Interview with Sarah Gergaud, a 2nd year Bachelor’s student, on the training she is doing in Game Design.
What made you choose Game Design for your Bachelor’s degree? Had you thought about doing Game Design before arriving at the school?
When I started my first year, I already had my future mapped out: go to L’École de design and come out as an Industrial Designer. When we had to make our choices at the end of the first year, my first choice was Product Design and Game Design was my second choice. I ended up in Game Design and I’m the first one to be surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. I have no regrets whatsoever and I really love this course. In fact, I’ve never been so productive in my creations!
What do you like about the course?
The fact that we try lots of different things. Even though most of the subjects we work on are related to the field of video games (which is logical), we have lessons in graphic design, modelling and coding (on Unity and C#), and we explore new creative methods throughout the year in various workshops (creating documentaries or 2D games on Construct 2). In addition, in our small group of 20 students, we all have completely different profiles with distinctive styles - we’re not all rooted in video game culture. Some students weren’t necessarily that into it before they joined the course. And for that reason, they have interesting viewpoints about certain aspects of game creation or gameplay.
Others, on the contrary, were determined to be on this new course and you can see that in their projects. It’s this diversity that I like. The different viewpoints help us create projects that are not only well-rounded but which also challenge our vision of video games, our way of apprehending the game (its universe, its gameplay). What’s more, because we’re such a small group, there’s a really special atmosphere, we’re always helping each other out and sharing, discussing our points of view, which is essential in our work.
What do you expect to get out of the course?
Broadly speaking, I expect it to help me achieve my potential in my future job and give me opportunities to meet as many people as possible in the field of video game development. Creating a video game is not as easy as you might think: first you have to create the concept, the story behind it, and try to make it interesting to play for the user, whether in terms of the gameplay or the theme of the game. Then you have to decide how to tackle the theme: through a serious game? A casual game? A platform game? A survival game? There is a huge number of game styles and as many kinds of gameplay. Next, you have to develop it, create the universe, and that involves a lot of graphic design and creativity to produce a coherent universe and story, particularly one that is credible. And those are the most straightforward parts, because after that comes the development phase and the implementation of the concept. Whether it’s a board game, a card game, a video game or something else, the transition from concept to implementation is always the most complex because everything depends on this step. It’s the longest stage and the most difficult because even if you have a really clear idea of the game, during the development phase you often have to make concessions and modify your original intentions. In other words, it’s the most frustrating part of creating a game medium. What I hope to get out of this training is the key to channeling our imagination and our creativity in order to make something constructive and stimulating - and for it to help us become original and enthusiastic Game Designers.
Who is your favorite Game Designer?
I don’t really have a favorite Game Designer as such, but if I had to mention one here, it would probably be Ashraf Ismail, for the simple reason that he is the brains behind the story line of Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which are my two favorite video games. Or maybe Lucas Wall and Robin Hjelte, who work for the independent studio Forgotten Key. They were responsible for developing AER: Memories of Old, released in 2016. I don’t have that many references as I don’t play a lot. The people I mentioned are not necessarily my “favorite” Game Designers but more like examples of careers or people who inspire me to continue my training and succeed.
Game addict or chocolate addict?
Let’s just say that eating chocolate and playing video games are not incompatible… but I have a slight preference for chocolate.
What is your favorite game?
I’ve got loads of favorite games for the simple reason that I learn something from every game I play, whether it’s a particular atmosphere, interesting gameplay or an original universe (or not, as the case may be), it all helps to form my “library of feelings”, which is what helps me in my own projects to know if what I’m producing in terms of a subject or a given theme is relevant or not. However, if I had to choose one, it would be the series Professeur Layton, because it’s a game that my whole family plays: each story is based on resolving an enigma, you really have to rack your brains to find solutions which makes you more quick-witted and ingenious (whatever video game critics may say!)
What kind of game do you dream of developing?
The next Assassin’s Creed, without any hesitation. This series is truly impressive: the team of developers, the artistic direction, the basic storyline of each game is based on real historical events to which they add their universe of Assassins and Knights Templar. There is so much work behind each game, they manage to bring out a functional game in such a short time and that deserves respect and makes me want to be part of that team, to work hard, help them and add my own personal touch.
How do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
With my degree ;) Otherwise, I’d like to work abroad, in Scandinavia, as they have a more poetic and minimalist approach to gaming than in France or other anglophone countries. I’m trying to target independent studios (like Forgotten Key or Thatgamecompany) to start out and to get a few projects under my belt before joining a bigger organization like Ubisoft or Arkane Studio. As for projects, I want to develop games which make people think, either through the topic or through the gameplay. What’s certain is that this course has helped me to grow and develop, and give free reign to my imagination through the various projects and their particular challenges. Game Designer is an incredibly diverse profession with many skill sets: we get to work with some amazing and unique people, who give us their thoughts and reflections to create something which brings us together.