I've noticed a trend here at Polycount recently. We've been getting lots of new posters asking about getting into the game industry. I figured we could use a sticky thread where we post our stories for others to read and take inspiration from. There's a bit of solace to be found when reading about other's trials and tribulations when it comes to achieving a goal that you want to achieve as well. Take our experiences and apply them to your current situations.
So for new posters and those wanting to get in, I suggest you read through everyone's stories and find the common themes:
Do not reply to any posts. This will be a moderated thread. All replies will be removed. This is a thread for stories only.
Try to follow my layout for easier reading. It helps to break it up into segments so people can go directly to the segment they want to read about.
The early years:
I grew up in a migrant family. Every summer we traveled from south Texas to the Panhandle to work in the cotton fields. On the rare occasions that I didn't work, (yes we broke all kinds of child labor laws) my dad would give me paper and pencils to draw. He showed me how to draw people and cars. This is my earliest memory of drawing. Since then I drew as much as I could. I filled up notebook after notebook with armored military soldiers, tanks, jets, robots, etc.
Growing up in South Texas I never felt like I fit in. I even had to attend a parent / student / teacher / faculty meeting in which I sat there and listened to kids in my 3rd grade class tell my parents how weird I was because I did nothing but draw all day. No child should ever go through that. Either way, that didn't stop me. I became a bit of an outcast and kept only a small amount of nerdy friends. I drew as much as I could all the way up until high school where I met one of my best friends. He was an amazing artist and my art only fed off his. He taught me how to draw superheroes and together we became a pretty good art team.
By my senior year I had decided to go to the Art Institute of Dallas. I moved up to Dallas in 1998 with no money other than just enough to make my next school payment. I applied at every single restaurant / retail place I could find between the school and my apartment. Eventually this led me to Texadelphia. I kept that job for 3 years. It was my main source of food and came to be the place where I made a majority of my art while sitting at the bar during slow hours. The restaurant also served as a meeting place for a lot of my game industry friends. Free sandwiches and discounts on beer brought in a lot of the Ritual guys.
What pushed you towards the game industry?
My parents saved up and bought me an NES when I was little. This pretty much did it for me. In 4th grade my friends and I began drawing up level maps on graph paper. I began creating stories and characters to fill them up.
When Jurassic Park came out, I watched a lot of the behind the scenes specials and became very interested in the special effects business. It made me want to become a 3d animator. I went to the Art Institute and quickly realized that animation wasn't for me. I began modeling high poly characters and realized I didn't like that either. My passion seemed to be with the low poly characters that were so popular at the time (Playstation 1 era). I loved how the artists had to convey so much character with such a limited amount of polygons. At that point I knew that games were for me.
My time at the Art Institute was interesting. I quickly found out that I wasn't learning as fast as I wanted to learn. My friend and roommate at the time, Juan (martinez / monster) introduced me to a new website called 'Polycount'. Together we formed 'Team Dallas' and began making Quake 3 models (Vash, Throttle, Bonecrusher, Gaben Helm). Shortly after that I dropped out of school (only had 2 1/2 quarters left) and began working at Texadelphia full time. Determined to not become a statistic, I worked hard on my portfolio. I began sending out copies of it to every game company in town and across the United States. I set up my art website and posted my portfolio for all to see.
Juan dropped out of school shortly after me. I front loaded his work schedule (@ Texadelphia) so he could focus on getting a job in the industry. 3 months later he did. He told me to quit my job and focus on my portfolio. 3 months later, I received my first contract job. A month after that I got my first studio job at Mumbo Jumbo. A friend I met on Polycount (Wrath) suggested me for an artist position there. I took the art test and got the job.
What to take away from my experience?
- Never compromise your passion once you find it. Quality of life is much more important than quantity of paycheck.
- Never lose focus on your goals. Often times life will kick you hard and it's easy to lose focus, but the ones that regain that focus are the ones that will make it to the end.
- There is never any shame in getting help from your friends. Shit happens. Life is tough. There are people around you that are willing to help you get through the tough times and would love to see you accomplish great things.
- Never underestimate the power of networking. The game industry is very incestuous. We like to work with people we've worked with before and people that we know very well. Often times the demanding hours of the game industry has us all working very closely, so it's always safer to go with those you know.
- Always be genuine. People know when they're getting bullshitted. Always be yourself. Be humble. Smile and talk about anything and everything. Just because we're in the game industry doesn't mean we want to talk about games when we're out having a good time. Be personable.
- Live, breathe, eat art. When you're trying to get into the industry you need to build up that portfolio. You have to want it 24/7 to compete with not only your peers, but the unemployed professionals too.
- Be up front and honest with yourself and your art. Be able to take a step back and look at your art critically. Don't sugar coat it. Compare your art to your peers and professionals. They're your competition. Are you on the same level as them?
- Don't try and be everyone else. Be yourself in your art. Sure, superstar artist so and so is awesome and you wish you could be like them, but guess what? You're not them. Be yourself and be awesome at that. Most of the superstar artists didn't become awesome by trying to be someone else. Long ago they blazed their own path. It was their individuality that made them stand out from everyone else.
- Don't be afraid of taking a risk. Things are rarely given to you in life. Most of the time the things we want most are the ones that involve the greater risks. Don't be afraid of getting into debt if it will help you achieve your goal. Debt payments are nothing in comparison to achieving a life dream. At the end of the road you'll be able to look back and thank yourself for taking the risk and living the life you always wanted.