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14. November 2017 Tereza Rozumková

An Introduction to the Unusual Field of Game Art

The nearly three-month vacation is over and for the third consecutive year I’m impatiently sitting in my window seat on a Ryanair plane on my familiar two-hour flight to England. This time, however, I’m not transferring to catch a train to Leeds like I did when I was still studying at a private high school called Ackworth School. This time I’m trying to get my 35 kilos of luggage onto a train to Leicester, where the modern De Montfort University is located and where I’ll spend the next three years studying Game Art.

Many people pause for a moment when I mention my program and ask what exactly Game Art means. Since it definitely is an unusual field, I will try to introduce it in this post. Generally, Game Art focuses on creating the visual aspects of videogames: from designing the initial concepts and modeling all objects to texturing—all of this is the daily routine of “game artists.” The Game Art program at DMU is a little broader, as you could expect from the best English college in this field. In addition to the above skills, our lecturers teach us the complete basic and advanced aspects of traditional drawing and painting, the history of games, game development methods, how to design levels, how to discuss and analyze games, and, last but not least, how to get the job you want in this highly competitive field.

All of this is split up into 16 lessons per week. That sounds easy, you might say. Quite the contrary. Since Game Art grades are mainly based on long-term projects, we are expected to dedicate at least 30 hours to self-studying every week. That would not be so bad. In a single week, there are three to four hours at school in a day, then you might do four hours of self-studying every day, then you could maybe binge watch all nine episodes of the new Stranger Things season – manageable. But in reality, the 30 hours worth of assignments our lecturers give us take more like 45 hours. Add to that the effort it takes to prepare three meals a day, to have relatively clean clothes and living quarters, and to have some sort of social life, and suddenly you go to sleep at two in the morning—without Stranger Things and completely exhausted.

Another popular question for explaining that Game Art is not just “fun and playing” (yes, we do play games within the “game history” module every week, but only to analyze them in detail and to write essays of several pages on them) is usually: “And is that actually doable?” Yes, it is, if you’re really determined. I have chosen this whole experience because I love videogames and I’m certain that I’d love to participate in their development one day. Games have become an amazing medium that allows us to use artistic methods to create interactive stories with heavier emotional impacts than movies, thereby, for instance, pointing out various problems in the world, or even helping find the solution through intelligent games with social impacts—the kinds of games I would like to work on in the future. It’s a fantastic industry and I’m honored to be a part of it, and this thought drives me through the sleepless nights when I’m trying to finish the seventh three-hour “final piece” for this week’s visual art lesson, despite the beleaguering frustration caused by the frequent freezing and restarting of the 3D modeling software that sometimes is too much to handle even for my new laptop.

Some of my final projects for my visual arts course

Some of my drafts

My first big 3D project—creating my own treasure chest

The same idea also drove me forward during the weekend of the sixth school week, when I voluntarily gave up my only two (relatively) free days and attended my school’s Game Jam, where you and your team are challenged to create a videogame within two days. It was not an easy task; the whole team worked hard from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, and without any assistance we had to quickly learn things we hadn’t even known existed. Besides creating the visual aspects, my classmate and I had to make up the whole story, script, and dialogs. Four programmers out of the six in our team had barely learned in class how to program a calculator, let alone a whole game, but eventually we managed to succeed. We finished the game and even though the gameplay itself contained a couple of bugs we received compliments on our originality, humor, and artistic rendition of the game, and we were all happy that we’d participated.

Our Game Jam team after finishing the game

My additional extracurricular activities that I manage to squeeze into my tight school schedule (unfortunately not always) include badminton and working out in a modern gym, to which I have free access thanks to the school’s “Love EU” package, and I also represent our year as the Student Representative at meetings with teachers and course leaders; I am a member of a graphic design club and served for four weeks as the captain of our e-sports team that represented our school in the League of Legends NUEL (National University eSports League) Tournament. I am definitely extremely busy every day and I have yet to experience boredom here. However, I would have a hard time managing all of this without the financial support provided by The Kellner Family Foundation, and I am really grateful for it.

 

 

 

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