By Sahar Kauser
Attending the D.I.C.E. Summit and Awards as a part of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Scholar program was truly a remarkable experience. The 2020 conference which spanned three days was held in Las Vegas, NV at the Aria Resort & Casino.
As a technical artist that is extremely passionate about fusing her skills in both art and engineering to create beautiful immersive experiences, I found that I am passionate about not just any one sector within the industry; I am flexible as a technical artist between gaming, feature animation, themed entertainment, and the technical industry where I can solve problems that improve life for mankind and bring joy to others through art and storytelling. Currently while I am working at Disney Imagineering in themed entertainment, I enjoy staying plugged into my roots and found that attending the D.I.C.E. Summit was extremely important for me in a lot of areas in that I was able to network with other game developers, form connections with others around the world that I may not get the opportunity to meet, and to stay informed on the industry’s current inner workings and chat with other technical artists.
I found the mentorship program through the scholarship program to be beneficial. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to be paired with a mentor that lined up with my hopeful expectations - a technical artist that also worked not only in games but in wide array of fields such as feature animation. Ironically, my mentor also was one that shared an engineering background just like me prior to his work in games and film and was able to communicate with me on my current work in the animation industry for the animatronics that I am contributing to at Walt Disney Imagineering. I also consider myself to do pipeline technical art along with animation and found it very informational and helpful to learn about my mentor’s experiences and the highly technical work that he does as a principal technical artist at Insomniac Games. Prior to the summit, I had the opportunity to meet with my mentor locally in Burbank for dinner and share my journey thus far. We bonded over our current interests and projects which helped inspire me as I move further in the industry as an emerging professional. This helped make the mentorship connection thrive as I set forth to D.I.C.E. as I was able to get an understanding of what other technical artists do outside of Disney as well.
In terms of the events, I found D.I.C.E. to have a plethora of back to back events that were both engaging and interesting. The structure of the summit perpetuated content that was geared to a large range of individuals which I thought promoted inclusivity. In addition – these events were more intimate compared to a larger conference such as the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC). For example, I had sat in a couple of roundtable sessions which were led by very talented and knowledgeable folks in the industry on a variety of topics. I purposely sat in a roundtable geared toward an indie game studio and one geared towards larger corporations and found it insightful to hear from folks that leaned toward either one. It was interesting to learn about the different challenges that each party faces and the goals that they are setting for the future. It was truly a benefit to be able to hear from leaders in various companies and to be able to engage with them on a closer level.
In terms of lessons gained, I was able to gain a lot of perspective of not only various companies (whether indie or large corporation), the wide array of work for technical artists in gaming, or mentorship connection, but also on how I view the world and myself. I realized as I grow as an emerging professional, I hope to gain more confidence in myself and my skillset and by attending D.I.C.E. I felt that I was able to assess these areas and how I hope to grow in the future. I was especially inspired by the women speakers and leaders in the gaming industry such as Connie Booth, the Hall of Fame recipient of the year. I was honored to be able to chat with them on a personal level and share my journey in the industry so far. Normally I find myself a bit reserved and meek – afraid to speak up. But I ended up realizing that the feats accomplished by these great women were done by trailblazing and being authentic. I realized it’s okay to be myself – to believe in myself and seek support if needed. It’s okay to talk about what’s on my mind and to share my ideas. It can be rather difficult but over time, I know that ultimately this could lead to forming more bonds, coming up with creative ideas, and forming a strong creativity legacy in the industry.
Joining the scholarship program truly inspired me on both a professional and personal level. I look back at the friendships I cultivated and the memorable experience of hearing from talented individuals around the globe. The D.I.C.E. Awards were a monumental event in gaming history and I loved every moment of it. Thank you to the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences for an exceptional scholarship experience - I hope to one day give back to others in the industry - cultivating and instilling hope for those pursuing their dreams in the future.
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