Ask An Indie: Lizzy Siemers, GameSmart

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Welcome to Ask An Indie where we interview local independent game developers to learn how they make, do and create.

The indie: Elizabeth “Lizzy” Siemers, Game Designer / Illustrator, GameSmart

What inspired you to start making games?

I grew up playing video games. My first game was Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Sega Genesis. As I grew up with video games, I always found myself wishing for more female characters to relate to. I would draw my ideas for female character designs and think of games and universes they could be in. I didn’t become totally dedicated to game development until college, where I started a game development club and I geared all my projects to being game development oriented.

At what age did you create your first game?

The first game I made was with Steven and Charles McGregor. It was a rock-paper-scissors type game. I think I was about 21 when we made it.

What formal training do you have that has helped you?

I had a BFA in Digital Art and Photography from University of Minnesota Duluth. I found that the degree was a beneficial for pursuing game art because I had the freedom to draw whatever I wanted while learning about how light works through photography and how to frame my images. I should add, I pushed myself a lot outside of school to improve my skills, studying anatomy, light, and game art with youtube tutorials.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

I relied a lot on Lynda to learn software in college. Now I use google and youtube for everything. Being self sufficient in solving problems and improving skills is key to being a successful game developer.

How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?

There are 4 artists, 2 programmers, 1 tester, and 1 director.

What game(s) have you published?

With GameSmart I have worked on Tower of Babel, YoHoBingo, and DropSpot. Independently I worked on Verdant Skies.

What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?

Being between jobs is hard. There aren’t many opportunities out here that can pay a living wage so you have to be flexible, and having a back-up plan is a must.

What is the most rewarding?

Seeing players play your game. Finishing a product and moving on to the next. Listening to people talk about a game you’ve worked on.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?

This is a very competitive industry and no one is going to hold your hand. Take criticism and improve yourself. Taking risks is a must, and be ready to jump at an opportunity or someone else will. It’s not for everyone.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Developing games is one of the most rewarding experiences. In the internet age, we have access to an infinite source of knowledge and visual inspiration. Use it! Every day is an opportunity to improve your skills.

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