Build worlds for a living: Careers in Game Art and Design
At Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre, creativity and commerce intersect as artistic students are taught how to make media, and how to succeed in the industry that makes that media. One such program is Game Art and Design, taught at the Story Arts Centre. Game Art Students receive intensive hands-on training in current software and technology in a lab setting, learn how to build traditional 3D art assets, develop game environments and characters, and express their creativity. More than that, the program directly links students to careers. This was the case with graduate Helena Dufgran, who now works as an artist at Arc Productions.
“I've always played video games, and have wanted to get into the industry for about eight years now,” Helena says of her motivation. “I previously did filmmaking and visual arts, so combining those with my love for games just suddenly made sense.”
Her desire to break into the industry would eventually cause her to move overseas. “I’m originally from Stockholm, Sweden,” she says. “I came to Canada six years ago and attended a small private career college for concept art for animation and video games for four years before starting at Centennial.”
She chose Centennial’s Game Art and Design program out of a desire to develop more digital art skills that could be of use in the industry. “I liked that it was short,” she says about the program, “with only four consecutive semesters, since I had so many years behind me already. I wanted to finish quickly, yet learn a lot, and I got what I needed.”
That shortness was also a challenge, though, as the program packed a lot into that time. “It was very intense, hours and hours of hard work,” she admits. “It's all about how much you want it.”
Working in animation
Helena currently works at Arc Productions, a Toronto animation studio, as a Surfacing Artist on a new television show.
“I'm at a dual-monitor work station with a Wacom tablet, and I create textures that go on top of 3D-models,” she says of her position. “I also create the material and look of the assets. They can be either props, characters or sets. I love getting to be creative every day and to be part of a product where I can clearly point out my contribution. A big plus is that Arc is very keen on letting their employees learn new software and always update our skill set, which furthers my personal and professional development at a regular basis. The great thing about this job is that it's very close to what I'd be doing at a game studio, and I'm happy where I am.”
She credits Centennial College with providing the skill set necessary to get the job, and for letting her see the company on a tour before she applied. “We did go on a tour here last year, and I think doing more of that is definitely helpful,” she says. “That way you get to meet the recruiters and see what the studio is like in a way you can't get from a website or through someone else's eyes.
While the Game Art and Design program itself is rewarding, Helena stresses that you get what you’re willing to put into it. “Listen to your instructors, don't play games in the back of the room without paying attention,” she says. “The program is over in a flash - you’ll risk regretting not using your time better.”
“Keep at it, work hard, take your time to learn the basics well, and spend time at home reading and watching tutorials, and play around with software,” she continues. “Study traditional art techniques and history, there's a reason these ideas are going strong after hundreds of years.”
By Anthony Geremia