Tuesday, 26 April 2016

An Introduction to the World of VFX by Fee Stewart

Written by Duncan Van Den Top (Year 7) and Joe Lea (Year 9) Student Reporters

On Thursday 14th April 2016, Fiona Stewart (one of the few female game makers in the country) came to our school to talk about Visual Effects ‘VFX’ and Game design. This is our report on the happenings.

10:30 – Fiona Stewart arrives. She is welcomed by Joe and is brought into the Auditorium where she starts to set up her presentation. There is some minutes left before the talk. We approach Fiona and have a chat about what I (Joe) want to do in the future and it turns out the conversation to be very insightful.

11:00 – The students arrive. After around 5 minutes everyone is seated and ready. And soon the show begins. Fiona starts by introducing herself and what she does daily in her work place. She works from home. Her job is amazing and we got to see a video of how the brilliance of visual effects (VFX) creates life like images and characters.

She then talks about jobs that are available in the VFX field; and surprisingly, most of these jobs are based in Britain! When you work in VFX industry it may mean you work in film, television or the advertising industry. Wow! We now know more clearly about the different areas in VFX and how bigger companies like EA want you to be good at specific things whereas the smaller companies like Indi like people with lots of different qualities.

Fiona explains to us how at the start of a job you will have to work your way up. In the game industry you would begin as a runner . For your information a runner is someone who helps the studio to run smoothly and to learn the tools of visual effects VFX at the same time. The runner will also test a section of a game hundreds of times to see if there is a bug.

There are some steps in making games:

Development - idea plan, before any great game is made an idea must first be created for what your game is going to be about , you will need to share your ideas with your team and improve on it before you move on to pitching the idea to a company.

Pre-Production – pitch, where your team presents your idea to a company that can fund the project. You may have to pitch your idea to more than one company before it gets funded.

Production –During the process of producing a game, the QA needs to make sure that the game is bug and glitch free and that everything is running smoothly.

According to Fiona, Science and Maths are very important in the gaming industry. If you wanted to start, depending on your qualifications, you would either begin as a QA who plays a section of a game to test for bugs, or if you had better qualifications you would be put in a higher position, for example, as a designer. You would choose your own path, paint backgrounds and add more pictures in front to make it look real.

Formerdroid LTD, the gaming company that Fiona formed along with her other colleagues, gave her the chance to go to China to see her game presented at an awards evening and she also got an award for the top 100 women in games. One of the many pieces of her honest advice is to listen to others, but to also go on your own path and do what you want to do. Additionally networking is always good.

To get started you can study programming which you can start learning now, as a Year 9 student by choosing ICT as one of your options. You can learn what C++ is. You can also make games on Game Maker which is an application that our school provides for free! You can study Pop Culture, Psychology and English as well as take part in competitions, do research , work in a team and most of all, you must LOVE WHAT YOU DO!

The following are some more thoughts Fiona shared with us (the student reporters) after the audience left.

When did you start working in this game designing industry?

In the 1990s

Whilst designing a game, what are you most worried about?

Things always go wrong but you need to adapt to what might go wrong with a new coding.

If you weren't in the industry what would you do?

I would probably want to do something with art.

What did you do when you had children?

I worked at home.

What was your favourite subject?


If you could switch place with something what would it be?

Giraffes because they are wonderful animal.

What is the difference between a game and a game console?

A game is software, a console is hardware. You can't touch a game but you can touch a console.

What is the basic difference in designing games for boys and girls?

Colours are different between girls and boys as boys see brown, grey, green and darker colours; thus boys’ games have more of these colours and girls like more vibrant colours and so girls’ games have brighter colours.

Daizy (our reporter of Year 7) believes that there should be more girls so there are more different games not just the same.

Some more very interesting facts we learned from Fiona:

Today’s games are different from years ago as everything is improved for there is more ram which means you can put more in games.

52% of women play mobile games as girls like games to pick up and put down. The main reason for this is that in computer games you have to wait to save which take away and so they like games which they can pause and play.

Once we had finished our interview we took a lovely group photo outside the school and soon we were back inside helping Fiona clear up. We all got a booklet about careers in visual effects VFX.

Our Special thanks to Fiona Stewart and the national charity Into Film who has given us this brilliant opportunity! We still remember Fiona’s advice very vividly: “Form a group of friends who have the same passion and start doing small projects”. Yes! We will.