Anthony Christov and Milin Djalaliev, founders of ARC Academy, created the Game Dev programme to help Bulgaria's talents stay and grow here
For older generations, video games are at best a way to kill some time when there is nothing more interesting or important to do. For the young across the globe, video games are a way of life. And this is of tremendous consequences: in 2025 the global gaming market is expected to reach a value of $257 billion.
ARC Academy, a young and ambitious organisation, saw in this global trend an opportunity to help Bulgaria solve a pressing problem: stop brain drain and retain young talent in the country. The academy's programme Game Dev is for young creative and tech savvy people who want to become video game developers and to find jobs in Bulgaria. We talked to the founders of ARC Academy to learn more. Anthony Christov spent 18 of his 30 years in Hollywood as an art director for Pixar while Milin Djalaliev was for 10 years a manager of Saatchi & Saatchi Bulgaria.
What do you dream to achieve with ARC Academy?
Anthony Christov: We dream to enlarge Bulgaria's talent pool and to boost its game industry with a trained body of potential employees so that global companies can move here and create employment. For us, the most important thing to achieve is to create an opportunity for creative young people who want to create video games and creative content for a living to stay and to prosper here, to help Bulgaria develop further.
Why did you decide to do the Game Dev programme?
Milin Djalaliev: Initially, Tony and I focused on the creative industry in general. We then dug deeper into the question of what in the creative industry fascinates young people. It was video games. For them, it is their second nature, the way they live. This is why we decided to focus on Game Dev.
What kind of people is it for?
AC: We train people in the creative areas of game development. In large international game companies there is room for all kinds of skills and careers. Most of those are creative. ARC Academy is for people who want to do something different, to not repeat the same tasks every day, day after day. For such people the game industry is a great alternative. Every day is different, every project is different. It can be stressful because of the pressure to be creative, but it is never boring.
ARC Academy designed Game Dev to help people who want to make something different every day to find the right job. It is not necessarily only for people who can draw and paint, but also for people who can or like to tell stories, to get involved with technology, animation, modelling. Creating video games takes different kinds of talent.
Personal motivation is another crucial factor.
So, ARC Academy is for people who want to do something creative and are highly motivated.
What skills and previous experiences one needs in order to become a professional game developer?
MD: One needs to be not only creative, but also curious and passionate for video games. To know how they work, what is interesting, what the current trends are. Having a flair for design is also good because you work with design, you design characters, environments and even game rules. Some jobs ask for a more analytical frame of mind and others for a more creative one. It depends.
Why did the America for Bulgaria Foundation decide to support ARC Academy?
AC: A couple of years ago we met Nancy Schiller, the ABF President and CEO, while the foundation was creating the visitor's centre of the Bishop's Basilica in Plovdiv. It is a phenomenally interesting site and Nancy asked me and Milin to help with the project's communication and branding, and the synchronisation of different vendors in regard to VR, a short animated movie and other tasks. After that Nancy said: "I know that you guys are starting an academy, do you need anything?". This was very important to us. The ABF are fantastic, they are geared at making it possible for young creative people to stay in Bulgaria. And Game Dev is designed to encourage young people to stay in Bulgaria after they finish their training.
When you travel around Bulgaria, you see so many deserted homes and nature reclaiming what we have created in the past. This is so because we do not have the people, because the young people have gone. We want to start reversing this process and this is what, I think, the ABF is doing, too.
MD: Both we and the ABF have dreams and vision to help young people stay, grow and develop themselves here in Bulgaria. So this is probably why they support us.
What is the next big thing in the video game industry in general?
MD: A generation that has played video games all their lives is coming into the industry. For them it is a second nature, not just a career. So games, especially with technologies like VR, will become more immersive. In the entertainment industry in general the lines between music, game and film are getting blurred. Like concerts happening inside the game. Games are also becoming a platform and a place for people to gather and socialise.
AC: The engines on which games are done are becoming more sophisticated. I think that soon whole films will be made on them, which will transform the process and will become an industry game-changer. Video games will feel not much different from what we see now with features from the point of view of quality of the visuals. This is going to be exciting. VR is coming strong in the future as technology improves to make it more manageable. Players would become more immersed in the game.
Covid-19 also helped; a benefit in an unfortunate situation. Games are growing into a community, redefining communication in general. It is not the way we remember it. It is a different world.
MD: Bright things will happen to the video game industry. This is why we focus on it to help young Bulgarians become a part of it, to grow and realise their potential here.
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