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If you don't know what to do... How did you find your way?

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LisaTheCupcake polycounter lvl 4
Hello everyone! o7
I hope this is the right section to post this in and I'm sorry for any grammar mistakes 😅.

Soo... I've been having a problem for some time which leaves me quite restless and I think hearing some of your thoughts/ideas/experiences could help me.
Last year I finally got into my dream university and I am about to start my third semester as a Animation & Game student here in Germany. For the coming semester we have to write applications for our industrial placement. Now, during my semester break I wanted to build a portfolio, so I have more time to focus on my projects during the semester.
Back when I started this course I didn't know in what direction I wanted to work later because I have always been very interested and curious in almost everything related to games, animation, vfx, etc. So I always told myself "You will probably figure it out during the first semesters... It will all work out and you shouldn't worry too much about it now."
Well it's been 1 year and I still don't know what I would like to do and I feel a bit trapped because I should build my portfolio according to the profession I want to do during my industrial placement. I just can't seem to figure out what I like the most. I only know that I want to work in the games industry. Because of this I basically procrastinate my portfolio like hell and I don't feel ready at all to work in the industry with my current level of skills and knowledge.

Did anyone maybe have had the same experience?
How did you find your profession and do you have some thoughts to share?

Thanks for reading :)


  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis godlike master sticky
    The majority of people I know have no idea what they want to do for a career. Fortunately, you've narrowed it down to a particular industry! Are you trying to decide which discipline of game art (enviro, character, animation, etc) you'd like, or is it even more broad, and you can't decide between game art or programming? If it's art, do you have any particular artists you look up to? What do you spend the most amount of time looking at on something like ArtStation?
  • defragger
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    defragger sublime tool
    Ask yourself which games you liked and which aspect of them fascinated you the most. Characters, animation, environments or perhaps the technical aspects? If you are so sure that you want to work in the games industry, there must be something that fascinates you about it.
    Well, either way you should start working on your portfolio. You'll probably only find out what you really like to do after working on a few different projects anyway.
  • sharsein
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    sharsein polycounter lvl 7
    On the upside, you are probably in the same boat with a bunch of other people/fellow junior artists. Are there any areas they gravitate towards? Try out an area you like that's different than what they do. You'll be the first person they'll think of when they need someone with your skills, which opens doors for collaboration and future recommendations. If it turns out you actually would prefer to do what they do, they'll be able to show you tips&tricks that'll make catching up faster.
  • Popol
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    Popol interpolator
    Look, the best way to find out how you'd like to specialize is to try out a little bit of everything!

    Make a small environment in UE4, add FX in it, make a simple character, rigg it, animate it and put it in your scene. With that you'll try out the majority of the art jobs in the video game industry. Once it's finished think about what part of it you enjoyed the most and could work on 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    That's how I found out that environments and rigging bore me to death but that I will love character art until the day I die!
  • Add3r
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    Add3r polycounter lvl 8
    One thing to remember is that whatever you are studying now is not what you have to focus on for the rest of your chosen career path, I personally went to school to study prop and environment art for film, ended up with technical environment art for games when I chose to drop out to build a portfolio.  Fast forward close to 10 years and I am a Senior/Lead Lighting Artist with a focus on lighting tech and PBR.  

    You will stumble and fall along your journey and know that it is entirely normal (and honestly expected).  There are days when I even question all of my career choices and deal with impostor syndrome, as does practically every artist that I know.  You are diving into a field of uncertainty, self doubt, harsh criticism, and very high highs when the going is good.  I love my job, I love my career, but I also know that its all fluid.  Find what makes you happy and satisfied after spending thousands of hours practicing, if animating isn't it specifically, you can see where your animation skillset may better fit for your happiness.  I found that my environment art schooling lead me to lighting and technical support for environments in a AAA setting, and I loved it.  From there I fell into full time lighting and it's been incredibly rewarding finding something I am super stoked about every hour of the day.  Been following that path since! 
  • Larry
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    Larry interpolator
    For me, i tried everything a little bit. I disliked the fact that for characters i would be doing anatomy again and again. Animation is not an artistic expression for me so i cannot funnel my creativity into that. Vfx is an area i was interested in, but contains animation so, maybe in the future. That leaves me with environments and props which i like because its a very broad subject with lots of challenges and many techniques! There's also UX/ui that you could do as a 2d/3d artist, and i think this has quite some more opportunities for work, as far as i see in job postings myself
  • poopipe
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    poopipe godlike master sticky
    I don't recall ever really choosing a discipline. I've been fortunate enough to have done all of them at one time or another over the years and honestly the main factor in whether i like doing something or not is how effective I feel doing it. 

    The secret I think is to either choose something you just do anyway - in my case that's poking stuff til it breaks (tech art life)
    or choose something that you can just do with confidence - i.e. something that you just intrinsically understand. 

    I really like making characters but i find it very challenging to meet my own standards, let alone those of an art director - if I've got a deadline to meet it becomes extremely stressful.
    In contrast, I find making buildings less exciting but I can do it with one hand while simultaneously drinking heavily, operating heavy machinery and delivering a baby so if I have a deadline it's a lot less stressful. 

    For my own mental health i would much rather spend 40 hours a week enjoying making buildings successfully than struggling at making characters less successfully. My contribution to the final product is greater if I make excellent buildings than if I make 'okay' characters and what actually matters when everyone is sitting there constantly refreshing the metacritic page on release day is the final  product 
  • lotta
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    lotta polycounter lvl 3
    Bit of a late reply, but if you shoot for smaller studios you can do all the art jobs as a generalist. There are a ton of tiny studios with less than 5 artists that need to do a bit of everything. I will get bored doing just characters or just environments or just UI. You will not reach the quality of a triple A specialist, but you will not have to choose either. And personally, while I love the graphics of current triple A production, I love artistically stylized indie games more. If you go for the art generalist route, focus on developing your art fundamentals (color, perspective, composition, anatomy). It will make you versatile and help you in all game art fields.
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