ESIPBLOG: Transforming my game dev future – 7/8/24

Published on Monday, July 8th, 2024

Transforming my game dev future

By Hind Younus, New York University Abu Dhabi

When I started as a freshman in university, I was initially unsure about what I wanted to do with my future. All I knew at the time was that I enjoyed designing and creating things, so I felt that the Interactive Media major would be the best choice for me. Typically, Interactive Media encourages students to express their creativity through a medium of their choosing, whether it be art installations, performances, or digital art. In addition to that, they also teach you essential skills that prepare you well for whichever path you choose by teaching art, design, computer science, and engineering concepts. I often found myself drawn to creating games for my university design projects. My passion for creating games only grew when I took introductory game development courses during my study away semester at my university’s New York campus. There I learnt about the basics of game design concepts and using popular 2D game engines like GameMaker Studio.

This is why I was very excited about the opportunity to participate in this program and meet other like-minded people of similar background who were equally interested in game development. Game development is still a relatively small industry in the United Arab Emirates, so I was eager to come to the United States, where the games industry has been established for decades. So far, I can say ESIP has been an amazing program for me to learn about game development. I really enjoy how hands-on the learning is, and Monty has been a great mentor in helping us navigate our game projects. Something I have often struggled with is defining a realistic scope and coming up with intriguing game metaphors, but learning about tools like the Kanban board and Round Robin has been especially helpful for me. I serve as the role of Lead Artist in my team, which has been fun yet challenging. I have been been honing my skills in how to manage the artists on my team efficiently, communicate with programmers about their technical demands for the art, and take constructive criticism from others.

The game our team has been working on is a match-3 resource collection game currently called ‘Mars Bedouins’. It imagines a world where an Emirati Bedouin family accidentally travels to Mars and the player has to help them survive by matching resources. We chose this idea as we believe it’s the perfect amalgamation of the UAE’s past and future as it links to the UAE’s Emirates Mars Mission while highlighting traditional Emirati Bedouin culture.

Additionally, ESIP offers numerous opportunities to learn from industry professionals through various talks during our time here. Hearing about their journeys into the US game industry has been transformational by allowing me to envision the steps I need to take to pursue this field in the future. Many of the guest speakers were founders of their own game companies, and they provided us with numerous tips on how to successfully build a game development company. A few of my peers and I have been collaborating outside of work to (inshAllah) build a game startup in the UAE. I am extremely pleased with how much I have learned, not only about game development but also about the process of creating a game development startup.

Moreover, an unexpected but pleasant surprise was that we would be working alongside the American SIP students who were two weeks ahead of us in the development of their games. They have been an invaluable source of information, and they were very open to answering questions about their processes and the challenges they faced so that we could better prepare. One of the American SIP teams, which is also developing a match-3 game like my team, has been particularly wonderful in giving my team tips and advice.

Overall, ESIP, MassDigi and most of all, Monty Sharma, have been exceptional in advancing my career in game development. The connections I was able to build, the wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience I gained, and the community of Emirati game developers I’ve been exposed to has been incredibly valuable. All in all, I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned from ESIP and contribute to building the game development industry back home in the UAE.

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