Art Institutes

Gaming & Technology

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SXSW Gaming Expo

As any gamer knows, SXSW is one of the premier events for seeing what’s coming down the pike in the gaming industry. And this year, we were right in the thick of it. Find out about our booth and the games that fellow Ai students showcased at this exciting conference.

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Program Areas

Game Art Design Program

Game Art & Design

Jasmine Sur

Media Arts & Animation , 2014

The Art Institute of Las Vegas

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You can learn how to take games from concept to market-ready—and turn your skills and passion for gaming as you prepare for a career as a key player and virtual storyteller.

Meet our Faculty

  • Billy Vanderburg HS

    Billy Vanderburg

    Game Art & Design

    "Be Awesome!"

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    Billy Vanderburg

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    Actually, while I was in college an inspirational individual said that you need to do what you want in life. I examined what I really had a passion in and decided that I wanted to make video games. So I did some research and found The Illinois Institute of Art—Schaumburg, where I was one of the first to graduate with the new degree in Game Art & Design. Afterward, joining THQ and EA was a game changer for me in my skills, leadership development, and involvement with AAA game production.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    Other than giving my anecdotal horror/glory stories, I also integrate industry standards, expectations, and terminology into the curriculum. The game industry is a very exciting and sometimes intense business with fluctuating schedules, deadlines, and task management that is often reliant upon the individuals to creatively find solutions and accomplish goals within a team environment. So for my classes at The Art Institute of San Antonio, I have the students not only work in teams, but also estimate tasks and develop expectations of content that are reported on and presented in “stand up” progress meetings and milestone goal reviews. This holds the individuals accountable for his or her work within the team environment while allowing for creative flexibility like that in the industry.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I consider my “lecture” classes to be more like small training sessions similar to “art lunches” that I experienced in the industry. Critiques in my classes are approached as interactive milestone meetings that include not only feedback from the art director, but also peer review. Specifically, in the industry, tasks are never “incomplete” and iteration is a necessary process in development. So in the classroom, homework (art tests) is similarly never “incomplete” and requires iteration so that competencies are met and surpassed.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    Collaboration is crucial during the team classes in Game Art & Design. They are made up of literally 9 months for a “vertical slice” development cycle that include various disciplines such as character art, environment art, design, leading roles, and even sound, interface, and vfx. The students set up their group goals for the game by establishing a game overview document and set up individualized schedules that feed into a greater overarching goal, which has quality standards set by myself.
     

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    Students should not expect to jump into the gaming program just to play games. Well, playing is important, but students need to understand the competitive nature of the industry and that hard work, dedication, and organization leads to success. I specifically don’t give “homework,” rather, actual “art tests.” Art tests are established by developers to determine whether an individual is capable of joining a team (before getting the interview). So the art tests I give to my students are much structured in a similar way. And the feedback that I give is not a “grade” exactly, but a degree of meeting expectations—like many industries, employees are not given As and Bs during their annual reviews, but told whether they met expectations, exceeded them, or have room for improvement with specific details and feedback to improve. And that is how I run my classroom.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I am very pleased to be a part of an industry that allows me to share my expertise with future game developers and create games. I feel honored that I am shaping the next generation of games that I, as a lover of games, will consume!

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  • Josh Stutts

    Joshua Stutts

    Game Art & Design

    "I get to see students grow and realize their potential and know that I helped them to get there."

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    Joshua Stutts

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in the arts and creating, whether it was stories or drawings or sculpture. Growing up in a small town in Alabama, I never thought of turning that into a career until an Art Institutes representative came and talked to my high school. From then on I knew I wanted to turn my creativity into my career.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    I always try to tie any class project back to the day-to-day industry. Assignments are designed as art tests or freelance jobs. In the Team Production class it’s based on the normal routine of working in a game studio. We have stand-up meetings that follow the SCRUM management style that a lot of game studios use now.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring...and how do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    I’ve set up my Team Production class like a regular development team, because it’s important that students get a sense of what their typical work day might be like. They have complete control over the project; once they realize they’re in charge, they push themselves harder than normal. I’m there to offer advice, but I want them to listen to their own instincts so they can use all the skills they’ve learned to make their decisions. It empowers students and helps them see where they need to improve.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    When students hit the workplace after graduation, they won’t be working individually, but as part of a team. Collaboration in the classroom helps them see the impact they have on a project and how they help meet the needs of the team.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    You have to constantly practice your craft. If you want to succeed, you can’t just do your homework, because your competition is continually perfecting their craft. They work 50 to 60 hours a week at the job you want. And when they get home at night they’re practicing and perfecting and learning new techniques. You have to put in 150% if you want to compete. It sounds daunting and difficult. But if you love what you do, it’s not work—it’s fun and rewarding. And worth every minute you put into it.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    This has been one of my most rewarding jobs, because I get to see students grow and realize their potential. And I know I helped them to get there.

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  • Vanessa Langton Portrait

    Vanessa Langton

    General Education

    "Work hard and always give your best—your work is a direct representation of yourself and your abilities!"

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    Vanessa Langton
    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    As a kid I made drawings regularly. When fellow students and teachers began to recognize my potential, I thought maybe there was something to art and creative expression. My mother nurtured my interests in art by taking me to museums regularly to look at the works of great artists and she bought me art supplies to practice. I knew very young that I could not live without art and art history in my life.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

    Prior to teaching art history I worked as a graphic designer and I know what it is like to be an ambitious art student trying to prep a portfolio to hunt for a job. As an art historian, I also know how important it is to be able to describe your artwork through written and spoken words. Through art history, students learn not only about different eras in art, but they also learn how to talk about art. These skills can be applied to any area of study—graphic design, the culinary arts, game art design, photography, etc.

    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    At the end of each quarter, my students are required to give an oral presentation. Not only does the student have to research a specific artist or art era, but they have to put together a slide show, a script, and present this to a room of their peers. This pushes the student towards a goal as they are faced with a deadline.

    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

    Perhaps when students are assigned to work together they end up discussing their chosen areas of studies through a critical point of view and look beyond the surface to acquire meaning. They could question the who, what, and why using methods of formal analysis to all areas of the creative spectrum.

    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    Work hard and always give your best—your work is a direct representation of yourself and your abilities!

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  • Pachecano HS

    Robert Pachecano, M.A.

    General Education

    "The most critical advice I give to students is to never accept things at face value."

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    Robert Pachecano, M.A.
    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    I have come to find a home at The Art Institute of San Antonio.  I thought it was going to be a challenge to teach the discipline of Sociology in a creative environment but I come to find that it blends very well in the creative environment of Ai San Antonio.  If I can point to a defining moment, it would be when my first term teaching, on the last day of class, some of my students’ final words to me were, “This is the BEST class I have ever taken.”  “I learned A LOT.”  “You are the BEST instructor I’ve EVER had.”  “I didn’t think I was going to make a connection with sociology and ________” (insert graphic design, game art design, interior design, fashion management, culinary, etc.).  The impact that I have had on students has been far reaching and rewarding at the same time.  


    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?


    I often tell my students on the first day of class that teaching sociology is only one of the many jobs I have had in the community.  Along with a career in academia, I have been a social worker and a case manager.  I have worked with diverse populations in this area:  from single mothers, to survivors of domestic violence, from homeless veterans and veterans undergoing drug treatment, to people coming in and going out of the federal prison system, witness protection, and federal probationers.  I very much draw from the experiences and the interactions I have had with different people and this has given me the unique perspectives I take in class.  It has also given me ability to be patient and really listen to what people are saying, or trying to communicate to you.  Making a connection is often the simplest thing someone can do, to make the biggest impact on anyone you meet and interact with.  

    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    If I can point to one particular assignment in my course, it would be the paper and presentation.  The paper involves them choosing a current social problem in our society today and they have to incorporate a chapter from the textbook, along with other sources online and research.  This allows them to synthesize everything we’ve discussed in class and apply it in some way in the analysis that goes into their paper.  THEN, they also have to present their paper to the class as well.  Those who are writing challenged are challenged to really focus their thoughts unto paper.  Those who are presentation shy are challenged to come out of their shells.  These are two skills that students must master before they get out there in real world.  They have to be able to effectively present their thoughts in writing AND they have to be able to express those thoughts to other people.  I simply use the perspective sociology gives students to help them accomplish this. 

    I often say, no matter your major:  graphic design, game art design, interior design, fashion management, culinary, etc.; you will be dealing with people, as customers, as clients and the like.  Sociology as a discipline helps you do this.  Understanding the groups people inhabit and the effect groups have on people as individuals  gives students, who are future creative professionals an edge no one else has.  The most critical advice I give to students is to never accept things at face value.  That, the real challenge lies in seeking the real reasons why things happen, why people act the way they do.  This is critical because we live in a world now where things are just accepted as truth, because it’s on a website, or someone important said it. 

    Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

    I do what I do because of education.  Education is many things.  Education is empowerment.  Education is liberty and liberation.  It is a driving force that fuels the future; that enables people to carry on even when the odds, the challenges the barriers seem insurmountable. I am living proof of this.  I am proud to say, I am from the westside of San Antonio, born and raised.  I come from humble beginnings where sacrifice for education was the mantra; was the mission statement; was the vision.  Education above all else was something my migrant worker grandparents and parents instilled in me from the beginning, for two simple reasons.  That is the only way you can be truly free, and it is, “the only thing that they can’t take away from you”, as my mother would say.  


    Education is my mission. Sociology is my passion.  Service to others and empowerment fuel my values.  This is all I know.  It is all I have grown up with, it is what was given to me and what I give to students in class.  Because I am still a student (in a doctoral program), being able to relate to students and all they go through is just as important as course material and concepts. I know I have faced the same, exact odds, barriers and challenges. Every day I step into a classroom, I carry all of this with me.  I pride myself on being flexible and understanding; but still expect everyone to give all they have to their educational endeavors.  This is because this is what was expected of me, not just from teachers and professors, or researchers; but from my family, alive and in heaven now.  No matter what you have going on, how bad it seems, how impossible things seem to get; education is the solution to it all.  It is what will ensure a brighter future.

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  • Rebecca Kerr Portrait

    Rebecca Kerr

    General Education

    "Continue to refine your speaking skills so that the ability to communicate never stands in the way of your success."

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    Rebecca Kerr
    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    Just the act of Public Speaking often pushes students outside their comfort zone. Standing up in front of a full classroom with all eyes on you can be uncomfortable. Then students must organize their ideas and clearly present them to the class. That can be terrifying! Students often enter my class believing they can't stand up and deliver a speech to their peers. However, I provide the students with coping mechanisms, skill development, and a safe environment allowing them to deliver not only one but many speeches.

    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?


    Collaboration in a communication class serves a dual purpose. Collaboration allows students to improve their group communication skills, as well as develop an end result that is better than any single group member could do alone. Working in a group challenges students to clearly express their ideas, mediate during disagreements, compromise for the good of the project, lead, follow, and much more. Additionally by bringing students from different fields of study and diverse backgrounds together, students' own ideas, abilities, and limitations are challenged often resulting in a better end product.

    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    I work to ensure students leave my class with the ability to clearly and effectively communicate their ideas. I believe the ability to skillfully convey abstract ideas, like those often found in art, can set an artist apart from their peers. In the creative career field, students will be asked to communicate on many levels. They will pitch ideas, lead groups, speak to investors, and hopefully deliver acceptance speeches. My advice to students: Continue to refine your speaking skills so that the ability to communicate never stands in the way of your success.

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  • Hilda Velasquez

    Hilda Velasquez

    General Education

    "My advice is to travel and see the world because we grow as human beings and as professionals."

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    Hilda Velasquez
    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    Since I was 8 or 10 years old I wanted to be journalist and communicator to be in TV.  Later, I studied a bachelor degree in Communication but I went into the advertising and marketing field, and I love it.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

    Here at the The Art Institute of San Antonio I feel like a fish in the water, because even when I am teaching Spanish, I feel identified with the degree we teach. Therefore I bring my cultural and communication background into my classroom to give students the opportunity to know the Hispanic world through media, ads, movies, etc.


    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    Every student has to do a cultural presentation about an Hispanic country and a specific topic related with their degree, so they have done great presentations about fashion, food, photography and the movie industry in Hispanic countries, which has opened their eyes to learn more and see beyond the American borders.


    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

    My students learn from each other when they do their cultural presentations.

    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    My advice is to travel and see the world, because we grow as human beings and as professionals.
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