fulfilling the fantasy of creating fantasies
One of the most challenging and intriguing games is making games. And I'm so grateful to be on a path that will take me in that direction. At the end of my first year at the ETC, I think it's a good idea to do a retrospective of the ways I've changed and grown since coming, especially since I've gained a sense of certainty about my career and life that I haven't felt before. I want to be a game character animator, and grow to be a creative lead on narrative games. While I have the chance to reflect, I want to define and affirm the kind of creator and difference I want to be.
How I Got Here...
One of the first memories memories of achieving a flow state as a creator is when I was in first grade, painting a picture of a cherry tree. It was messy, it was watercolor done by a six year old, but there was magic and purpose in the action that acted as a powerful force on my psyche. My next related memory is telling my mother that I wanted to be an artist, a proposal met with crushing rejection. It felt like a door slamming in my face, one that I wouldn't have the courage to directly approach again for a long time. In her defense, it was coming from a place of love; creative careers and pursuits are often hard and plagued with instability.
I felt aimless for a while, but I was never quite able to let go of my creative instincts. In middle school, I was always looking forward to art classes and furiously writing (terrible) stories and fanfiction. These side hobbies got me into trouble more than once, when I should have been spending more time on more practical pursuits like my homework, or violin. I ended up allowing myself to be guided onto the medical school track; it was in this pursuit that I spent most of my high school and college years. I still wonder what my life would have been like had I been given insight into the idea of nurturing my creative instinct into a career.
Even after making the choice to reset my career by coming to Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, games and their associated technology are still somewhat foreign to me. I arrived with the idea that I'd be a producer for animated films. I found that I was my own biggest obstacle to seeing myself in the entertainment industry, especially in a capacity that combines technical skills and creative insight like animation.
I had to put my foot down after a semester of making things. It's like magic, bringing characters and worlds to life. I might have some skills as a producer, but I knew that I couldn't be satisfied being that close to the magic without being able to directly touch it and play with it. And now, I'm excited to be a 3D art and animation intern at codeSpark this summer; I'm so excited about what I can learn and how I can grow.
And so here I am now. I have an instinct for design and analysis when it comes to experiences and games. I love animation, and I want to be a part of creating interactive stories that make the world a little bit better, for a little while.
What I'd Like To Do...
SUPPORT MORE GIRLS TO ENTER THE INDUSTRY
Games give life to the fantasies and dreams of players, and perhaps more directly, to those of the developers. As games have gone mainstream and become increasingly cinematic and profitable, the path for many game devs to games is winding and varied. While this is a strength of the industry, it is discouraging to talk to developers and hear about how close many of them were to giving up. And if the ones who are considered successful or established have come that close, how many talented people fell away from the industry for lack of support to get through those times?
Tech particularly has an ongoing issue of rejection of women. IGDA's 2016 Satisfaction Survey found that 45% of women leave tech (there weren't numbers for game development specifically). IGN reports that Managing Director Jen MacLean thinks this is not due to women prioritizing domestic life, but the pervasive trend of seeing male peers promoted for 'potential', and women promoted only after 'accomplishment.' I've had a very fortunate and sheltered work experience so far, and I want to be able to support others with the good fortune that I've had so far. I'll be visiting my old high school soon (all girls school) to talk to the tech class and hopefully be able to both answer questions about game dev and also open the idea of games as a possibility.
I've gotten this far, and I plan to go a lot farther. I want to help everyone I can along the way.
BE A GOOD TEAMMATE
My experience so far in marketing and producing has given me a few great insights into project management and team communication that I will definitely be putting to use. No matter what, projects are never just about me, and they never will be. And that's a great thing, because it's the conflicts and interests of a diversity of people that make awesome experiences possible. I want to be helpful, and always have something to offer, whether that's art or design. Thanks Randy Paucsh.
I want to take what I've learned in my experience at the ETC and in Game Design to be able to give productive feedback, and to receive constructive criticism.
And also, "Don't be a dick," generally seems like a good life philosophy.
TELL AWESOME STORIES
I wasn't convinced that the depth of storytelling that I've treasured in movies and TV could be achieved in games. The Stanley Parable, Transistor, Portal/Portal 2, and more told compelling stories that felt like novels, but I was missing the sense of visual storytelling and emotional depth that I adored in Pixar films.
And then I played The Last of Us. As a lifelong lover of film and relatively new to games (mostly started playing in 2017), it's been remarkable observing my own reactions and watching streamers play this game. It is far from a perfect game, but there are so many things about how the characters are written, the stories that are told, the robust nature of the world, and the concrete connections between narrative and gameplay that made me want to make games, if this is the kind of experience that is possible. There's such a visceral difference in watching a film and being a part of a story in such an involved manner. The fluidity in which the player's identity floats between the character and themselves, the power of projection, is really the true power of games when it comes to narrative impact.
The future is full of possibility and it's going to be hard to get there, but I have a lot to give and a lot more to grow. So.... here I go.