To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we are publishing daily interviews, celebrating the women of Tag Games, their games, and their experiences within the industry.
This week we are speaking to Lara Bendoris (Lead Artist), Sarah King (Talent and Office Administrator), Kerri Targett (Game Artist), Nina Cliff (Head of Business Development) and Joanna Jakubowska (User Interface Designer).
Today we are speaking to Lara Bendoris, Lead Artist at Tag Games.
"What did you study and how did that impact your career?"
In the early noughties I attended Edinburgh College of Art, studying traditional 2D animation. The course at the time focused very much on traditional animation techniques and didn’t teach much in terms of computer art packages. Despite that, I ended up creating my graduation film in Flash. I think I was drawn to animating with computers because I hated the tedious process of scanning pencil drawn animations in order to check if a shot was working. I liked the immediacy of seeing my work come to life on a computer, and it allowed me to spend more time on the fun stuff - animating!
Once I graduated I found it hard to find permanent work as an animator beyond some freelance gigs. I ended up working in a bar for a few years and lost confidence in my dream of a creative career. I needed a change, so I moved back to home to Glasgow and enrolled in a Masters in 3D Design at Caledonian University. The course was intense but learning how to use 3D software was a revelation for me and I found a renewed passion to pursue a career in the creative industries.
"What made you want to work in games?"
I’ve enjoyed playing games from a young age (I had an Amiga as a child and spent many hours after school playing classics like Monkey Island - one of my all time favourite games!). Despite this, a career in games was never really something that I had considered when I first started studying animation. I had originally wanted a career in film and television or advertising. It wasn’t until I started learning 3D software at Caledonian Uni that I really became aware of Scotland's thriving games industry. It seemed like the perfect place to apply the new skills I’d learned during my Masters course.
"What was your first job and how did you get it?"
It was through Caledonian University that I found my first job as an animator. A local indie company called Extra Mile contacted my lecturer looking for candidates for a job opening and I was recommended. At the time, Extra Mile were working for a games company called Revolution Software. Revolution Software created the 90s point and click adventure series Broken Sword, and they were funding the long awaited fifth installment through Kickstarter. Extra Mile was hired to create character art and animations for this new game. I was a big fan of the original Broken Sword games and it was hugely exciting to be involved in bringing the series to a new generation of fans.
"What advice would you give others trying to get into the industry?"
I spent some time after I completed my Masters working as an intern at Caledonian Uni, helping out with courses that taught 3D software. I noticed during this time that some students underestimate the importance of cultivating their professional reputation during their studies.
Soft skills, such as the ability to communicate well, openness to learning, and willingness to work in a team, are arguably just as important as harder skills, such as software knowledge and art aptitude.Companies sometimes look for talent via lecturers, so it is important to ensure that you are someone worth recommending.
A common complaint I hear from students and ex-students is that they had problems with a group project because a certain individual in the team wasn't pulling their weight. A bad reputation at University, whether it be for poor attendance, not being a team player or having a bad attitude, can end up following a person about long after they graduate.The games industry is fairly small and the contacts you make at University could end up having an influence on your future job prospects for better or worse.
"Why do you think people should want to work in this industry, what makes it great?"
I really enjoy working as a team, exchanging ideas, and together coming up with interesting solutions to technical challenges. I work with some wonderfully talented people and I’m constantly learning from them. While the job can have its challenges, it's also a lot of fun working alongside so many great people. People really make this industry.
One of the things that I love most about working on casual games is that the work that I do is very varied. Projects are generally fairly short, we get to work with lots of different brands and visual styles. At work, I'm often required to wear many hats, quickly adapt to different art styles, new techniques, and new software if and when a project requires it. For example, the project I’m currently leading is all in 2D. I’ve had to quickly get up to speed with building assets in Adobe Illustrator, and learn about rigging and animating in Esoteric Spine. After working in 3D for so long it's been great to go back to my roots as a 2D animator.
I enjoy the challenge and the variety of my work keeps things exciting and new and pushes the boundaries of what I think I’m capable of.