I had begun to mention this in another thread but I felt this deserved its own topic since I'm sure I'm not the only one to have had this happen to them. I attended a privatized Art School and earned a Bachelor's degree in early 2015. When I did my initial research, things seemed pretty legit, the instructors were current or former industry professionals, they had decent job placement rates, and most of their alumni had successful careers. I went through the program pretty well and almost graduated with full honors.
Unfortunately in the time since then, I've come to hear news that the school was facing multiple lawsuits regarding false statistics and has been labeled as a "Degree Mill" Cranking out graduates with insufficient skill levels to break in to the industry with little or no room for other uses for their degrees. Given that I have been unsuccessful in even getting an interview with any AAA studio on the west coast and my portfolio (despite two years of self-taught improvements) is still not good enough, I can't really argue with that.
So my question is, how do you deal with this issue? I can hopefully improve my portfolio with time and practice, though it may take a few more years at this rate without proper instruction. It's important to list the degree in resumes and job applications, but you have to disclose what school it came from, and if that school is viewed by the industry as "shoddy" how do I keep from being locked into the bracket of applicants that are not even being considered?
I feel like you could speak to this. You've had intimate times with Art institute shenanigans, right?
AI Orange is still okay I think, but it depends on the person. Guys like Evan Hill or An-Tim Ngyuen succeeded. Frank Tzeng as well.
This does lead me to ask how you spent you free time during your time at uni, something Paul Fish touched upon in the previous thread. This is a challenge I faced as well at USC, and that was a mostly game design program.
But to answer your question according to my unqualified opinion.
As Teri said - it's all about your portfolio. Your school and degree is for the most part irrelevant, all that matters is your skills and abilities. The only thing as far as I'm aware of them being useful for employment overseas, getting a visa and that crap.
Their reputation shouldn't effect you in any way - according to hearsay, recruiters that know what they're doing primarily look at the portfolio for work that demonstrates knowledge, inspires and has some sort of personality behind it. Unsure of where I've heard that exactly, but I believe it's covered in this panel - www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN-AwZuRBkw
Also a word of warning, be careful about assigning them the blame of your own inability to get work (whether it's not something you do, think or believe), as much as they may suck ultimately the fault comes back on yourself imho and I feel it's a pretty common situation where we see people passing the buck. This isn't meant as an accusatory statement - especially since you've been so accepting in regards to your portfolio lacking, but more something to be aware of when you speak about them, people see that as a poor attitude and note it.
In regards to what you've said.
You need to prepare mentally for it and you need to figure out how to study appropriately for it along with finding yourself a support group, find some people better than you that you can discuss privately also helps, that sort of crap.
Or honestly you could consider quitting trying to go pro - ask yourself is it worth it, the job instability, mediocre pay, more time and effort, how much do you really want to work in this industry, etc.
Because it is entirely possible that you can put in a hard year's work, and it not pay off.
And here's where I stop having anything worth saying and piggy back off Josh's rant.
On the topic of Art courses and their shenanigans - I'll try to keep it brief but it's such a fun subject.
Here's a short insight into stuff that occurred for me and others at this particular place. (I did screen & VFX, but pretty much half of the subjects were combined/overlapped into games)
Pretty much every subject I had there was an unsuitable teacher overseeing it. Modelling & texturing for game engines, animation teacher is leading that. Modelling for anatomy (Zbrush), former lighting artist can handle that. Learning Nuke and VFX, network systems admin/ex-graduate will teach that (to be fair, he was decent). Script and story boarding, ex-game design graduate teaching that. Some classes you could tell that the teacher was learning along side the students through the poorly documented and outdated pdf they/you were provided. Present your screen/game pitch to industry experts, oh it's just the regular allotment of teachers and maybe if you're lucky the CEO's son that's running a failing mobile game dev studio that's produced nothing in there to offer some helpful expert advice on what sells.
Outdated course work/study/software, excessive focus on group work, pitches, overlapping and repetitive lectures (3 different subjects taught story boarding from scratch) Habitual habit of hiring fresh ex-graduates and unqualified people (Photographer/"indie game producer" is totally qualified to handle an Anatomy Zbrush class no problem). Students regularly passing subjects that they really should've failed or been held back, plagiarism, etc.
The entire thing was just a mess and everyone was to blame, students included - personally I wasted my first year. The amount of them that did no personal study, felt that everything was going to be ok and they just so-so wanted to work in the games or VFX industry and it was their dream and passion and they've been playing games since 7 years old and just were destined to do it. Yet 60+ hours of gaming a week, 3-10 hours of lectures just left no time to study. Concept art students that think a chicken scratched pencil drawing consisting entirely of a square, two smaller squares with crosses in the middle, a rectangle and a triangle is totally acceptable concept art of a broken down dystopian rusted out house. The students in their final year that don't know how to UV unwrap models, etc.
There was more but I digress.
(Broad generalizations incoming) Art institutes like every business exist purely to make money, 99% of students are boned and lazy, 98% of them don't know that, teachers are there to pay their bills and a lot of time they have to take on subjects outside of their ability so they can afford to eat and they feel bad/stressed about it too (I know mine did)
I was warned about art institutes, I was bored with life, I knew what I was getting into and it was still a disappointment and incredibly disheartening environment. But it's not their fault that I and others can't get a job and I don't think it's fair for people to blame them when there's been so many warnings out there.
Also fun read - http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=2&t=910025&page=1&pp=15
Edit: Also my favourite render of your space station is on your l4w thread but couldn't see it on in your portfolio.
Then there is my roommate, who goes to AI. He paid $40k (ish) to go there. He finishes his homework and then plays video games all day. He's been at a full time game art course for about a year now, and every time I ask him questions about stuff he doesn't have any clue what I'm talking about. I want to warn him that he should be working way harder, but its hard not to come off as rude when making a statement like that.
You already have the foundation, make something amazing out of it!!
The more you want to get better at art, the more you become isolated from the rest of the world. It becomes impossible to tell people around you how necessary it is to sacrifice every social activity to focus on my craft, but they only see it as weird and hopeless. It's a very demoralizing experience.
Blizzard was the most harsh lesson of this, I had to keep sending emails to one agency every other week (otherwise they wouldn't bother reaching out to me about open positions despite being on their list of applicants) when they finally had something I managed to land a temp job in Blizzards QA department, a job I was very happy to get and really thought things would turn around after that. Instead I discovered as a temp, I couldn't access any of the facilities there, no Blizzard Academy, no special events, and my contract was only on a month to month basis. Surely enough, after only ONE MONTH, they kicked me to the curve (admittedly QA was not my strong suit so I'll admit that I wasn't great at it but was eager to learn more) I asked if I had any potential for rehire and they said I just needed to apply next time they're hiring. The agency that put me there has still to this day not returned a single email since I was let go, and as for blizzard, I've applied for QA six times since then and each application came back rejected, when I tried to get back in through another agency, they told me Blizzard specifically stated they won't hire anyone who's worked there before, so the rehire promise was complete BS.
So thanks to AI, my apparently one and only shot of ever working for Blizzard was blown on a job I didn't even go there to major in and the school has the nerve to call that one experience a success and wash their hands of any obligation to further assist me.
as for how I spent my free time while attending the school, my default answer is, "what free time?" I was working a full time job (that often included weekends) while I was going to school and whatever time I had in between was spent on my class projects and considering I was earning straight As (which I know is not really relavent after graduation) for nine quarters in a row I was definitely putting my best foot forward in the eyes of my instructors.
So you worked at Blizzard for a month, and they let you go, because you weren't that great at QA? Then you keep applying for another job at Blizzard directly as well as through agencies? That sounds like a great way to get on the nerves of Blizzard's HR, I'd cut that out before they permanently refuse to ever look at your resume again. You're going to need to go about a different route if you 100% have to work at Blizzard. Find other companies, work your way up there, get your name out there so that the companies you want to work at actively seek you out.
If a dude named Bob worked at my company for a few weeks and didn't cut it, and we let him go, and then he applied for more work directly 6 times, and then had agencies applying for him as well, our HR would get extremely annoyed.
Whatever the case, you've gotta spend a ton of time spoofing up your skills and portfolio, and apply at places other than Blizzard. As Smash Mouth once said, "The world is gonna roll me." Some things in life are hard, you've chosen something that is very difficult to achieve, and so you're going to have to make time for it. Less sleep, less friends. For a while at least.
I've spent the last two years working other temp jobs outside the game industry, I was lucky enough to do some modeling for an indie game, but that project has been tied up in feature creep and over development since we missed our initial release date back in Dec 2016. I also managed to participate in a game jam and with any luck, the programmer I worked with will be available to collaborate with me on a future project.
I didn't have any prior QA experience and AI certainly didn't offer any course to at least explain the fundamentals of it, so naturally I wasn't an expert, but they seemed okay with that when I interviewed, saying they'd teach me what I needed to know, I just didn't expect them to demand I go from novice to expert in only two weeks.
If they told me that rehire was not possible, I never would have applied again, but because they encouraged me to apply again, I did. I've since given up on Blizzard, a real tragedy too because I've been a loyal customer of theirs since the original StarCraft, two of my instructors at AI are current Artists there and I learned a great deal from them, and I have defended them at great length as a good company to work for, since I could see how happy non-temps were in the brief time I was there.
Had I known that I can only work for blizzard ONE TIME EVER before being placed on their DNH list, I would have held off and waited till my portfolio was at least good enough to be considered for an artist position. Instead, AI convinced me QA was a solid route and would lead to better opportunities.
And I got this sense from their QA as an intern in 2011: the QA jobs will not leave you with time or energy that is meaningfully going to give you the effort to put into game art on your free time. And I was interested in being a content developer, not a tester. That a was a foot in the door for me, not my whole body.
It's good that you're still working on games, indie or not, shipped or not, they're still games. Keep doing that, and understandably if they're paid gigs, even better.
Okay so during uni:
1) Full Time Job
Did you ever get the sense that you needed to do more than just get the A with these assignments? A lot of the critiques I hear about students is that they fail to understand is that the grade is no real solid indication of the quality of their work given how relatively easy it is to achieve it.
I remember being reminded by an ex-JPL, ex-Riot, and now Treyarch Animation Engineer that my competition was not just my school, but people out there like those on Polycount or in Europe, etc.
Talking with a friend of mine who is an AI instructor in the Inland Empire, he emphasized how all you needed to do to get a good grade was turn in the HW, almost regardless of decent quality. That a large swath of the student body was not meeting basic academic diligence.
I remember in your last thread you said you only had 2-3 hours per week to work on your portfolio. If you want to improve and get the job that needs to change. Not to be harsh but that just leaves too much time in between working and each time you come back to the project you've already 'cooled' from it for a few days instead of the keeping the fire in the hearth going. Going at a project cold several times in a row is a recipe for stagnation and boredom, which just makes it more likely you'll want to drop it (at least in my experience).
Also, I worked QA in-house for a AAA developer (both as a contractor and then as a full timer), and when someone only lasted the minimum contract length when there were still active projects that needed warm bodies on them, it generally wasn't a good sign. Some people just aren't meant for QA, which is fine. But hounding them for a position which they already decided you weren't the right fit for isn't the right way to go about things. The game dev world is really small, and people do talk.
I guess in the end I'm still a little bitter from so many back to back disappointments, I had been dependent on achieving some measure of success after graduation before "real life" would catch up, now that it has I'm beginning to feel the pressure. From a lack of transferable skills to work in any other field, to a Family pressuring me to give it up and "find another career path" (as if that was something I could just do on a whim).
I still make art when I can and I have encountered that 'cooling' issue quite a few times, I'd like to think That working with more indie teams and participating in more game jams (as those were projects I could keep the fire lit and get constant feedback on my work from the team) can give me room for better portfolio pieces and a better resume.
I don't blame or hold ill will towards Blizzard or any of the AAA studios for this unfortunate chain of events, It's more of a "don't hate the player, hate the game" kind of situation. My anger with AI admittedly won't change anything, but I've only recently figured out what happened and naturally I still am pretty upset over it.
Practically speaking, if you can find a job that pays the bills at a minimum and protects your free time, I would prioritize that. For the time that I was doing seasonal groundskeeping at a Sammamish, Washington golf course, I appreciated how work ended at the 8 hour mark. And it wasn't art related, so I keep the mental juices for later that night with personal art or contract stuff.
I'd say your best bet is to pick a project that is large enough in scope to be a truly worthwhile portfolio piece but manageable enough that you can finish it. Then post it here, and you may not always get comments on your thread, but if you keep posting eventually someone will come along and provide direction. But most of all, just keep working. Always try to do something, even when it amounts to nothing. I try a bunch of conceptual stuff that I usually end up throwing away when I'm in between projects but I generally find something about it I can take with me.
This as well. I worked a landscaping job, where I spent the whole day alone in a truck going from job to job cutting down trees out in the forest and it was just a good time to think about my work. However when I switched to a desk job, I noticed when I came home to work on my portfolio my hands felt borderline carpal tunnel-y from working at computer all day and then come home to do another 3-4 hours. Also, sweating my ass off everyday gave me a shit ton of drive to work on my portfolio because I definitely didn't want to be doing that for the rest of my life.
Do you go to the Game Dev Drink Up either at the Dub or in LA?
LA's GameDevDrinkUp is at Busby's West in Santa Monica once a month. Forget which days. but there is an email reminder you can sign up for.
BTW, got involved in that 3Daily challenge, figured it would be a good way to practice. Made two props so far, first was okay, second was a bit better, I'd like to think it's helping.
the props are also in the critique section as well.
Based on this, I would say that you do absolutely nothing about having gone to a bad school, to get a degree for a field that has been overloaded with potential applicants for many years. You seemingly ignored a huge, obvious red flag. You can't go back in time and change your decision, and you can't blame the school excessively, since they clearly had a crappy placement rate when you were applying, and you knew what that placement rate was.
If they had misrepresented their placement rate, you should sue them, and/or join a class action lawsuit. I assume tons of people currently enrolling in these sorts of places are now being misled, and should eventually sue the people running who are lying to them about their potential 'cool future career' possibilities.
As other people have mentioned, you should just keep at it and try and make a career out of it anyway, or do something else for a career. It's pretty simple situation, although I understand that your situation is yucky. You have my sympathy. This is a tough time to be alive for lots of people in the world. There are lots of industrys that are over-supplied with potential workers, since so many hundreds of millions of people worldwide have entered the workforce in the last generation.
Side note: Hopefully you are well aware that having a very hard time getting a job in the game industry doesn't mean you are some sort of bad artist, or bad person. Live and learn, and go on to have a nice life despite this temporary setback.
As for A.I.'S placement rate when I first enrolled, 20% was definitely low, but the industry was always competitive so it makes sense that not everyone gets a job right out of the gate. What I couldn't forgive was the blatant lie they advertised (and still do) about making sure their admission screening and GAD program is a challenge to match that of the industry to ensure their graduates are good enough to meet its high standards. Instead they'll just let any poor sap in knowing full well they will be struggling forever. The other lie was their claim the degree is usefulness in other fields, which it's most certainly not, which is why I'm now going back to school for an IT degree.