This week A Conversation with… reaches out to one of our first Women in Games Scholarship winners, and an alumni from our 16th graduating class, Shannon Lee.
- Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I’m currently working at BigPark Studios (Microsoft) as a Senior User Experience designer.
- How has this changed since you graduated?
I started off as a Game Designer at Silicon Sisters (mobile) and then moved to BigPark. While I was at BigPark, I was given the opportunity to work on interactive TV products for Xbox. I liked it so much that I transitioned over to User Experience design.
- Can you describe a typical day in your office?
I manage a team of designers and task them with product/feature assignments. I also work on competitive analysis, user research, and product pitches. The design team collaborates closely with the Interface Design team and Engineers to bring our ideas to life. Every single day is about solving interesting problems.
- What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
I love working with my team. The creative process is both fun and challenging at the same time. We brainstorm together and review each other’s work. We also have to be able to represent and sell our ideas to the broader team. When we’re deep into development, it can get stressful but there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your team’s vision realized in software.
- What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
I’m currently playing through Diablo 3 again on my Xbox One. I was skeptical at first because I loved it so much on PC but someone at work convinced me to try it on console. I’m really impressed by how well it plays – transitioning to controller from mouse and keyboard felt so natural and for the first time ever, I’m playing a melee class and loving it.
- What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
One of the things I’m noticing is that a lot more console games are designed with the other people in the room in mind. Whether it be multiplayer modes, specific mechanics where the other person can assist, or more immersive stories, it’s great that gaming doesn’t have to be a solitary activity.
- What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
I learned so much from working with others. Whether it was group brainstorms or team projects, figuring out how to best support my team was something that I took with me to my future jobs. I was able to practice working and communicating with different types of people at VFS: students, teachers and mentors. You learn pretty quickly that traits like patience, empathy, curiosity and respect go a long way.
- If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
I would say treat the year like a smorgasbord of experiences that are there for you to take. Don’t get too hung up on a bad grade or if you don’t feel like you’re good enough at something. Think about what drives you and recalibrate as you continue through the year. Ask lots of questions – your teachers and mentors are there to help and have a lot of good insight about the industry. Be kind to your fellow classmates – pull someone up and help them when you can and try to uncover each person’s strengths. Lastly, it’s an intense year, but remember to have fun!
Thanks for the update Shannon, best of luck on your next game!
Dave Warfield is the Head of Game Design at VFS