Get to Know a GameDev: Lyndsey Gallant
There is no magic pill for success in the game industry, and hard work is the only surefire way to chase down a dream job. Lyndsey Gallant is one person who understands this very well. Starting from a concept artist internship, she ran the marathon equivalent of a 5 year stint up the ranks at XMG; giving her a world of experience and the title of Art Director.
This Nova Scotia native didn’t stop there; Lyndsey is a pillar of the Toronto gaming community and met us while working with Torontaru social events. She has since been at Guru Studio and launched a freelance career; a great example of how hard work truly pays off.
In our latest Get to Know a GameDev, we feature Creative/Art Director Lyndsey Gallant:
What would be your unofficial title, if you were describing your role in gaming?
I’m a creative director / art director, so that encompasses such a variety of different roles as it is! I also do production art, UI/UX, game design, and basically whatever else needs doing at any given time. Unofficially, I’ve liked to think of myself as the “Paladin” of whatever team I’m working with (at least when I’m in a management role, anyway). Might not be the highest DPS or healing, but I provide a buff aura that helps everyone do their role more effectively!
Is there anything “weird” about your job?
Probably that [making game art] isn’t all glamorous character design and drawing fun scenes in whichever way or style that you want. There’s a lot of repetitive work and drawing minor variations of one design over and over again. There’s a lot of reworking single designs until they’re good enough, or designing more ‘mundane’ things like UI buttons, items, or background objects. Furthermore, not everything you make can always be according to your own personal tastes. Sometimes you have to make something that isn’t your cup of tea, and still make it to the best of your ability, because someone else is paying you to do it.
If you can’t get as excited about the creative prospects of designing a bunch of crates as you can making a new character design, you may be disappointed by the job overall. In every task there’s something challenging that you can delight in, and the key is being able to find that in anything and everything.
Do you have any game industry heroes/role models?
Every single woman and minority (visible or otherwise) who chooses to stay in this industry and make it better even in the face of potential vitriol, disrespect, and harassment from audience and industry peers alike.
Did you always want to make art for games?
I’m one of those people who was stubborn enough to stick to their childhood dream, even if it’s kind of an insane one. From an early age I loved art, loved games, and was lucky enough to have a family who were happy to encourage both. I think what really got me thinking about the connection between art and games was the concept art sketches included in the player’s manual for the original Warcraft games. They were the coolest thing I had ever seen to that point, and I remember thinking even at age 7 or something, “I want to do this when I grow up”.
What did you do before you worked in the game industry?
I had a brief stint teaching cooking classes and doing a bit of catering to help pay my way through art school. I’ve always had an affinity for cooking, something about creating a thing that you can share with people on a deeply visceral level probably had the same appeal to me that art does. Through my experiences working in catering I decided culinary arts was definitely not the path for me, (it’s exhausting and I really respect those who do it professionally, oh man) but I’m immensely grateful I got the opportunity to try it before pledging myself 100% to game art. It kind of allowed me to shed any lingering doubts.
So when did you get your “break” in games?
My trajectory was about as boring as it could be! (Sorry readers!) No huge defining moments, no big breaks, really. The motions I went through were pretty typical, but I did totally work my ass off. I spent most of my time in high school studying art like crazy, went to art school, and got an internship job as a concept artist in my 3rd year.
Just a couple weeks after graduating, I applied to XMG Studio, who were hiring for a 2d generalist at that time. They needed background paintings, and luckily, that was my speciality at the time! I did a ton of research to make sure my portfolio was as relevant to the job I wanted as possible, worked hard to make it as high quality as I was capable at the time, and I landed the job! I stayed there for nearly five years, working my way up the ranks until I eventually became Art Director.
I left XMG earlier this year (with a heavy heart – they’re a really lovely group of people), and then put in a few months as Creative Director of the gaming division at Guru Studio. Now I’m taking a break from the full time studio thing to freelance, focus on my own projects, learn some new stuff, and see where that all takes me.
What (if any) personal challenges have you faced during your career?
The biggest one for me honestly, is probably self doubt and anxiety. When I tell people this they’re usually a little shocked because I’m a totally confident person – which I think is what makes it such an important thing to talk about. Some of the most incredible people I know struggle with problems of self doubt, anxiety, impostor syndrome, etc, and yet so many of us feel we are alone in this experience or just become very adept at concealing it. That’s why it’s so important for communities of people to form together (and Toronto has an amazing game industry so I’m incredibly fortunate there) so that we can all build each other up and celebrate the victories of our peers.
Powerful advice. Has your career had any major high or low points?
I don’t feel I’ve had very many low points in my career as of yet. I’ve been immensely fortunate to have had great experiences learning and pushing myself forward with really amazing peers, and I couldn’t ask for more. Taking the “wrong turn” is only truly bad if we stop moving forward. I’m feeling like I’m at the high point of my career right now. Recently taking the plunge to be self employed and running my own business is incredibly exhilarating. Very excited for the future!
What’s been the biggest change in games since you started playing?
Mobile gaming wasn’t a really a thing when I was a super avid gamer, much less the “freemium” games”, and now VR. I was always into really PC games, primarily FPSes and really time consuming min-maxey MMORPGs, so having the opportunity to make mobile games and try to translate the lessons from my hardcore gaming youth to a more mainstream casual audience has been really cool.
Also just seeing gamers as a whole become more varied and diverse in their representation and consumption has been exciting. The more people there are playing games, the more opportunities for creation we have as developers. It’s a great time to be a creator!
So many games have had an emotional impact on me that it’s definitely hard to nail down just one, but Journey was huge. I played the game initially knowing absolutely nothing about it, thinking it was a single player game, actually. When player two was introduced, I thought they were an NPC until a few minutes in, when they started mimicking the symbols I was making. We started rhythmically symbolling back and forth, taking turns, and it hit me super hard (for some reason) that it was a real person. I actually started crying; I totally got what the creators were going for. In a medium where PCs are so often depicted as enemies or things to kill, this game created a landscape where a companion was both welcome and positive, and I found the beauty of that to be incredibly moving.
It was sort of the start for me in considering how games can communicate messages of non-violence, and that we can create engaging experiences without them necessarily being murder simulators. And I mean, that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for shooters or whathaveyou, but I think we need to start challenging our design philosophies so that the default isn’t always “kill stuff”. Any time we create things by default, we’re potentially missing out on making our very best.
Final Fantasy XV. FF games used to really consume me and I haven’t been able to get into RPGs like I used to since my free time has become so limited. I’m hoping this one grabs me so I can relive that for a bit.
Also, Overwatch has totally swallowed up my spare time. I have an awesome group of friends (my old XMG crew included!) who are usually playing after work. It makes it way more fun to have that social component of playing with buds.
Do you know someone in the gaming community with a unique perspective, interesting project or creative take on the industry? We’d like to talk to them!
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- On August 04, 2016