Gabriela Woch, junior 3D game artist at The Chinese Room, talks about pivoting into games, how her autism affects communication at work, and her ambition to invent a new archetype
How did you break into games?
When I was young, I always wanted a career in the gaming industry but didn’t have the confidence to pursue it. As an alternative I chose to study Costume and Performance Design as my university degree due to my love for the theatre and films. However, once I started my first year of study, it became very clear that my real passion was still my love of video games. I continued with my degree but attended many supplementary evening courses during my second and final years focused on 3D software and concept designing. After I graduated, I took a year out to continue my self-learning which gave me the confidence to go for a formal Masters Course in Computer Games Art & Design. While studying, I participated in the ‘Search For A Star‘ game dev challenge, organised by Grads in Games. Even though I didn’t get far in the competition itself, it became my ticket to the industry, as soon after I entered, I was offered a position as a Junior 3D game artist with The Chinese Room.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Honestly, breaking into the industry in the first place. Changing my ambition and field of study was incredibly difficult for me due to the obstacles I had to conquer. When I was 4 years old, I was diagnosed with autism. Although my symptoms were not severe, they did make it hard for me to keep up with my studies. My lack of confidence in particular got the better of me throughout my life meaning I had to spend more time than others just to keep up. Looking back on my journey, I’m genuinely surprised that I didn’t give up throughout those hard times.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Due to my disability, my biggest obstacles are always around communication; specifically receiving, understanding or conveying information. It takes me longer to process and internalise inputs than others so having time to do this is important to me. My job, being my first step into the gaming industry, has been a great learning curve for me particularly given the production itself continues to change and adapt continuously. Thankfully, The Chinese Room has been incredibly supportive throughout my endeavours, not once treating me any differently to my colleagues which I am truly grateful for.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My best moments come from getting the opportunity to express and exchange creative ideas within my team for upcoming projects. It really is fun hearing everyone bouncing off ideas from one another.
Another aspect I would happily add is the discovery of new skills and techniques, either using the software that I have already had experience with or getting stuck into new tools. Being able to then incorporate them into my working environment and expanding my variety of outputs in the art department is the most rewarding part of my job.
What’s your biggest ambition in games?
My biggest ambition within this medium is to hopefully create new innovation that also has a positive impact on the audience. Video games are a fantastic way to not only bring entertainment, but also to convey emotional or relatable topics in today’s society. A stretch goal is to get the chance to invent a new archetype, either through one character, one story or one game; so long as it brings a positive impact.
What advice would you give to any aspiring 3D artists?
‘Be a shepherd not a sheep’ as my mother always says. If you are building an art portfolio, create something that people have never seen before. Focus more on quality than quantity and be proud of your mistakes. This might feel strange at first but if you show your journey and your failed attempts in your portfolio as a ‘before’ and ‘after’, it will show your growth and your willingness to learn.