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polycounter lvl 16
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adam polycounter lvl 16

What made you want to work in the videogame industry?


At a glance, the answer probably comes quick. 'To make money!', 'What else would I be doing?', or even 'It just sorta happened.' But to me this is one of those questions that when you sit and think about it - REALLY think about it - you'll find the answer to be much elaborate than originally thought.

Earlier today a friend of mine asked myself and a few of our friends this very same question and it really had me thinking. I thought I'd get the ball rolling on stories with my own answer to the question. When you're done reading, drop your own answer in the comments.

Like most in this industry I grew up with a controller in my hand and spent just as much time chasing ghosts, goblins and criminals as I did my friends in a game of Tag. With a connection to art - or 'art' as I'll call it now, since all I was doing was drawing on paper - I knew growing up I wanted to do something related to it. Back then, when I was just a kid, my future would have me be a 'Disney animator'.
Later in life, I went to Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada  with the hopes of one day being an illustrator? Animator? "Cartoonist?" I really didn't know when I first began to go. My ideas of what I wanted since I was a kid had changed. In the beginning of my course, I pressed on. Knowing somewhere along this journey I'd find what I wanted to do with my life.
It was somewhere towards the end of my first semester that I realized my calling - to do art for videogames. Being someone who'd draw or paint often AND an avid gamer I felt like a fool for not putting the two together sooner. 'Adam, you idiot!' Was the quote, I am sure. Finding this passion, I dropped out of college without telling my folks and began to teach myself the craft. I joined mod teams and communities until I eventually found a 'home' in Polycount. A place where I could craft my skillset and get better as an artist, overall. The latter part of this story holds true to a lot of you reading this now.
It was being surrounded by this collective passion that made me know for sure, this business was 'it' for me. It was art. It was games. It's was a marriage of 2 things I loved the most growing up and to me, that makes the most sense.

Jumping further forward, I've now been in the industry for 6 years, shipped 6 titles and worked on countless more. I've been a member of Polycount for 11 years and have been its 'website architect & principal editor' for the past 3 years. I hate to say it, but dropping out of college was the best thing I ever did for my career. I don't recommend this by any means. However, recognizing game art as a true passion and pursuing that passion, to me, was well worth it as I now have a career in something I love. And not many people can say that.


So there you have it! A brief story of what made me want to work in this industry. Now lets hear yours!


  • haiddasalami
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    haiddasalami polycounter lvl 11
    The sheer thrill of knowing you created something and enjoying the fact that there are people out there enjoying the experience that you and your company crafted for them. I think I knew I wanted to make games at like Grade 7 but was into programming then somehow fell into the curiosity of 3d.
  • Firebert
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    Firebert polycounter lvl 12
    What makes me want to work in the video game industry: Lasting impressions created by immersing the recipient into a new world of awesome that they can connect with on some dimensional level. Art is just part of the puzzle, and art is what I love doing. Do what you love, and then make babies.... same principal.
    Nice little article Adam. Thanks for posting!
  • moose
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    moose Polycount Sponsor
    It wasn't until my final year of college before I realized I could get a job working in the video game industry. I spent 4 years doing everything: painting, drawing, printing, metalsmithing, modelling, animating, and most importantly texturing game characters and objects in my free time at the humble forums of polycount, skindom, and a few other game specific mod sites.

    Prior to college, and when I went to college, I was going to be a musician. The plan was to study music education and performance, play in a Symphony Orchestra, and teach high school orchestras and bands. I flipped during my college orientation and switched to art, just couldn't see myself enjoying it much more - and it was the best decision I ever made. I busted ass, wanted to learn and know everything!

    When i discovered Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena, and that you could make your own art for those games, it really intrigued me and got me going! I studied everyone's work, and made myself learn wtf was going on with it and how you did it. I had no idea what UVs were, just knew that flat textures looked cool. I eventually learned by reading a shitload of tutorials by Kevin Johnstone, Shane Caudle, and countless others that were on Skindom & polycount. I wanted my stuff to be as good as theirs, and all the other artist i admired, and still admire to this day: Bobo, DH, Ken Scott, shotgun, pior, peppi, marine, per, ror/kevin j, and many more that i just can't list all here :)

    I decided to get into games not only because "i realized i could," but because its the most rewarding, fun, and amazing art out there. I love games, and love fun - with combining the two I found the dream job of getting to make cool, fun shit all day long :)

    Looking back at it now, and myself currently, I still do not see my day-to-day as being a "J-O-B." I got into it because it never felt like "work," it is something i completely love, enjoy, and get extremely excited about. Its as much a part of me as my personality, voice, and character are. Its not a job, its a love of all things fun and cool!
  • bounchfx
    I really liked games. I had no idea what I wanted to do, because I was dumb enough to not think about it before hand outside of the fact that 'I want to do games'. I never did art beforehand... but I decided to go to college for game art, and discovered 'sure, I like this, I enjoy looking at art. I guess I'll do it'. so I did it. and now I regret that I didn't do it sooner lol, but I enjoy what I'm doing more than anything, and it's probably the best decision I've ever made.

    So I got a job doing this because I wanted a job doing this. that's about it. Money? I'm not even sure what that is, haha.
  • raul
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    raul polycounter lvl 11
    i was playing max payne...and then i read thatu could make your own weapons and levels.....AT HOME! It just kinda took off from there.

    Funny how a simple summer hubby turned into a a life style! :)
  • Gannon
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    Gannon greentooth
    I've always wanted to make art and I've always loved video games since the SNES came out. I found a love for computers and when I started high school I took anything and everything possible relating to art to pursue a career creating video games.
  • MoP
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    MoP polycounter lvl 16
    While I'd been playing games since the DOS days with stuff like One Must Fall 2097 and Warcraft gleaned from cover disks (yes, floppy disks) back in 1996, when Quake was released I just got totally addicted.

    After a year or so I discovered that you could make models and textures (or in my case at the time, just tweak the existing ones in minor ways), and I started messing around with ancient programs like MEDDLE or qME. Vertex tweaking for the win!

    I also got a start in pixel art using Paint Shop Pro shareware and Warcraft 2, it was a lot of fun making little sprites and modding the game to tweak the stuff I always wanted to turn the games into.

    Basically I just love playing games, and I love editing them to make them fit exactly how I like to play and what I want stuff to look like, so it was only natural to go for a degree in Computer Arts, and immediately dive into the industry!

    Haven't looked back since :)
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    @Adam My favorite line is
    "I hate to say it, but dropping out of college was the best thing I ever did for my career."

    My story is kinda lame, I was big into flash animation in Junior high, the stick death animations, and other various stuff. But I was always more interested in making cool and good looking stuff, rather than perfecting the animation.

    So my high school had a 3D program, I took it because it was the only "flash animation" related classes. At first I HATED 3D, maya just pissed me off and I really didn't get it, and for the first semester or 2 I didn't do any 3D work, instead just goofed off, until the last 3 weeks where I finally started to "get" 3D and did all the projects, (stuff like a house, a hand, and a bug).

    So my Junior and senior year of high school I spent a lot more time with 3D apps and really enjoyed softimage XSI (I can't remember why I picked it or how I stumbled across it, probably because it wasn't maya. I got interested again in making stuff look good, and started to do a lot with rendering and getting materials right, etc etc, plus I would always disagree with my teacher with everything, so I just ignored her.

    Then I saw some awesome work done for fable 2 and was all like, I can make stuff like that. Started doodling, came up with a fable themed concept, I'd seen a lot of game art so I kinda had an idea about geometry usage, etc etc. it came out nicely, but I didn't know how to get it into a game, so it kinda just stopped their. Then I joined Polycount, "posted a lot", learned a ton, and when to a local community college for traditional art classes, and general education courses. What particularly made me want to do video games was the passion and the knowledge at everyone here has, yet everyone is laid back and not too serious. I want to make art for a living, video games seem like a great way to do that where you have a level of creative influence and you get to work with a cool bunch of people. Growing up video games were a decent sized part of my life, starcraft, Zelda OoT, Halo, were all amazing epic games that have made an impression on me. I kinda wanna do the same.

    After a year of that (and installing my first public sculpture) I landed an intern this summer at a local animation/vfx studio that is working on their 2nd game related project in unity, so that's awesome.
  • Steve Schulze
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    Steve Schulze polycounter lvl 15
    I've been pretty heavily into games since I was very, very young. I didn't have any kind of computer or console for ages but I'd play on the school computers (Ah, the Microbee) and at my friends houses and that naturally increased my desire. I used to spend ages drawing out my own game, a long running series of mazes with monsters and power-ups called Willy the Astro Fox.

    It was always the dream to make my own games, but it never really occurred to me that I could actually make some vague attempt to realise that until Doom came out and a friend casually mentioned that there were editors to make your own content. Unfortunately my mother vetoed that particular idea because the game was too violent and would have warped my young mind, so it wasn't until Quake was eventually released that I actually got to have a crack at making my own (terrible) game levels.
  • Jesse Moody
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    Jesse Moody polycounter lvl 15
    Well lets see.... After playing the original Command and Conquer when it was still a DOS game, you guys remember those? I decided I want to do this for a living. Someone has to make the art and I wanted it to be me. Well after high school I went to college for computer programming as this was the only route people said would take me to graphics and spent a year learning all that entry level stuff and decided after the year ended I wanted to do art.

    I found the Art Institute of Seattle and they had the 3d animation program so I looked into that. Super expensive compared to my other schooling I was doing and had to figure out a way to get to do what I wanted some way, some how.

    So I joined the Navy. Had my choice of jobs after my testing results and became a Sonar Technician. 4 years, 2 different ships, 2 deployments and who knows how many bottles of beer later and I found my self at the Art Institute of California - San Diego.

    Well the rest all just has kinda fell into place and most of that with jobs I have gotten from Polycount. I owe a lot to this place. The 3 studio gigs I have held are all a result of my activities on this fantastic web site and you wonderful people.

    So that is my story...
  • felipefrango
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    felipefrango polycounter lvl 9
    I particularly empathize with this article cause I dropped out of college as well. I had always liked drawing as a child but never saw it as anything more than a hobby.

    When I finished high school I didn't even consider starting a career based on it, it just didn't cross my mind, sounded too much of a dream job to be true.

    I still liked the idea of using my creativity as work so I wanted to study Architecture. My grade wasn't good enough but it qualified me to my second option (college works MUCH differently here in Brasil), Civil Engineering (cause it was the closest second option to architecture).

    I finished the first term but by the middle of the second one I started feeling kinda depressed, I just wasn't made for numbers and calculations and I felt it completely killed my creativity. So I dropped out, borrowed a tablet from my friend (a 3x4" Genius tablet, with a cabled pen and no pressure sensitivity!) and started drawing digitally and boy, was that fun. I saved and got me a Genius Mousepen 8x6 tablet (which was, believe me, quite an improvement) and started getting better. Saved some money and took a basic 3D course focused on game production that, looking back today, was total shit, but it worked cause it fueld my interest in the field and made me learn a lot on my own.

    I then started a Graphic Design course, which I'm still taking today, cause it was the closest thing I had to an art course around here. After around one year I started an internship at a local game studio and got hired full time after another year.

    That's pretty much it so far, been juggling work and college dedicating most of my time to work since a degree in graphic design wouldn't help me much as far as I know, so I'm gathering as much experience as I can to try to apply for a bigger job position outside my state (or the country, if possible).
  • JamGeo
    Wow, some pretty cool stories on here.

    Here's mine up to now. Well first of all I'm 21 and was brought up playing SNES although my brother had a commodore that I can't really remember so SNES and pretty much everything around then and after I have played and owned.

    In my final years of high school (aged about 14) I was introduced to Photoshop which I would create random pictures on and would enjoy myself doing this. As time went on I enjoyed using it but wanted to do more and be more creative, and games had always been a passion of mine and originally I wanted to test games as I saw this as a perfect job but when the Source engine was released I dabbled in re-skinning models in Photoshop which I enjoyed but again I felt I could do more.

    Which moved me onto creating maps for Counter-Strike Source, I worked on a mod called Elite Partisan which flopped and then decided to create my High school for CSS and got quite a bit into when my HDD failed and forced me to scrap it, I didn't really do much mapping after this and ended up not doing much for a while until I was introduced to 3DS but I can't remember how. Anyway I grew to love it and picked the basics up very well. Modelled quite a few weapons while I was in college.

    For some reason I hated college because I didn't have anything that interested me there, the courses were the same ones you have at any college and ended up failing my first year and had a meeting with my head of year and she sat me down and straight away asked me "what I was doing at college" and I couldn't answer it, which she then replied with "you need to think about what you want to do in the long run" and I got home that day and pondered where I would end up in 10-15 years. I knew I wanted to get out of my hometown because it isn't very pleasant and I was continuing to learn new skills in 3DS and I had a massive love for games then it hit me 'I want to make games.' So I pushed myself in college even though I hated it to get the grades and study video games design at university which is where I am now at 21 in the big pond of people hoping I can get into the games industry.

    Ideally after uni with my degree my dream would be to move out of this city and hopefully move to America or somewhere in the UK nearer smaller games studios. Thank you for reading.
  • Divine Rage
    I'm still trying to get in. :)
    I'm currently doing Communication & Multimedia Design, with plans to do Game Design & Development afterwards.
  • kat
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    kat polycounter lvl 14
    It was an accident.

    Made maps and levels for Quake 3, which led to modding, starting a web site (katsbits.com), wrote some *cough*of the best*cough* game development related Blender tutorials and now doing consultative work with game/media start-ups on how to best implement and realise their ideas without the hype and BS (it still surprises me how 'bluesky' some companies and businesses are, and they say 'we' (day)dream!).
  • bbob
    I've pretty much just always been interested in drawing, cutting things from wood and making airfix kits as soon as I got home from school. Never really did know what I wanted to do until almost the last day of highschool, where I heard about this 3D school at the other side of the country. At that point I had played with 3ds max a wee bit, and was well into photoshop, so it somehow felt natural to learn more about this fabled third dimension.

    As I went to school, I got hooked on sub-d modelling, and fancied myself as a SFX artist of some sort even though I really hated unwrapping all these little doodads, and tweaking materials for ages. I got used to it though and after graduation I landed an internship in a tiny archviz company. Here I've done all sorts of fun little things, including some real-time browser visualisation, which got me interested a lot since I still got to model all the detail, but texturing and rendering was much more elegant and condensed. Come unity and two more interns, and my boss got the idea that we'd try making a small game.
  • Shogun3d
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    Shogun3d polycounter lvl 12
    I'm very new to the industry and play a junior environment artist role in developing my first title, FEAR 3 with Day 1 Studios and Warner Bros. My inspiration and motivation pulled through a lot with the help of folks here on Polycount and fellow students and instructors at my school at the Art Institute of California - San Diego. I have much to learn, and have made leaps and bounds in learning, myself. The Industry has much to offer and it has been an exciting ride. Like many, my passions began at a younger age.

    I began gaming as soon as my family purchased a PC. It was a 486 DX 33MHZ with a turbo button that doubled to 66MHZ. Windows 3.1 the whole 9 yards, but back then it was all about DOS. I played games like Full Throttle, Sam n Max and was a huge fan of Star Wars Tie Fighter and Xwing simulators. I played a lot of Duke Nukem3d and eventually got into Quake and Unreal and from there on, I fell in love with the FPS genre. I was also a huge fan of RTS games like the original C&C and Starcraft Brood War. My addiction to Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear on MSN Zone took over in high school and from there I wanted to create games, but never thought it to be possible. I only placed pencil to paper once when I was a kid and that was at a life drawing workshop my mom made me go to. I hated it, was boring and made the boobs on the model look 20x larger than it really was. Mom got a chuckle however.

    I ended up joining the Marines (great choice huh?) and got out in 5 years. I worked in the aviation industry afterwards as an avionics technician but soon got sick of work and life in general. I had to get into the only thing I knew best, and that was games. So I decided to bite the bullet and use my GI Bill in assisting myself to get a degree in Game Art & Design. It was the only way I knew to learn and get a foot in the door. If I looked back, it may have been different but i'm glad I made the choice of going to school. It opened up new avenues for me, essentially I wouldn't have found Polycount if it wasn't for the fact that I was in the school library spying on a fellow GAD student that browsing the Pimping & Previews.

    I sucked for the most part throughout school, but my last year I definitely pushed it up a notch and focused on my skills once I grasped the concept of game art development. After pummeling through many Tutorials throughout the web, classes at school, reading books such as Andrew Gahan's 3ds Max Modeling for Games and posting work and gaining feedback, I finally made my way up to developing an entry portfolio. I journeyed to Austin TX for Austin GDC, gained feedback and contacts, kept networking, applied to all the studios I could, and after an art test and 2 different interviews later I found myself at Day 1 Studios, six months in and still haulin'.

    Above all, I have found that the easiest thing a game artist can do is develop an ego. It is something that should always, and immediately be left at the door and I had learned that really quick. The talented artists here in the industry do it for a living and that was something I had to get used to. You never stop learning, and you'll never stop working as long as you have a passion for it. Thinking back to the old days are good, its a good way to get motivated again.
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