A Look at Digital Animation & Game Design
For many students, what comes after high school is a giant question mark. The right path may not be clear, and heading straight for a college or university can be daunting.
After graduating high school, Ferris Digital Animation and Game Design senior, Amanda Clouse took a three-year gap to explore her options and find passion. As a local to Grand Rapids, she couldn’t see herself moving away and wanted to find something close to home that allowed her to explore her future.
“It took me three years out of high school to actually go to college and figure out what I wanted to do, and even then, I didn’t know. I was kind of like, ‘I’ll just get my gen-eds out of the way, we’ll figure it out along the way.’ And I did,” she started. “I think with both GRCC and Ferris I didn’t really feel any different than a 17 or 18-year-old coming into college. No real obstacles, and the transition was pretty smooth overall.”
Grand Rapids Community College was her first step, and after about a semester she was introduced to Ferris - Grand Rapids and her dreams began to spark. Through the Digital Animation and Game Design program, Clouse was able to take her love for video games and turn it into a career.
“I think with the program it’s just really cool to learn about the behind the scenes when it comes to actually developing a game, getting into the industry, and learning about all of the pieces that make things work,” Clouse said.
Through this program Clouse, was able to grow her passion for building games, telling stories, and making an impact through game design, all while learning from some of her favorite games she plays in her free time.
“I definitely take inspiration from Pokémon and the other games I play. Sometimes, I play games just to analyze them. I like to take my time and look around, maybe sit down and spend half an hour going through one storyline because it was interesting to me,” Clouse started. “One time, I was playing a game with a friend of mine, and we spent fifteen minutes debating how the developers managed to do something technically in the game.”
But, for Clouse, it wasn’t all about the fun of the games. She was able to learn a lot about game development and had the opportunity to work on some unique projects that set her future in motion.
“In junior project, it is about simulating this in-studio environment and figuring out how to work as a huge team. There were 40 students all trying to work together and that came with its own set of challenges, but that was really fun to see what it could be like in the industry past college,” she shared.
Digital Animation and Game Design students have the opportunity to immediately begin hands-on course work in their first year with opportunities to create games from scratch. From start to finish, students are tasked with creating rules, assets, and more with the goal of creating a unique game. Their capstone course then allows the students to put their four years of education to the test with a large project to showcase their ability.
“[Before college] I had absolutely no background [in Digital Animation and Game Design] at all. I had a couple of friends in the industry, and I would follow any news about it, but I didn’t beyond that. So, jumping into the program and learning everything, it’s been really fun getting to have that background now,” said Clouse.
From getting into Ferris to completing coursework, Amanda shared that the Ferris faculty and staff have been nothing short of motivational throughout her education.
“Everybody wants you here because they want to see you grow, and whether it is the front desk, receptionist, or financial aid, they’re all willing to jump on board and help you get through,” Clouse expressed.
While Clouse is still trying to figure out exactly what her plans are after graduation, she knows one thing is for sure.
“I am just trying to apply everywhere I can, and even if it is not in the industry to start, I am just trying to get my foot in that door and work my way through. I want to go wherever the opportunities are,” she shared.
Thanks to her time at Ferris, she was able to gain the skill set she needs to chase her dreams. With a dream of working for a company like Nintendo or Atlus, Clouse is setting out for greatness, and Ferris has helped her prepare to do just that.
“We're well-rounded students that get a little piece of everything. We can learn things from one department but be able to help out in another, no problem. Even if we only know a little bit about how the other departments work, just knowing that little bit can go a long way,” Clouse said.
Being an avid player herself, working for her dream company would present the opportunity to have her “I made it” moment.
“I think it would be really surreal [to play a game I designed],” she began. “I think it would be kind of weird at first being able to point out things I helped with or worked on. It would be a really fulfilling moment, and just really surreal.”
While the program has presented its fair share of challenges, Clouse wants to encourage other prospective students who are passionate about game design to take a chance on the program. With a little bit of passion and drive, every student can succeed.
“I am a very competitive person and that sounds weird, but in that sense that being competitive also pushes me to do better in classes. I want to make sure that the content and projects that I am putting out there are the best that they can be because there is a lot of competition out there,” she said.
Clouse encourages others to take their time in finding what they love because, in her situation, it was well worth the wait.
“Don’t feel like you have to follow everyone else’s path, it’s not a race to get out of the program. Don’t let people tell you can’t do it and if they do tell you that, then do it anyway to spite them!” she said through her chuckles.