Drawn by Fate: How I got into the video game biz (Part 1 of 2)

Becoming an Artist in the Gaming Industry

Mark Maia - Creative Director

How did I get into the video game industry? Well, I’d like to think that hard work, raw talent and persistence got me to where I am, at least I hope so. I mean… to make it this far in my career and simply chalk it up to dumb luck, well that’s just sad. Dumb luck is for people who fall over backwards into circumstances that they would otherwise never achieve on their own, winning the lottery for example. What happed to me… that was fate, I was meant to be here. Allow me to explain the chain of events that got me to where I am…

It all started way back in 95. It was my last year at Western Tech high school in Toronto, when I met one of my best friends, Mimi (seriously that’s her name). The semester was almost up and it seemed that everyone but me had a list of colleges and universities to apply to, they had a plan, and they knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Me… I just didn’t want to end up on the street living out of a box, so I started to panic.

In an attempt to salvage what was left of a misspent youth, I signed up for a “career path & planning class” hosted by the schools guidance counsellor, in which I paid no attention, and got called out for talking in class. After class she sat me down in her office, and went on to tell me, what an excellent radio voice I had. Now, anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I’m a rambling mumbler at best, two qualities that don’t go over well in the radio biz, but I was 17, WTF did I know?! After our little talk I thanked the nice lady and went on my way to start my ever so promising career in broadcasting… NOT.

Over the next 2 months or so I applied to every broadcasting course at every college I could think of, but to no avail. Then the mail strike happened, so instead of sending out rejection letters, colleges had to call each student to let them know whether or not they were accepted, not a big deal for me, I was already turned down by every school I applied too. I even applied for jobs at the mall and nothing… at the MALL… who can’t get a job at the mall? I was truly in dire straits, well not so dire I was living with my parents after all, but you get the idea.

Then the call came, this would be one of 2 most unexpected calls that contributed to my present state of affairs. It went something like this…

Mark (aka, me): Hello

Centennial Desk Jockey (aka, CDJ): Hi, is this Marco Maia?

Mark (aka Marco): Yup

CDJ: We’re calling to let you know that we loved your portfolio and that classes start on blah, blah, blah.

Mark: Oh…um, great…what course is this?

CDJ: The visual arts course. You’ll need to come down to the campus to pick up your schedule for the coming semester.

Mark: Oh, of course… duh. Um… what campus exactly (trying to figure what school was calling)

CDJ: Centennial’s Warden Woods campus

Mark: Ok… thanks a lot (hang up).

Now, at a glance, you wouldn’t think there was anything particularly fascinating about that call, I mean, I am an artist, no big surprise that I would go to an art school right?… But take into consideration these little morsels of knowledge.

  1. I never applied to Centennial Collage
  2. I never even considered art as an option, let alone apply to a visual arts program
  3. I don’t have, or up to that point in time ever had a portfolio

So, how did I get accepted into a course I didn’t even apply to? Who cares, I’m going to college baby! (Mom will be so proud) While attending the visual arts course I made some long time friends and coincidently, my friend Mimi also got accepted into the same college (although a different program that she did in fact apply for).

So I did the college thing and when that finished up, I did what all college graduates do, I started looking for work.

Fun Facts:

  • I wasn’t allowed to display my artwork at the end of the year exhibit, because my professors didn’t consider comic book illustration art.
  • With a help of a few classmates, I cleaned up a portion of the studio next to the exhibit to display my work and made signs that read “More ART this way”, and it was a hit!
  • My portfolio and all my work was stolen less than a week later.

So where was I?… oh yes, looking for a job. Still no idea of what kind of job I could get as an artist (I honestly thought unless you wanted to be an architect, there were no jobs for artists, that’s why they’re called “starving artists”), I was lost, then I saw the sign… actually I was saw an episode of Who’s the Boss and thought “hey Angela’s got a pretty cool job, I’ll do that, I’ll go into advertising”. So I sent resume’s to every advertising studio I could find in Toronto. Less than two weeks had gone by before the rejections letters started pouring in, one studio actually rejected me twice, and I only applied once.

Broken and feeling defeated, I decided to give up on art as a career option, and for the next year and a half, I took on jobs as an extra for movies shot in town, things were looking grim.

Mimi, friend and voice of reason, thought that I should give school another shot. I wasn’t completely convinced but I thought what the hell. I started looking through a phonebook of available courses around town; I had no idea what to do. Turning to Mimi I hand her the book and said “here, you pick a course, any course at all (as long as it doesn’t involve math) and I’ll apply” and so she did…

To be continued

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