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


Mark Maia - Creative Director

Illustration Technical (ILT later to be renamed DMA: Digital Media Arts) that’s what she chose, and that’s what I applied for… nothing else. I convinced myself that if I didn’t get into this course, it just wasn’t meant to be. And low and behold I got in… legitimately this time.

On day one I knew I had to make my move and pick a college buddy before the good ones were all taken, enter Denis Cawson. The story of how that friendship came to be is an interesting tale onto itself, but we’ll save that for another day.

Half way through the course and everything is going great! I’m at the top of my class with my now good buddy Denis, and my future is looking bright. During one of our classes our teacher Derek Elliot gives us a heads up on what’s to come in the second half of the course, “great!” I thought, ‘cause in truth, I never actually looked up the curriculum. So when I heard that we were going to learn 3D animation I thought “all right bring it on!… hey Denis… what’s 3D animation?” Ok, so I had no clue, but it all worked out in the end, between me and my good pal Denis, we had the two top animation spots nailed down.

2 years later, college is over and the search for a job starts again, but this time I got a subpar student reel to back me up, ain’t nothing going to stop me now! My future as an employee of an animation house it set, except… I never sent out a single reel, why? Because an easier opportunity landed at my door step before I could lick a stamp (those things you used before e-mail… ask your parents) and I took it.

You see, my mother was working as a custodian at an advertising studio, and in passing she tells the owner, “Hey, my sons an artist” to which he replies “Oh really, well bring in some of his work and I’ll have a look”. Upon hearing this story I hand my mom one of my old Photoshop assignments from school. She takes it to the advertising guy and he loves it and gives me a job on the spot, things are looking up.

Six months later and I get the second of 2 calls which got me where I am today. While sitting at home on a Sunday watching American Pie on my brand new VHS, the phone rings, the caller ID reads “Sandbox Studios” video game developer and current employer of my good buddy Denis. I answered the phone expecting it to be Denis on the other line, I’m surprised when I hear the voice of a complete stranger, but being the friendly type of guy I am, I chat it up with the stranger, never once asking him his name or why he’s calling. We talked about video games and art, two subjects that I was very familiar with. By the end of this most delightful conversation with this complete stranger, he tells me he wants me to come work at Sandbox Studios in London, On. “Did I just have a job interview?” I thought to myself… “Well I’ll have to think about it” I tells him. We say our goodbyes and hang up… what the hell was that! Apparently Denis dropped my name at the studio, and whatever he told them had them sold, and less than a week later, I’m the newest employee at Sandbox Studios in London, Ontario… a city I didn’t even know existed up until a few weeks ago. So what do I do now? I’ve got no savings, and I don’t get see my first pay check for a month. Oh wait a minute, I just started dating a girl from London just a few weeks earlier and she tells me I can crash with her parents till I get my own place… isn’t it nice when all the pieces just fall into place.

First day at Sandbox Studios: I started off as a pixel artist on GBC (Game Boy Color), “what’s pixel art” I ask myself, and that’s where that form of questioning ended, I knew if I wanted to keep this job I better learn to how to sling a pixel and fast. Oh, did I mention I was the only “pixel artist” on staff? Ipso facto, I land the title of Lead Artist by default.

Game design was something that always interested me and I made it my goal to get involved as much as possible. Eventually that persistence paid off and I was official named lead designer of the GBA team (Game Boy Advance), but by that time Sandbox was bought out by Dice, the creators of the hit Battlefield franchise.

4 Years into my career and I’ve had the opportunity to be Lead Artist and Lead Designer, not to mention my work as level designer, UI designer, 3D modeller, voice over actor and pretty much everything else but programming.

When the game boy department shut down, I was put on Battlefield 2 where they had me building what felt like the same vehicle over and over again, I was board out of my mind. There were points when I swear I was moving backwards. So the time came where I had to make my move, I had to leave Dice.

By the time I made the decision to leave Dice, Damir Slogar (now former dice programmer) had started a little company called Big Blue Bubble, he offered me a job as creative director and I took it, it was the fresh start I needed (although I was scared out of my mind. You know, job security and all). That was back in 2004, now 7 years later, Dice Canada is no more and Big Blue Bubble is bigger and more successful than ever, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Someone once asked me “What is your biggest regret in life” and I answered “I have no regrets.” To which he responded “everyone has regrets”, so I explained “Everything that’s happened in my life, both good and bad have lead me to where I am today, so if I’m happy with my life, then how could I regret any of it?”.


Original art by Mark Maia for BBB

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