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Several times a year I get wheeled out in front of undergraduates and I’m expected to say something that will inspire them. Like I have a secret or something. Some folk listen intently, some folk don’t. Some ask questions, some stay silent. Some never look up from their device or their notes. I feel guilty every time I don’t get a question. Like a lack of clarity on a point is an opportunity for engagement. I feel the need to polarise, to incite some sort of debate and I feel like I have failed when this has not happened. Sometimes the students file out silently, avoiding the gaze of this old bloke who has turned up to prance around in front of a projector. I’m the thing standing in the way of lunchtime, or worse, beer. Every now and then I see some rare gems. Like an artist who sets about a stop motion animation with nothing but a phone, a pen and a packet of post-it notes. Or a passion for music that sets the individual apart. Or a pair of comedians who love their art and are teaching themselves fire-breathing.

In truth, I am consistently the one inspired.

Greg Maguire posted this on Digital Circle. It’s a showreel from one of his Masters students, Gerard Dunleavy, who just won the Computer Graphics Student of the Year Award. An international competition, with the most amazing competitors.

The message I try and give students I meet is that the pieces of paper that a college or university gives you are not the worth of you. Things like the showreel above show your passion, commitment and talent.

I’ve said before that my big plan is to start a games company. And I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the right people with the right attitude. I’m looking for guns and tanks and aliens. But to attract the attention you want, you might need to make birds or grass or tables and chairs your subjects. I remember an interview with a comics guru who said that he was inundated with pictures of impossibly muscled men and ludicrously buxom women in spandex. But he would invariably give the job to the guy who could draw normal people. Who could make unreal things seem real in the context of comics.

I think Gerard has excelled in this, even among his competitors. My suspension of disbelief is almost complete when watching the sequences with the alien ships and the zombie assailant. It’s just amazing and I can think of nothing else. Someone will be very lucky to work with Gerard in the future.