By Leroy Sutton
Earlier this year, I made a big move. I left Arizona and headed to Louisiana. This was a huge transition for me, because Arizona was the longest I had ever lived in one place. It was the first place that felt like home to me, which made it the hardest to leave. But there are no video game jobs in Arizona, so I had to go to start my career.
Growing up in neighborhoods riddled with gang and drug activity, games kept me grounded in many ways. Games were my escape and provided me with career goals, something to aspire to. I suffered a lot of loss throughout my childhood, and I escaped my sadness through. I put a lot of attention into studying games. I delved into the artistry, drawing characters from games and cartoons. Not only did I draw, I practice the voices of those characters.
I went to college for game design. There I was exposed to all aspects of the process. I learned game design, documentation, user interface, art, programming, story writing/telling, level design and more throughout those years. I became proficient in using industry standard programs such as 3DS Max, and Photoshop. This fueled my passion, and in my free time, I learned other programs like Maya, ZBrush, and Visual Studio.
The artistry, which is my first love, is comprised of smaller entities: character art, environmental art, animations, asset creation and user interface. Character artists bring a game’s heroes and villains to life, often spending years tending to details such as body positions and sleeve creases. Environment art is what makes a scene look good, encompassing things like mountains and rocks in landscapes. Asset artists design objects you may see in the background, like tables, cars and houses. User interface art involves the graphics in a game, and animation gets everything moving in harmony.
I am partial to character art and character design, which is the development of a character’s factitious back story for that. Throughout my struggles as a child, I became very good at coming up with a whole new identity and a story of the past of that identity. Everything the character does and wears has to come from somewhere. For example, if your character is wearing a scarf, why does he wear it? My answer might be: the scarf belonged to his mother, a woman the character never met because she vanished after the character was born. Both throughout my childhood and even still today, video games are a kind of therapy for me. At first they were a world to which I escaped. Now they are a world over which I wield control.
Today I am working as a game tester at Electronic Arts. This is quality control for games that are in development. I am looking for mistakes and reporting those errors. I am definitely enjoying my first job and learning a lot. I miss Arizona, but I know this is where I need to be to reach my ultimate goal — to become a character designer. I’m working hard to get my foot in that door, so to speak (ha!).