VIDEO GAMES DESIGN - A WOMAN'S PERSPECTIVEMy name is Lynsey Graham, and I’m a games designer at Blitz Games Studio. My job is incredibly varied, with the work changing according to the specific project I’m working on and the stage of development of the project. I write documents, create map layouts and diagrams, put the levels together in a 3D world editor and work with the design team to decide what the player experiences throughout a game.

 

Lack of support

My path into the video games industry was a slightly odd one. I’d always loved games, and I’d always wanted a ‘creative’  job, but it wasn’t until I’d finished my A-Levels that I realised I could have a career in the games industry. My original plan was to become an artist – I went to college and did a Foundation Course in Art & Design, followed by a degree in illustration at university. These were both very traditional art courses and unfortunately, the tutors weren’t exactly supportive when I told them that I wanted to go into the games industry. One of their responses was: “Well, lots of little boys and girls want to do that, but we all have to grow up eventually!”

Competition

Despite the lack of support for my planned profession, I graduated with high hopes. Any hope of walking straight into a job was quickly squashed, however. At the time, several games studios had recently gone bust, which flooded the market with experienced artists. I was a graduate with no 3D skills and no knowledge of the software used by the industry. And, despite my degree, I couldn’t get a job.

Getting a foot in the door

But I persevered. I also did a lot more research into the industry itself to find out what skills I would need to give myself a greater chance of landing a job. I worked in retail for two years and saved up for 3D Studio Max training courses. I also realised that QA (games testing) was a good way to get started in the industry. I kept an eye on the job pages in Edge Magazine and on industry recruitment sites like www.aswift.co.uk. Eventually I landed my first job in QA, where I worked for nine months until the projects ran out, when I found myself unemployed.

Multi-skilled

My QA role had given me a foot in the door and a month later, I was working as designer, QA technician, 3D artist, and producer on a small team making mobile phone games. When you’re on a team of four people, the ability to multitask is highly valued! The fact that I had 3D modelling skills, I’d worked in QA and I had good English skills all meant that I was perfect for a job that required versatility.

Working my up from the bottom

A year later, I applied to Blitz as a junior designer. Going from making tiny 2D mobile phone games to making complex games for the home consoles was a huge leap. Everything was on a much larger scale. The teams are obviously a lot bigger, which can seem a little intimidating at first, and the technology so much more advanced and complex. Fortunately, Blitz has a good mentoring scheme for new starters so I quickly got into the swing of things.

Realising my dream

From my experience, video gaming is a great industry to be in. You have to work hard and sometimes put in very long hours, but it’s hugely rewarding to see a game come from nothing to being finished and on the shelves. I love that I’ve achieved my childhood ambition of having a creative career, and although it sometimes seemed hard, I’m glad I never gave up on that dream.

Lynsey Graham
Games Designer, Blitz Games Studio



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