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Work/Education Balance?


I'm considering entering the industry next year, however I don't want to commit myself to the profession when I have other interests in mind. I'm currently in college pursuing a psychology degree. I heard that college can be a good backup to CG, which is why I feel comfortable about it. However, I have also heard that juniors (artists) in my area are asked to work overtime (with no pay). This is not something that is acceptable to me. Ideally, I'd like to work part-time and go to school full-time or the other way around is even better, but I don't know if that is anywhere near normal in the industry. I would like to freelance, but I'm not sure if my lack of experience will keep me from getting my bills paid. Have any of you worked full-time while going to school part-time or doing something similar? Any stories or advice?

Thanks in advance.


  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    Its up to you, but reading through it I would make a high bet against you making it in the game industry. Its not about you not being able to learn it, its about betting on all the other people that are dedicated to the profession and the limited amount of jobs there are.

    To me the 10.000-hour rule is less about the amount of time you have to really put in to master something, its more a reminder that your time resource is limited, like for everybody else. So if you spend half of the day to learn something, there are people that will spend the whole day on it to master it and that's bad when you are in a field with high competition. It doesn't matter what the field is. There might be fields where you don't feel it as much, but actually its everywhere in life - from arts to cooking to personal fitness - if you ain't willing to put the time in, you won't be as good.

    Don't get me wrong, I have a degree and a few years of working experience from before switching to games, but once I switched I dedicated everything to make it. I have a couple friends who managed to finish 2 degrees at university at roughly the same time (not artists), but 2 things to keep in mind:
    1. some degrees only need you to learn, not practise the skills, so if you understand 2+2=4 you don't need to practise it 100 times to pass an exam. Skill based fields on the other hand are like physical exercises - the first time you run a mile you will be broken, after a while you will run several miles and not feel it - and going to a marathon you will have the expectation that everybody around you has been seriously preparing for that competition.
    2. having a degree, doesn't mean you are good enough to get get a job. Personally I don't know any artists working in a studio who were studying something else at the same time while reaching a professional skill level (I do know several who switched to game art later from a different field).

    The games community isn't huge. Sure there are countless indie-level studios and jobs, but when it comes to stable and reliable jobs, where you can expect to be paid fairly the field shrinks fast. Talking about AAA-studios you end up with a very small group of people (I knew the work and names of about 60-70% the character artists at my current studio from following them on artstation before ever even applying to the place). In other words the competition is very high. Doing it part-time, while others work fulltime on learning it and then some additional hours every day to make it, puts you likely on the outside looking in.

    I know that there are people that make it while working fulltime a different job, but usually they do the other job to pay the bills and spend every other minute of the day to master the skills to get an art job. Its a life with a lot of sacrifices and definitely not easy.

    So if you want to learn game art, feel free to do it on the side while finishing your degree. Just don't expect a successful career in the field before you are willing to seriously commit to it. Most people I know who thought they went all-in actually never did enough to make, those who did even less never made it.

    On a final note: I have a law degree, 3+ years of working experience and even good reference from previous jobs. As soon as I took a hiatus to learn game art I knew that my stock in that field dropped significantly. Don't forget that when you get to your job interview and the question comes up why you have not been working in that field and you start telling about your different passions that might motivate you to switch professions the employeer might take someone who is actually dedicated to the job and just has interesting hobbies, not alternative longterm goals. Every field has candidates that put the 10.000 hours in instead of just 3.000 or 7.000.
  • MeterMarker
    Thank you for your response, Biomag. You don't know how much I value you guys' experiences, advice, and willingness to share. I forgot the issue of dedication, maybe a little bit of arrogance played into this. I was leaning towards indie studios/freelance because I wouldn't want to even have the rep of a lack of dedication/laziness with the more popular boys. I'm known by others for my dedication and discipline, but you're right, I realize that it can't be spread out evenly in cases like these. Hmmm... perhaps a career isn't for me. I have too many other interests and goals. 

    However, what I'm getting from what you have said is that I shouldn't expect a somewhat ideal job, which isn't what I'm looking for exactly. I'm not currently looking for ideal pay. I'm not looking to have my cake and eat it too. I'm somewhat of a minimalist. Indeed, I can dedicate myself completely when I feel the time is right, but unfortunately I feel there are things with much deeper meanings that the game industry doesn't touch. I am also inclined towards anti-hedonism, because of this I am considerably opposed to video games, at least deep inside. So maybe you're right. It doesn't make sense for me to do this, neither will I be successful for my lack of interest that many others don't have.

    Thanks again for your response, man. I wish you success and content. :)
  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    I think whatever path you choose it should be something that you enjoy. Working on games sounds fun from the outside, but it comes with a lot of sacrifices - like many things in life that might be important for somebody. Some people might decide they want to focus on their family, travelling other things or just have a healthy mix,... but some paths leave less wriggle room for other interests/priorities.

    At the end it might be better to just finish your education and do art on the side. Should you afterwards be still interested you can try it later with no harm done. I started at 30 with this path, with no real art background and ended up fulfilling my dreams regarding job, so age is not an issue.

    Just keep in mind everything comes at a cost and nobody but you can say if its worthwhile for you :)

    Good luck :)
  • laurenshaw3299

    My name is Lauren and I am currently pursuing a degree in video game animation, I was toying with the idea of doing movie animation but finally landed on video game! I am also currently employed with a full time job and just wanted some advice on how to be a full time student and a full time employee. I don't want to fall behind as I am very passionate about school and getting a career in animation. 

    Thank you for any of your help! 
  • Biomag
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    Biomag sublime tool
    I was only working part time (20-30h next to classes) when I was learning game art, so I had it a lot easier. Sadly there is no real secret to it, except putting as much time in as you can.

    I guess the most important part is the mindset to understand where you need to get quality wise and accept there are no shortcuts to it. I am not working on animations so you better check with animators about the details, but I doubt the basics of how to approach it are that different. Once you understand that you can focus on quality instead of 'getting in'. Accept that it will rather take years to be good enough to get a stable job in the industry.

    It also helps to avoid becoming on of those students that are constantly 'learning' and 'doing', but actually make no progress at all (I've seen people from courses I took that even now 2-3 years later and with constant output they still have not improved). You will spend a lot of time and hard work to reach the skill level necessary while working a full time job, so burnout is a real danger. That's why it is so extremely important that you don't waste time doing exercises just to do them. If you notice that your brain isn't capable of processing the new information take a break.
    You also need to understand what regenerates you the most (for me it was walking home from the office - 1 hour each day to disconnect from work and everything to have time to organise my thoughts without any input from others). Be efficient in everything you do - work, learning, regenerating - you only have 24 hours per day, 8h work + commute + 6-8 hours of sleep + basics of life and you most probably have less than 6 hours per day for you during the week.

    The truth is that your social life will suffer greatly. Be honest about it with the people around you. If you are working full time and doing an education people need to deal with the fact that those are your priorities. As written before talking to MeterMarker the games industry is extremely competitive and in general not the best choice if you want to have a balanced lifestyle, but working and trying to learn it at the same time is extremely stressful.

    If you keep honest expectations you won't lose motivation to unrealistic goals. Know what you are getting yourself into and if it still is what you want to do, you can enjoy the ride (even if its a tough one) :)
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