Ada Lovelace Day: The 3D Game Artist

I was keen to write something for Ada Lovelace Day this year, but have to admit that I’ve found it extremely  tricky to narrow my inspiration down to just one woman. Do I tell you about an ex-colleague, Laura Rodrigues, who is a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Head of Faculty at LSHTM? Do I write about a friend, Leah Ridgway, who is a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics at the University of Liverpool? Do I share the songs of Helen Arney, who is one third of Festival of the Spoken Nerd, or talk about how Elizabeth Varley set up TechHub? It’s fantastic that I have met so many women who are working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and who are inspiring others, but I really can’t tell you about them all or we’d be here all week!

The Ada Lovelace Day website says that “the aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.” That reminded me of a friend who always talks very enthusiastically about her job in a male-dominated industry, so I’d like to introduce you to the most creative geek I know. An American, now living and working in London, Allie Katz is a 3D Game Artist for Kuato Studios, who are currently developing (using next-generation Siri tech) an iPad game that will teach kids and teens to code. Talk about inspiring the next generation! I couldn’t resist the chance to ask Allie a bit more about her role and how she got there.

Lori: Can you tell me what being a 3D Game Artist entails?
Allie: I get to be one of the creators of visuals for the game I’m working on. Because of my background in 3D art, I primarily take the concept art and turn a 2D image into a 3D model than can be used within the game engine. This can include everything from pieces of environment to scary creatures to bits of prop. If you can see it in the game, chances are I played a part in creating the visuals.

Lori: Fantastic! So, what did you study at school/college to get into 3D art?
Allie: I studied at a private art school, and got my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Media Arts and Animation. I do, however, know most of my colleagues have a Bachelors of Computer Science, and that appears to have worked quite well for them too. Because I studied and worked in the States initially, I do not have a Masters because they are actually a hindrance to have there. My understanding though is that there are lots of great Masters programs for 3D artists and animators here in the UK.

Lori: What’s it like being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Allie: I’m not going to lie; it’s not particularly easy. When I started out 5+ years ago, I got berated and belittled a lot for being a woman; I obviously couldn’t wrap my head around ‘male’ things like monsters and guns and tanks. There are lots of men out there who think that gaming belongs to guys, and I enjoy consistently breaking this stigma. Sometimes it can be a lot harder to land the job if there’s a strong ‘boys club’ vibe going at a particular company. I am, however, happy to say that I feel like in the last 5 years things have improved a lot, and refusing to back down or keep my mouth shut has paid off. I am exceptionally proud to be a pioneer in this industry, it was worth the fight!

Lori: Do you have any advice to give to women looking to work in the games industry?
Allie: Please don’t let yourself get talked out of it! If you are passionate about games, and about your area of specialization, whether that’s art or programming or user experience, put your best work out there and own it. Walk into that interview knowing that what’s in your pants doesn’t have any bearing on your skill, and don’t let anyone make you think it does. And whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. This industry is competitive to EVERYONE. You owe it to yourself to keep trying to do the best work you can and get it out there. :) We need you in the ranks!

Image via baronsquirrel‘s Flickr photostream.

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