I chose to attend the Art Institute of Vancouver (AI) for several reasons. First of all, during the presentation AI had at my school, I was impressed by the artwork that AI students had produced. The quality of work was so impressive that I decided to sign up for the program. To add to this, my friend who was in the animation program had very positive feedback about the school. I even went on a school tour around AI and was happy to learn that they had a gaming program.
I spent two years at AI in the Game and Art Design program which costed about $30,000. My experience at AI could be summed up in one word – alright. I learned to use new programs, different drawing techniques, and how the gaming industry works. However, I think the program was lacking in certain areas.
The Positive Experiences
I learned new programs such as Maya, Photoshop, unreal (UT), Premiere Pro, 3DMax, Zbrush, and Flash. The teachers were friendly and willing to help when asked. I learned a lot of different things such as color theory, anatomy, designing, good interface, shadows, and different perspective like 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Also, I learned to make a proper storyboard, resume, cover letter, and even my own business cards. The best class I had was the Game Development class in which we got the opportunity to act as a game company. We had concept arts, QA (game testers), animators and programmers to create our own game. The teachers taught us good tricks and shortcuts to develop our work faster. The class gave us a better understanding of how the game industry is constructed, and we all learned a little bit more about how to research game jobs and companies in preparation for our job search in the future.
The Negative Experiences
I found the format and delivery of the class to be quite boring and discouraging for many students. Some of the teachers would lecture throughout the entire four-hours class, which made staying awake during class that much more difficult. The quality of teachers was also questionable. For example, the teacher AI had just hired to teach our 3D Studio Max class did not really know how to model and texture in the program. All he knew was how to animate models. This showed a lack of commitment on the part of AI to find knowledgeable teachers who had a good understanding of the programs they were teaching. It took awhile until they replaced the teacher with someone who was qualified to teach us 3D Max properly. Also, we had a class called Designing Interior Spaces, which was designed to teach students Zbrush. However, we didn’t learn anything about interior designing at all. All we learned was how to use the light rig and a few things about the program. The teacher spent the majority of the class complaining rather than teaching.
I believe that the biggest problem AI had was the quality level of the teachers they hired, many of them lacked teaching experience or were not experts in the classes they were teaching.
The Camera & Lighting class was also quite disorganized. The teacher was new at teaching and didn’t explain the different types of cameras. We were given a project right away in which everyone failed. We learned to use lights in Maya; in the lighting project, the teacher gave us an environment to put lights in but the environment turned out to be corrupt such that none of our lights actually showed up after rendering. I believe that the biggest problem AI had was the quality level of the teachers they hired, many of them lacked teaching experience or were not experts in the classes they were teaching.
Also, the curriculum was missing some key components that would have been beneficial for my demo reel. For example, we didn’t learn anything about dynamics and we didn’t learn enough about the different materials in Maya.
Life After AI
Given the state of the economy now, no one is really hiring within the gaming industry. As such, I am busy working two part-time jobs while working on my 2D artwork as I try to save up enough money to buy a new computer to work on my demo reel.
The curriculum is targeted at novices and is not equipped to really advance your skills.
AI is an alright place to start for people who don’t have any previous experience or who don’t have good drawing skills. I would not recommend it to those who had experience in drawing and 3D work. The curriculum is targeted at novices and is not equipped to really advance your skills. However, it has been a year and half since AI changed its Game and Art Design program, so the program might have changed for the better since my time.
To see a collection of my work from AI, you can visit my portfolio.