University management simulator ‘perverts reality’

Makers of upcoming computer game say the familiarity of campus life provides fertile ground for affectionate parody

April 12, 2022
Source: Two Point Studios

The makers of an upcoming university management game caution against anyone playing it for educational purposes.

In Two Point Campus, players start with a plot of land on which to build their institution before picking courses to offer, hiring staff and deciding on admissions and other policies..

“There are going to be interesting challenges about who you invite into your university, how much you charge, do you focus on results or improving people’s education,” said Gary Carr, a founder and director at Two Point Studios, which is making the game.

“You can reduce your intake, you can up your fees, but of course only if you’re worthy, right? If you haven’t got the prestige to do so you won’t get the calibre of student you’re after,” he said.

Players are encouraged to experiment as they struggle to work out what will satisfy students and bring financial security. “It’s interesting to see how people play with that, and [if] they want to cater for all or they want to basically focus on the best of the best,” said Mr Carr.

“Even though our game perverts reality, that’s one thing I think where [it] is quite true to life,” he added. “It’s quite interesting to see if people try and do a Loughborough versus something Oxbridge.”

As with previous studio titles that cast players in the role of a hospital manager, any realism lies concealed beneath layers of pop culture parody. Mr Carr said the studio’s games work by “pulling at the cliches and what people imagine can happen”.

“If the subject isn’t spaceships and war and killing and fighting, or fantasy, you’re not struggling against the material,” said another of the studio’s founders and directors, Mark Webley, explaining how familiar scenarios allow the game to ease players into complex management situations. “Less exciting topics make for great fodder for us.”

Ensuring that students have fulfilling social lives is as big a part of success in the game as an institution’s academic offering, so societies and entertainment must cater to students’ identities, such as the athletic or artistic archetypes that populate depictions of American high schools.

“You’re getting to know them, they all have different traits and personalities, how they interact with each other, how you enable them, through the building of your campus, to develop their relationships,” said Mr Webley.

The game was made from the homes of the British studio’s staff during the Covid-19 lockdown, meaning much of the inspiration for it came from the developers’ own experiences.

“I came home with black nail varnish, make-up, crimped hair and a big, long coat,” said Mr Carr, remembering his own return from Doncaster College of Art, where he studied advertising. “I was a happy student,” said Mr Webley, who studied maths and computing at the University of Surrey. “The relationships and the time I had there were amazing.”

The game, which is due to be released in August 2022, will take players through the running of increasingly large and complex institutions, modelled on campuses in the UK, the US and continental Europe.

Mr Webley said players may develop an appreciation for the difficulties of university management but conceded that real-life administrators were unlikely to gain practical insights. “If they want to know how to do their job, this isn’t necessarily the training tool that they should use.”

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Reader's comments (1)

Two Point Hospital was a funny, modern update to Theme Hospital (IMO). I would hope people don't think this experience will reflect reality as the maladies in the former game were very obviously made up and pun-based. Universities in the real world do try to put the students first (in most cases), but I can imagine the manager getting the most from their money would be the best way to play a fictional game. Just don't forget amenities!