Ashmera Patterson is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She planned to attend Hamline University to play basketball, but once she discovered the game design and development art program she was drawn to UW-Stout. Patterson posts her work to her instagram.
What drew you to GDD-Art program?
I think ever since I was a kid, I loved games, my brother is big influence in that. I still remember when we opened up our PlayStation 2 for the first time and playing Kingdom Hearts 1 and it was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe that something could look like this.” Plus, I was also an art kid. Growing up, I was always drawing and doing all that stuff. I got pretty good at it. Then in high school, I think, it dawned on me that someone had to make these games. They didn’t just appear on shelves and I asked myself, “Why couldn’t I make them?” So, I decided to go to college for it.
What would you say is your favorite game?
If I had to pick my favorite game, I think my favorite game is Bully. It’s an older Rockstar game from the early 2000s. It was on PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360. It’s like Grand Theft Auto, put it in a boarding school setting and make it way less horrifically violent. I loved that game so much; I must have played that game more than 100 times.
What have you worked on in your program that you’re proud of?
Here in GDD 100, you don’t work on digital games. You work on physical games and boardgames. I think I had the most fun, initially, doing that. Sophomore year is kind of a fumbling around stage because all of a sudden, you’re given a computer and you don’t even know how to code or do any of the stuff. But, freshman year, when you’re just playing with paper and dice and things like that, it’s something you already understand and making experience for those is what I enjoyed so much. Because of the limitations of the materials and the limitations of the technology, it really force you to find work arounds and find ways to make things count for more than one thing. I ended up producing a game in GDD 100 with my team of 4. We created a story-telling type game that was like a mix between Dungeon & Dragons and Hearthstone. Our game got to go to Protospiel, which is like a game/play testing event located in Minnesota. There were publishers and producers from around Minnesota giving advice and feedback on our game. We were one of the youngest groups there which was daunting but an amazing experience.
Which do you like better, the art and design portion or the coding and programming?
I’m not strong at programming, so right now I would say I like the art and design portion more. I rest more in the art department but focus a lot on design and not just the colors, sprites and assets. Its core mechanics, player feel, and psychology portions and I focus a lot on the actual active production. The producer role isn’t really something that is talked about much in games and there really isn’t a place in academia for that. Producing is all about time management, scope management, and money management and so I try and take on those roles. In my projects and my class/team projects, I’m not just an artist. I’m an art director or I’m a producer and you just kind of take on those leadership roles. In order to get other students who are at the same level of skill and learning as you are to follow you, all you need to do is be a valuable asset to the team who wants what’s best for the team not yourself. You have to prove to them that you’ll do the dirty work, make up the spreadsheets and do all the stuff that no one wants to do but I’ll do it because that’s the role I’ve taken on.
Is there any advice that you would give to incoming freshmen joining the program?
I would tell them that they don’t have to be good at everything. I think it’s very daunting when you come into college and you come into this space where you’re with all these different people from different backgrounds who might have been making games or drawing or coding since they were kids. It’s very daunting when you come in and you aren’t the best anymore. In your high school you were the best, that’s why you’re here. You had to go through the portfolio process and application process to be here. So, I think I would tell them to just take a deep breath, listen to what they are telling you and do your best. It’s not always going to be a triple A experience; it’s not always going to be beautiful. Sometimes your’e going to fail and it’s not gonna work, but you don’t have to be the best at everything to be the best at something.