How The Prince’s Trust and NextGen helped Paris get started in the Games Industry

We recently spoke with Paris Lucke about how The Prince’s Trust ‘Get Started in Games Design’ course, delivered in partnership with NextGen, helped start her journey to working in the Games Industry.

Could you please introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Paris Lucke and I'm currently a 3D Artist at Pineapple Studios Ltd.

What is your creative background? How did you get interested in the creative industries?

At school, my favourite subject was art. I wanted to learn in further education how to bring my art to life, this led me to doing a motion graphics and animation course in college that introduced me to 3D animation. I then pursued 3D animation at degree level where I really fell in love with 3D art and 3D modelling, so when I graduated, I was looking for a career doing that and now I’ve got one in the games industry!

What was your situation before you started The Prince's Trust course?

My situation since graduating has been finding employment. When COVID hit in 2020 and we went into our first lockdown, everything just went dead silent for months. It was hard to get a response from anywhere, all the networking events were cancelled, and just everything went quiet. I found out about The Prince's Trust from the job centre prior to lockdown and signed-up, keeping an eye out for something relating to my interests. When I saw the games design course was in partnership with NextGen, I felt some hope as I already knew who NextGen were - I had met them previously at an Access:VFX event. I knew the course would be something I was interested in, and my highest hope was that whoever I met from NextGen would be able to help me as I had a degree and portfolio. I’ve heard many times that what I do is niche, and people didn’t know how to help me - I knew that wouldn’t be the case here.

I did the course to fill in the blanks about what is different for games compared to what I learned about the pipeline for animated film. Doing my industry research, I saw that animated films are moving to real time rendering using game engines, Blue Zoo’s “Ada” was made using Unreal Engine for example, and London Siggraph did a 3-part webinar series exploring how Unity is revolutionising the filmmaking process. It all links up and seems the way forward so I gave the games design course a go, also as an introduction to designing for game engines. I had always considered working in games too as I knew of people who had graduated from my uni who went into games and of course, because I love video games.

Can you tell me a bit about what you did on the course?

The course was for five days, the task for the week was to create a games design document that we would use to pitch our simulation game ideas at the end to our peers, mentors, and industry guests. It was run by Marcia Deakin from NextGen, Stephen Hey who works in game marketing and Adam Barker, producer and UX designer. We learnt about the whole process of creating a game from concept to release and everything that goes into it: roles, genres, game loops, game mechanics - lots of things I hadn't realised about the games I play! The course also featured guest speakers from Sony PlayStation, we heard about their individual, varied journeys into the games industry, what they do, their advice to us who are just starting out and if time, Q+A. It was just so nice to meet people that were in the industry and talk to them.

By the end of the week, I had more hope and motivation that COVID had knocked, and a reunion day the following week to look forward to all about employability and things we could do to improve our chances.

After specialising in animation, how did you find the transition into games design?

Pretty good actually, it’s amazing just how transferable skills and knowledge are. A big part of what I learned making my graduate film was storytelling. What am I communicating with my audience? How am I immersing them in this story? What am I getting them to experience? The same logic applies to game design, just how the audience interacts with your project is different because you’re using a controller. The brief was to make a simulation game - all games to some extent have a story, even Pac-Man and The Sims. It’s the whole initiative of storytelling using these mediums that has me hooked on this line of work.

What were your actions after the course finished?

Luckily, the week after the reunion day was Games Careers Week which the course introduced me to and was all over Twitter. There were all these online events and I discovered amazing studios that I hadn’t heard of before. Professionals were hosting online webinars on topics such as interviews, portfolio, and CV advice - tailoring it all to games, Q+As, studios talking about their latest releases etc. I even made a few new LinkedIn connections!

Marcia also introduced me to a mentoring site called Limit Break Mentorship which started accepting applications a few weeks after the course finished, I’m now being mentored by a Lead 3D Environment Artist. After the reunion day too, she also reached out to Blue Zoo and helped me connect with their lead recruiter.

After Games Careers Week, Marcia sent me a list of studios that were offering Kickstart positions via Into Games on Hitmaker. This is where I found Pineapple Studios advertising. I applied to a few jobs and heard back from Pineapple within a week inviting me for an interview, hours later I was offered the job and started the following Monday!

I had heard about the Kickstart scheme before this, but I hadn't actually seen any Kickstart job posts anywhere - especially in games or animation until Hitmarker. Apparently, you can only access them through your work coach, and I hadn't heard from mine for about six months or so prior because of COVID and the steep rise in unemployment. No communication, no next steps, no recommendations - nothing, I was on my own and I temporarily gave up job hunting altogether. But thanks to this course and Games Careers Week, I was introduced to the stuff that's still out there and how the industry has adapted to the pandemic.

That must have been quite a difficult time, how did you keep yourself motivated?

I switched my focus from job hunting to self-improvement, focusing on developing my skills and improving my portfolio. Most job descriptions tell you what they look for specifically in a 3D Artist and I could see some gaps in my portfolio and CV, so I did my best to teach myself new software and did a few mini projects demonstrating to myself what I had newly learned. I keep a blog to keep track of my progress too.

After I did the course, to me, it did seem like all of a sudden, the clouds had lifted, and the industry came back to life. In 2020, I didn't hear from no-one, no rejections, no interviews, nothing. Then all of a sudden, I had three interviews in one day, and a job offer by the time I finished my second interview! Opportunities are out there again despite COVID, you just have to keep trying to find them, and it helps to meet people that can help you find them. Don't underestimate the power of networking!

You've now been in your position for nearly a month now. How's that going?

I'm loving it! They use Blender so I’ve had to make the switch after spending five years learning Maya but it's great and again it’s just transferring existing skills. It's everything I learned just in different software, it’s not scary, but it is a challenge at times. I'm still adjusting to the change too after being unemployed for so long, it feels quite surreal still, and working from home was never how I imagined my first formal employment would be.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about taking the get into game design course?

I would recommend the course to anyone, if you're seriously thinking about pursuing this as a career, this course is a brilliant starting point. They give you all the information you need to get started with after care too, I had follow ups with both Marcia and my Prince’s Trust mentor. I think the reason me and Shivani got jobs not long after is because we had existing work behind us ready to show employers and our passion was quite evident, all we were missing before was information and confidence which this course gave us. You do hear a lot that it's about the work and your portfolio. While it is nice for people to hear about your passion, if you haven't got any work to demonstrate that passion then a studio isn’t going to hire you to do a job if they haven't seen what you can do.

One of the most valuable things this course offered me is the feeling that you're not on your own. Afterwards, all of us on the course made a Discord server to keep in touch.

Finally, what games are you playing at the moment?

I’ve been nostalgic with my gameplay recently, I’m very close to completing Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies on DS.

Thank you Paris! You can check out some of Paris's work here, and register your interest for future 'Get Started' courses with The Prince's Trust here.

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