.

Over 35 game companies are associated with us. They conduct workshops, seminars and provide internships and placements to our students. We also have an in-house incubation centre called Level2 Games. Our students hone the skills required to convert their ideas into games. We provide the necessary infrastructure, funding, marketing, and publishing support.

Our teaching faculty/mentors are experienced game artists and game developers themselves. Some of them are indie game developers.

We support the students to participate in game competitions conducted in India and abroad. The participation extends their network, and they will have access to a wide pool of knowledge sharing.

Skill set required in a Gaming & Technology student

We look for dedication, focus, aptitude for learning and passion for games. Above all, one must be curious and willing to learn about the various aspects of game development.

For example, a game artist must know the complications a game programmer may face, while a game developer must appreciate art. A multi-disciplinary approach is needed as they have to work in a team with other specialists to make games.

Reactions of students about the program

Undoubtedly, it is the freedom they get to explore. They have the liberty to convey their ideas and use or experiment with various methods. Mentor-backed learning is another welcome change.

The state-of-art facilities such as drawing and game art labs, game lounge, air-conditioned classrooms, and game studio environment at our campus offer a liberal environment to learn and explore.

As a Founder, how do you manage your time?

I spend most of my time finding the best talent from the industry to join Backstage Pass. I have a strong team to manage daily operations and academics, which helps me in focusing on other areas.

Placement opportunities at Backstage Pass

We have built very good ties with game companies such as Purple Talk, Sumo Video Games, EA Sports, Gameshastra, Gamitronics, Streetlamp Games, Sony India, Dhruva Interactive, GoLive Games, YesGnome, Glu Mobile, [x]cube Labs, Hitwicket, Ubisoft, and so on. They recruit both interns and workforce from our campus.

About 70-80% of the students get placed in the game companies. The remaining students start their venture or pursue higher education. Students who are pursuing bachelor’s degree programs at Backstage Pass complete close to 1.5 years of the internship by the time they finish their graduation.

Achievers at Backstage Pass

The games developed by our students have won awards in various competitions such as the India Game Developer Conference 2018 (IGDC), Microsoft Imagine Cup, Casual Connect, and so on. Also, two students from Backstage Pass were selected for the Emerging Scholar Awards, at Technology, Knowledge & Society 2019 - Barcelona, Spain.

Upcoming developments at Backstage Pass

We are launching a new four-year bachelor’s program in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR &VR) in affiliation with JNAFAU in Hyderabad. With this, we are opening up new campuses in Bengaluru and Pune where we offer Advanced Diploma Programmes with Lincoln University College, Malaysia (LUC) for graduates in three batches:

  • Batch I in June 2019.
  • Batch II in October 2019.
  • Batch III in February 2020.

These programs are available in:

  • Computer Science and Game Development
  • Game Art and Design
  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR & VR)

Apart from this, the advanced diploma programs are also available in Hyderabad.

Mr. Surya P’s leadership philosophy and style

I believe in hiring the best talent and retaining them. My friends and colleagues tell me that I have a knack of identifying and recruiting the top talent for the job. I consciously seek to add game artists, game developers and specialists to Backstage Pass who are as passionate about gaming as me. Once hired for the job, I give them the free-hand and trust them. And so, I always get the best results.

Suggestions to the aspirants

Extreme focus, ability to take initiative, dedication, calculative risk, problem-solving and being passionate gamers are some of the qualities that will make you stand out.

Read more about Backstage Pass (Institute of Gaming and Technology)