Small Is The New Big
Have you started a project and then just completely lost the plot? Kind of forget even why you’re doing it?
Sometimes, the scale of a project creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. Really, just a gap where we literally have no idea what we’re supposed to do next.
In psychology speak, they have a thing called Chunking that’s useful. You take a large task and just break it down into smaller, more achievable tasks.
The important thing about Chunking is making it achievable. That’s Number One.
In order for something to be achievable, you have to have a clear goal or outcome.
A lot of times, my students will tell me, “I just want to work in a AAA Game Studio.” But that’s vague and mysterious. It’s easy to get lost in a goal as broad as that.
Maybe you don’t want to be a Game Artist, but you want to start your own company and you say, “I want to make 1 million dollars a year.” Well, there are 1 million ways to make $1 million a year. You can open a McDonald’s franchise, create online courses, create your own game studio… Or is that how you lose $1 million a year…?
Either way, there is a risk to your choice. And, if your goal is vague, then it opens up a Choice Paradox.
Now, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you’ve never heard the phrase Choice Paradox before. I haven’t. I just made it up.
But let’s take, for example, an Artist who wants to work in Games. He or she wants to work on AAA games or in some big company.
With that broad goal, there are dozens of options that all effectively cancel each other out.
I could focus on Realism and build beautiful, organic scenes. I could create very cool sci-fi corridors with extensive modularity. I could create cityscapes in urban environments from the 1600s. I could create castles. I could create spaceships. I could create forests.
The problem is… Which of these am I going to choose? Which of these am I going to choose to focus my limited amount of time on?
There are 52 weeks in a year. You want to get a job in one year. That means you have 52 chunks of working time to build the Portfolio and the Skills necessary to be a Job Candidate.
Are you going to spend those 52 units of time creating a castle, and then the spaceship, and then a forest, and then a…?
You see the Paradox? All of those choices are valid. But you have a limited amount of resources.
So, you stand here with this ambition to be an Environment Artist, but you’re no closer to your goal.
When we add specificity to the goal, that’s when we can build a plan. That’s when we can start to organize our 52 units of time into a meaningful and intentional momentum forward.
So, when my students tell me they want to work at a AAA game studio… I ask them which one. When they say, “I don’t know. Any.” I tell them, “You’ve got three days to figure it out and decide on one studio.”
If they come back and they say, “I want to work at Sucker Punch Games.” (where my friend Melissa Altobello works), then I tell them they need to research all the Environment Artists that work there and have worked there and they need to build a portfolio along those lines. They need to know what they’re working on next. And they need to include that in their planning for the year.
The problem with Environment Arts is that there are literally hundreds of things that have to be worked on.
So, for Environment Artists, I always recommend one thing: Create Dioramas. Small scenes that allow you to work at the aesthetic and the technical angles without getting caught up in dealing with the entire scene itself.
But, even if you’re not an Environment Artist, this message is still important.
If you want to be a Sculptor, or Character Artist, or a Painter…
What is your goal?
Is it specific?
Can you build a plan around it?
Or does it create a Choice Paradox?
What do you specifically want to achieve?
And then, the final question for you today is:
What is the one thing you can do in the next 48 hours that’s going to help you get there?
P.S. Here’s the link for Anya Jo Elvidge’s environment course: https://www.gameartinstitute.com/stylized-environment-art-creation-for-games-with-anya-jo-elvidge