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  • From Intern to Artist: How Diane Stevenson Broke Into the Game Industry

    [08.30.07]
    - Jill Duffy

  •  DS: I went to Parsons School of Design, and I went through the illustration program that they had set up. The program was actually training the students for editorial illustration.

    Once, I mentioned to a teacher that I wanted to do video game art and I remember that teacher shooting it down immediately, saying that that was completely unrealistic. They told me, "Don't even bother. Editorial illustration is what you should be doing," even though my work never looked like editorial illustration. But that's what they mostly focused on there.

    GCG: What degree did you get from Parsons?

    DS: BFA.

    GCG: What about your non-educational background? You mentioned to me earlier that you were born in Korea and, in a roundabout way, that's what got you interested in video games in the first place.

    DS: I was born there and at a young age I moved here to the U.S. There wasn't much technology where I came from. I was on my grandparents' farm in a really rural area.

    I came here and saw TVs and stuff and was kind of overwhelmed. And then I saw Atari! I played a lot of Atari. From there I bought almost every console that became available. I got into Nintendo, Gensis, Dreamcast ...

    GCG: Where you always looking at the artistic side of games?

    DS: The artwork for games definitely influenced me. I think video games was the one reason I got into illustration in the first place. I would play RPGs all the time. I remember playing Xenogears and being really excited about the character design (laughs)! The artwork heavily influenced me throughout my life.

    GCG: What other jobs have you had?

    DS: This is my first professional job. I had other freelancing jobs for illustration; I guess you can call that kind of professional, but it wasn't really. It was me searching for whatever was available on Craigslist and just doing artwork for random people. Nothing from that really went on my resume, though.

    I did some web site designs, a character design for a comic, comps for a children's book -- some of the things fell through, but some of them went through.

    I was just really excited about being an artist. For the longest time I didn't think I was going to be able to go to college as an artist. Once I did, I was just so excited that I became very motivated and kept working. I think a lot of it is being excited about what you're working for -- just being motivated and keeping yourself motivated.

    GCG: Would you say that's a trait you generally find from your co-workers, too?

    DS: I think so. In the video game industry, most people who are developing those video games play games and love them and that's why they're in the industry. I think a lot of people are excited about what they're working on and are excited about the end product, so that keeps them motivated.

     GCG: Specific to being an artist/designer/illustrator, what's the best part about your job?

    DS: The best part would probably be being able to have my artwork in a game, having that art appreciated by people. It's a pretty exciting thing to see a video game with your art in it. That's your personality. That's what you've done for, say, 12 months, and that's very satisfying.

    GCG: What games are you credited with?

    DS: Snapshot Adventures. Right now I'm working on an unannounced title. That's it so far; I'm still fairly new.

    Snapshot was a 12-month game, and I came in midway through that one. The one I'm working on now is a six-month title.

    GCG: What's the worst or hardest thing about being an artist?

    DS: It's hard to really say what makes something "good." It's also what audience you're doing it for, and also the fact that I don't really consider myself a casual gamer, but that's the kind of company I work for. Large Animal does casual games. It's hard to put myself outside my own eyes and design for another group of people. But it's a challenge. It's not always just frustrating. It can be exciting, too.

    GCG: What kind of overtime do you work?

    DS: With Snapshot, I had a lot of overtime. It was a very ambitious project. There were a few nights when I would stay pretty late.

    I think that happens with a lot of small companies because there are small teams working and because of that -- although there are positives to working on a small team -- there's a lot more work for each person.

    We actually did just start incorporating agile development into our work. That's the big thing with game development now. Agile development, I think in the long run, will prevent overtime and crunch time. A big part of it is being able to see in a sprint how much time it takes to do each task and whether you can do it by whenever your sprint ends. For us it's two weeks.

    GCG: What advice do you have for someone who's looking for their first job as a video game artist?

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