Jarett Metcalfe

Game Art & Design

Game Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Vancouver

Jarett Metcalfe

Students who've built strong, well targeted entry-level design skill-sets, excellent reputations, and authentic networks are usually the first people to get design jobs. Jarett Metcalfe , Game Design Instructor , The Art Institute of Vancouver
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I was designing what would otherwise be considered a typical student architecture project when, out of nowhere, I came up with idea of building an interactive multimedia component into it. I had so much fun with that aspect of the design that nothing else I did afterwards felt quite the same. I couldn't get it out of my head. After that, my time was consumed with designing video games. As soon as I got my degree, I changed careers. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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

I bring non-disclosure agreement (NDA) compliant examples from my experience in different roles with various companies, games, and game teams into my lectures to provide a clear and sometimes humorous picture of what the industry, game development, and each profession are really like.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I try to cultivate independent thought and critical thinking. One assignment asks students to research game design theories and models and come up with one of their own. I first assigned this project on a hunch, and I was blown away by the quality of the work—incredibly rigorous, insightful, creative, and often just as useful in its own way as many of the design theories and approaches veteran designers have published. It’s all about moving students beyond rote learning to create their own ideas, theories and approaches to design.

How do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their perceived limits?

Back to that research project, students get a huge confidence boost and display a radically different approach to their work after that. They come away with far more independent, critical, and creative thought—and much less reliance on instructor input and approval.

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

Games are generally made by both large and small, multi-disciplinary teams, so being able to collaborate in a complex team environment is a critical skill. A big focus of our game design program is providing many opportunities for students to build games together, in both design theory and game production classes, so they can learn the skills to succeed on game teams in a hands-on, practical way.

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

I urge students to identify as soon as possible the kind of designer they want to be, the areas of game design they want to focus on, the kinds of games they want to make, and the sector of the industry they want to work in for the first year or two of their career. Then they can focus on gaining the specific knowledge, skills, experience, and industry connections to move further.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Start networking while you’re still building your design portfolio. Make friends with people who work in the game industry. They can help you strengthen your work, give you insider tips, and tell you about design jobs that aren’t posted online. They might even put in a good word for you.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Just this: Students who’ve built strong, well-targeted, entry-level design skill-sets, excellent reputations by doing great work and being great team players, and authentic networks are usually the first people to get design jobs.