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October 05, 2016

Learning the industry from the get-go

Q + A with Game Design major Zach James

Learning the industry from the get-go

What made you want to major in game design?
I’ve been playing games since I was really little, and as soon as I figured out it could be a career option, I thought that was really awesome. Reading about the program here and seeing that it covers every single aspect of the game design pipeline, that really pulled me in. And seeing that the faculty are all working artists out in the field was a big selling point as well.

What does it mean to you to have professors who are also working professionals?
It validates them when they’re coming in to teach these classes. They have the experience. They’ve gone out and done it. They know what they’re talking about. For instance, Michael Wu, a professor who was teaching here last semester, worked for Bungie, and I believe he was the art director for one of the Halo games. Not only has he worked on a big game, but he was also the art director. He ran the show. He knew how to manage groups and how to work with a team, and basically the students became his new team. Getting that real world perspective on what we do here really improves what we do.

What does it mean to have your own studio space?
Having my own studio space was another big selling point of the Cleveland Institute of Art. At most art and design schools, sometimes you don’t even get your studio until junior, if not senior, year. And that’s pretty late to have your own workspace. Knowing that sophomore year here you get your own designated work space is really awesome.

Tell us about your internship.
I’m working with Deck of Dice. It’s a start-up company making its first mobile game. Last semester, they came to the Cleveland Institute of Art and got another student and I on board. We’ve been making art assets for them. And this semester they hired three more students, so there’s now a team of five working for Deck of Dice.

How do you like the campus environment?
The location of CIA here in Cleveland is really nice. You have all of the art museums, the natural history museum. Little Italy is right here. You’ve got Coventry just down the road, with Blick, a really nice art supplies store. University Circle itself is a really nice area. The shops just down the street on Euclid are wonderful. It’s very well kept. It feels safe.

What has surprised you the most?
I think the number of options across the board. When I looked into CIA, I thought, “Wow, 15 majors, that’s crazy.” And, within some of them, you can branch out three or four different ways. So you could say there are 20, 30, 35 majors here. I was also surprised by how many clubs and organizations there are that are student-run. There are a lot of really great resources here for students.

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