Ai LIVE: Faculty Member Erik Carpenter Discusses Gaming and Design
In today’s edition of Ai LIVE, host E. Vincent Martinez shines the Faculty Spotlight on Erik Carpenter, Professor of Game Art and Design at The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston. Carpenter’s work has been featured in games, film, product design, architecture, and animation across multiple countries, including Dubai, the Philippines, Europe, and North America.
Carpenter got his start with architectural design for hotels and other buildings, populating them with background characters to show how a space might have been used. Since becoming a teacher, he knows what future students should watch out for. Game design, in particular, is a lot more work than people may realize. He warns that game design can be overwhelming, but with it comes a lot of growth, and the reward that comes from recognizing that growth. “I didn’t know I could do this type of stuff,” is a phrase Carpenter enjoys hearing, since it means his students are absorbing all the information.
He encourages his students to have a notebook or some other place where they store ideas as they pop up. In time, those ideas can be implemented into a game or a design, something that will become intuitive as these skills develop. He wants his students to be able to deconstruct the games they play and recognize the mechanics that make up the gameplay. He acknowledges that a lot of his own creative process is trial and error preproduction. These experiences can help his students prepare for various roles on a development team, since “the smaller the team, the more hats you’re going to have to wear during the production cycle.”
While this description may make game design seem like a harsh process, there are literal fun and games to be had. Part of the course work is designing a game and sharing that first among classmates, and then among family and friends. After that, Carpenter plays the game, first playing as intended, and then seeing in what ways he can break the game. A fun fact about Erik Carpenter is that he dislikes horror movies, so his students will often hide horror elements, such as jumpscares, to surprise their professor. He takes it all in stride and good humor.
As Carpenter tells host Martinez, the gaming industry is very competitive, but that breeds a lot of creativity and innovation. He encourages his students to push beyond their boundaries, to go to events and meet people who work in a variety of fields. He says that starting out, “It’s who you know, back it up with what you know.” Carpenter had three goals professionally: get into a studio, learn how to start his own company, and teach. Carpenter is happy to report he’s achieved all three, and now his goal is to be better and better. If you want to pursue becoming a game designer or are interested in game design, our game art and design programs could be a great way to begin.
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