From an outsider’s perspective, the life of a video game designer is a rather glamorous one, and one that is unattainable for the majority of people.
This wasn’t always the case however. During its infancy in the 80’s and early 90’s, a career in videogames design would have been laughed at and many of those who ventured into it were doing so on a whim.
As the industry grew, so did perceptions and more importantly games designers began to see far more lucrative wage packets.
Breaking into the industry is more difficult than ever, but the rise of recognised dedicated games design Degree’s mean that there is more help than there has ever been.
Games artist Aaron Foster, 25, graduated from the University of Central Lancashire and almost immediately landed a job in the industry. While he recognises that his degree helped him invaluably, it was by no means a golden ticket into the industry.
“I went in there with expectations to learn a lot, and learn everything I need to know about getting a job and I came out of there with a good skillset but it wasn’t like that. It’s like they give you a bit of guidance and it’s up to you to do everything.”
People who believe that a games design course would be a walk in the park are sadly mistaken, and it’s no surprise that many struggle to find work when they do eventually attain their qualifications. As Aaron explains, the degree merely gives you the tools, it depends on the person how they then operate those tools.
“After having a bit of fun in first year, second year came and all my free time went into practicing getting involved in the community itself. There’s loads of websites out there that have similar people to you, similar situations even. I Just tried to follow them, and see what they do, and then compare myself to people that were already in the industry.
“And that’s all I did really, I just looked at the people that were already working , and just tried to get to their level, tried to do everything that they could do in my free time, and just doing as much as I could, and doing the university stuff on the side as well. (laughs)”
Only two people including Aaron managed to find employment in their chosen field when they left university, which speaks volumes to the difficult nature of impressing potential employers. And even though it takes a lot of hard work to finally land a job, the hard work doesn’t relent, the video game industry is one that demands gruelling hard work from its employees.
Aaron’s first job was with Eurocom, as a 3D environmental artist, and from day one he was expected to immediately get down to business at an unrelenting pace.
My first project was G force, that was quite a brutal one because when I jumped in, the timeline was quite short. It was pretty intense, I think I did around 300 hours overtime. When I got there I basically had to hit the ground running, and just get into it, which was kind of scary at the time but at the same time I was so excited about getting a job that I t was fine, so I just stuck to it.
Working ridiculously long hours is standard practice for games designers, and it is why there is such a workaholic culture amongst developers. That drive is absolutely essential if you are serious about making it in the industry, and in many ways, far more valuable than raw talent.
“I don’t think you need any raw talent, I just think its drive and want to do it. Like me, I never came from any art background. I did a bit of 2D drawing I guess when I started uni, but my second year I started doing 3D models, 3D art. They were all thing’s I learnt whilst I was at university. As long as you really want to do it, you’’ll do it in your free time anyway. You need to enjoy doing it as well. If you don’t enjoy doing it, it’s going to feel like a chore, every time you sit down at your PC.”
Aaron Foster made the cover art for this site and his work can be seen at www.razorb-art.com
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