Written by Guest blogger
This is a guest blog by Meijia, a BU student studying BA (Hons) Computer Animation Arts.
Meijia set herself a real challenge on her placement at CooCooSqueaky, a small independent games developer based in Bournemouth. Despite her talents in computer animation, Meijia had no prior experience with games, so everything she learnt at the company was new and really enabled her to develop her skills. “I had never used Unity before so a lot of things did not make sense to me in the beginning; but now as I am learning about game engines I have become more confident about working in a game industry than before.” said Meijia.
Prior to the placement she had never expected that she would to be able to produce anything to a professional standard but, now, she has a new confidence about her abilities. “The placement has pushed me and made me realise that I’m capable of doing more than I thought! When I was in second year I used an entire month to create a character, but now I have become more familiar with the workflow, and I can create a character in two weeks! My supervisor told me that professional artists only need 5 days, which still seems impossible to me, but I would like to think that I am getting there!”
The placement also offered Meijia an opportunity to gain broad experience within the industry. “I wasn’t just doing 3D character modelling and texturing, I was also getting involved in different parts of the production! During times when I did not have new character tasks I was given the chance to learn to implement level environment, translating parts of the game into my native language…I even had the honor to design the game’s official Steam emoticons!” she said.
Meijia continued “During university I had many things I wanted to do (such as participate in game jams, join societies, learn new things, do art commissions) but I just never had the time to because of the endless assignment deadlines! However, being on this placement allowed me to try out different things in my free time, not to mention the placement itself already gave me a lot of new knowledge and experiences.”
Reflecting back, Meijia says “I am very glad that I took a placement year. Before the placement I was very under-confident in my abilities, I felt that I couldn’t stand out from the rest of my coursemates, and I even wasn’t sure if I could confidently go into my final year and graduate successfully. But now I have gained a lot of experience in 3D modelling and texturing, which gave me a stronger direction; taking a year away from university also gave me a lot of time to think about my final year project, and I have gained a lot of confidence in my own ability!”
Meijia has some advice for any students currently considering their placement options. “When searching for placement opportunities, don’t just limit to websites and MyCareerHub,” she says “but also ask around in real-life! My boss was very keen on getting placement students, but never thought of advertising on MyCareerHub – I came across the company’s playtest opportunity on the BU Anime society page, then asked about placement opportunity, then secured my placement shortly afterwards!”
Furthermore, Meijia advises “During your placement year you will still have a lot of free time, use it wisely! If you are an animation student like me, you can learn a new software, build up portfolio, or in my case – I opened an Etsy store where I do regular art commissions for some pocket money!”
Andrew Livy, Director at CooCooSqueaky Ltd said “Meijia is doing very important work and has really stepped up to the challenge. I wasn’t specifically looking for a placement but in my experience those who are more driven and take initiative are far more likely to be more invested in the work that they do and therefore produce great work as a result.”
Andrew also provided some useful advise for future placement students. “Getting a job in the game industry is tough. Students that have managed to get a placement are far more likely to build upon their portfolio and dramatically increase their employability. Without a placement, gaining meaningful employment in this particular field will be much more challenging as there is less to show experience wise and those with a placement will have an obvious advantage over those who do not.”
He added “Having a portfolio is a real benefit, if you’re an artist then try and show off what you are capable of, if you’re a programmer then demonstrate what existing projects you may have worked upon and how you contributed to them. Being able to demonstrate what you’re able to do holds much more value than a CV. A CV telling me what you’ve done in your life is good but it gives me no sense as to what quality your work is, what sort of style you may hold (with regards to art) nor any other details such as areas you might be able to fit in with or improve upon but a quick glance at a portfolio can demonstrate very quickly all of those details.”