Lauren Truesdale
Software Engineering (2012)
Camera Programmer - Rockstar Games

The shady Americana of Grand Theft Auto – a strange but familiar milieu inspired by generations of action and gangster movies - is so lovingly and convincingly wrought that few of the millions who play the gleefully notorious computer game worldwide know, or even care, that it was conceived in Scotland. Gaming industry experts, however, revere its makers Rockstar North for their mastery of the art and working for the company at their Edinburgh HQ is a dream come true for Heriot-Watt alumna, Lauren Truesdale as she explains:

“I’m a senior camera programmer at Rockstar North which means I work on the player gameplay cameras. It's an exciting environment, where every day I get to solve really interesting problems and work with the best in the industry. I love the programming element of my work especially. But it’s everything else as well: communication with people from a variety of backgrounds, problem-solving from start to finish (creative foundations to technical implementations), all with the full support from my peers and the company as a whole. Working in the games industry has been a dream, I get to be creative and apply my technical skills. I wake up every day excited to go work, and that's the biggest win of all.

“The games industry fascinates me, it’s incredibly varied in its structure – one person has the tools available to them to make a game, or it can take a multi-studio effort of 1000 people several years. Games have come a long way since their small beginnings and they have the power to tell incredible stories to a global audience.”

Lauren graduated with distinction in 2012 with a MEng in Software Engineering: “The degree prepared me very well for my career. It covered a wide variety of subjects in computer science, so we had to learn new concepts very quickly. Not only did this expose me to areas I hadn't considered before, it gave me a strong foundation to build on. I’m able to pick up new things quickly and know how to research and ask the right questions to get the information I need about a new subject. You never really stop learning once you leave university, and my course gave me the opportunity to develop skills in learning, above all else.”

“We were eased into new material then challenged on it. Every class I took was very practical, we were taught the theory behind something and then shown how it was applied in real working situations – this experience was invaluable. I went into video games. We had games programming, 3d modelling and animation, interaction design and virtual environments modules that were particularly enjoyable for me. We had many group projects as well as individual work - both of which are great practice for work after graduation! We had a module in our fifth year where we worked with students in other disciplines and that was very useful - you don't realise when you're a student that you'll often be working with people outside of computer science in your career. Heriot-Watt allowed me to hone that ability to communicate with people outside of my own field.”

Escaping virtual reality, Lauren made the most of her student experience: “I ran an arts and craft society called The Crafty Muffins, which was a lot of fun and a good excuse to get covered in glue and glitter once a week. Heriot-Watt gave me the opportunity to organise a thing like that and have space for it, I made a lot of friends even though the time was brief. I remember I also played in Guitar Hero tournaments at the Union - came close to winning a few times too!

“Enjoy it!” is Lauren’s simple advice for new students just starting out at Heriot-Watt, “savour the next few years - make friends with everyone you can, learn their stories, their dreams, study together, explore the campus and the city together and make memories. One piece of practical advice though: there's nothing worse than last minute panic-studying or all-nighters doing coursework - start developing good time management and self-motivation skills early and it will pay off in the long run.

When she’s not making computer games, Lauren (27) from Kinross likes to relax at home playing computer games with her Rockstar North co-worker and husband John, whom she met at Heriot-Watt. It is this passion for gaming that has driven Lauren’s career success but should she seek respite from dystopian virtual worlds, she knows where to revisit: “Heriot-Watt's grounds are beautiful, they were a joy to live in during my first year. They hold many fond memories and have always been a very peaceful place for me.”

19 May 2017