Student blog

Master of trades

Or rather, how to specialise on Computer Games Arts.

If you're thinking of studying Computer Games Arts at the Farnham campus it is worth taking a moment to think about how you might like to specialise down the line. The course is structured in such a way that you will get hands on and explore a great deal of creative disciplines. From 3D modelling, digital painting, texturing, programming and much more, you will be able to experience a lot. That said, however, it can be hard to find an area to specialise in as you move through the course. Unless you have a clear idea of what your path is going to be, and even if you already do, it is worth taking some time to think about.

THE JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF NONE

If you have ever heard the saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ before then you likely know what point I’ll be trying to make here. In short, if you have yourself spread thin across so many disciplines that you do not stand out in any one of those then you're going to fall short. Basic level knowledge of ten different creative disciplines is useful; we are all jacks-of-all-trades in some way or another. But if you’re not advanced or a master in at least one then you are missing out on your full potential.

Some smaller indie studios do look for ‘generalist’ more often than not. But, if you're a general generalist, you could still risk not securing a position with the studio. It is about finding a gap in the market, in a way and making sure you stand out to fill that gap. Being a master of at least one discipline will help do just that.

THE KING OF ONE, EXPLORER OF NONE

But if you focus just on one discipline, would that be a better option than wasting time with other disciplines? Generally speaking it isn’t. If you focus on just one discipline you risk running yourself a ground for the other reason - that is, not being adaptable and offering enough to the studio. Being an explorer of other disciplines can help you stand out, and at the same time support your main focus.

For example, let's say you’re a concept artist who draws spaceships and only spaceships; nothing more, nothing less. You stand out in that field because you are highly skilled at drawing spaceships and that makes you a variable asset to a studio if they need someone to draw spaceships. If, say, you could also model, texture and maybe even animate those spaceships, you are effectively a whole production pipeline in one person. You might still only be hired for the concepting but it opens up any number of extra doors to help get you into the industry in the first place. At the end of the day, how many studios need a spaceship concept artist? Some of course, but not all of them, so try not to lock yourself down.

THE HYBRID OF BOTH, THE SUPPORTIVE

As I've already said it is a solid idea to have a core discipline that you focus on, and then have a number of extra disciplines to support that specialism. On the Computer Games Arts course at the Farnham campus you are encouraged to have at least two extra disciplines. This links back to what I said about how being a concept artist who can model, texture and maybe even animate is a better option than just being a concept artist.

The hybrid position puts you into the best position to adapt to any studio you might secure work with, along with allowing you to have a lot of fun. More often than not exploring new skills and tools ends up benefiting you in ways you could not have guessed. For example, I specialised in animation in my final year but also explored rigging and scripting. This means I can adapt to a number of job positions including animator, rigger, technical animation and a few more. Of course, like anything, there is still a long way to go.

PASSING THOUGHTS

I’m not trying to pressure you to change yourself against your own will. It should be you who explores and discovered what works best for you, and if you want to focus on one thing then go for it. Just be prepared to have to really stand out from the crowd - and likewise to those who go hybrid as well. You will still need to work hard and really push yourself to stand out. Taking all of the above into account, consider the following moving forward:

  • Be adaptable; be flexible; be hard working.
  • Look for at least two support disciplines to work with your core focus.
  • Changing your mind is fine; always stay hungry.
  • Explore job positions within industry and look to fill a gap.
  • Enjoy yourself; don’t panic; have fun learning.

The games industry is always changing, and it will have changed dramatically by the time you finish studying the three years of Computer Games Arts. So if you’re thinking of joining the course, or have just started, do seriously think about the above and look to apply that to yourself. At the end of the day you will explore and experience a lot on the course so make it count, don’t waste the chance to find a new calling.

So good luck, have fun and enjoy your learning.