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My career path: Game design with Rex Crowle

Rex Crowle is a game designer and artist. In this video he discusses his career trajectory into games.
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Hello, I’m Rex, and I am one half of Foam Sword. I come from an art background. I studied graphic design at art college. And after graduating, I moved into doing interactive work, some TV, broadcast animation. And then by accident almost, I fell into the games industry, like a lot of people, I think, around my era, where there weren’t necessarily paths into the industry.
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The most important lesson I learned at art college was there’s always going to be better artists than you. And the important thing is to have the broadest set of inputs, really, just try and soak up the world, be interested in everything, be interested in architecture, in the way people interact with each other, storytelling, all of these other elements that you can then bring to your work and create something that will stand out beyond other people. And have a style and a real- I don’t know, it’s more about your taste and the judgments that you make, rather than the actual rendering skill you have with your hands. I mean, obviously, you need a computer and some bits like that.
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But I think really software is something that anyone can learn. It’s more about the skills that you have with your eye and with your judgement. And I like just being able to create worlds that are appealing and intriguing and just people want to run into and explore and flip over the rocks and see what’s underneath. It’s not about just creating some photorealistic piece of concept art that never goes anywhere, you need to be just very, very involved in the world building of a game.
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I think games are a great way of bringing people together. I think Journey did a fantastic job with the way that you explore a game on your own, and then you meet another person in the game, and then you slowly realise that’s another human being. And the game so cleverly put the two of you together, and it just creates a bond. And I think games are very powerful at creating positive emotions. I think a lot of news stories and a lot of press can be about the negative side of playing too many violent games.
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But however you feel about that, I think there’s just a huge potential to just bring out the best in humanity as well and be cooperative and collaborative and really connect with people from all over the world, whatever sort of culture, whatever background they’re from, you’re all together in this new digital world.
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I think indie games with the budgets being smaller and them being more driven by probably one or two people, it means that they can be sometimes riskier. They can explore themes that a larger budget game probably wouldn’t be able to. In the same way that a Michael Bay movie with a million explosions probably isn’t going to deal with small social issues. It’s going to be about the spectacle, and I think there’s a similar thing in games.
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Games are fascinating because they are just changing. With baby cinema, cinema settled down, and everyone knew what cinema was 100 years ago. And although you have streaming platforms now, and things like that, but it’s still an hour and a half that you sit down, you watch a movie from start to end, and you have credits at the start and credits at the end, and you have a lot of framework there. Whereas games, everything is changing all of the time, like the delivery methods, are games 40 hours long, or are they four minutes long? There’s just so many different aspects of the industry, and it’s changing all of the time.
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So there isn’t necessarily one thing that I think is going to happen, it just keeps you on your toes. There’s always new challenges and new adventures to be had.
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I think two things that are really important are to make stuff. It’s just very important to be able to show your ideas, whether that’s just putting them down in a sketchbook and being able to talk through them well, or ideally, actually start putting things together in some of the free software that’s out there now, like unity. Maybe collaborate with someone else so that you get a feel for what that’s like, rather than it be your little bubble that you’re inside of that you’re creating. And I think it’s also really important to try and continue to be inspired and excited about things from outside of games as well.
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I think it’s a shame if it becomes a medium that’s just reflecting back on itself. So I think it’s really good to bring in new influences, and not just be painting Gandalf all the time, or creating orcs, or what have you. But go out, see what people are wearing, what interesting new fashions people are wearing, new music. And all of these things can really inspire you to create new game experiences that will in turn be far more inspiring and exciting to a new audience than just seeing the same old stuff again.
Here, Rex Crowle, co-founder of independent games studio Foam Sword, discusses his early career as an artist and his move into the games industry.
Think about how to broaden your range of influences, as Rex suggests. Is there a creative or artistic discipline that you don’t know much about, for example?
Rex cites the game Journey as a great example of how games can bring people together.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Can you think of some other examples of titles that help forge a community? What is it specifically about those games which lend themselves to that process?
How could you give yourself more opportunities to make things, as Rex suggests? This is often a function of time and confidence, so giving yourself permission to spend time on developing your own skills is a hugely important part of the process.
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Introduction to Indie Games

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