A while back I saw a note on one of the gamer girl Tumblr blogs I follow about her being super excited because she was selected as one of the 2016 IGDAF Women in Gaming Ambassadors. Her name? Christina Curlee, and she's so super awesome, y'all! She's smart, funny, loves animals and art, and she makes games!
And she was nice enough to answer a bunch of my questions. We've been chatting off and on over the last few months, and she let me take notes to share with you all about her experiences as a young woman in gaming and what it means to be an IGDA Ambassador.
SRPS: First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you? What are some of your goals in life?
CC: Sure, I've been creative all my life but actually begin my schooling in Biology as I initially wanted to be a veterinarian. After a while of not feeling quite right in that environment though, I was in a bit of a floating period not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. I always knew I loved art, as well as creating things but for some reason I never really thought about pursuing art and video games. It wasn't until I decided to really buckle down and focus did I eventually pursue a bachelors in fine arts and arrive at working mostly with digital art and transmedia. It began with photography, where I would build little scenes and takes photos of them and that progressed into installation artwork and combined with my love of all things computers, I just ended up doing Artgames, level design and 3d modeling with that same eye for building, design and interaction with audiences that I had been building upon. I still really love working with animals though and so I juggle double careers with animals and with becoming more proficient at refining my vision with Digital arts and games.
I'm inspired by the future always. I am working towards how I imagine the world could be and that's a big part of why I love working with technology and environments. I love being a part of a group of people that seeks nothing more but to make others happy and enjoy their life. Ultimately, I'd like to run my own studio and produce games and interactive environments for meaningful play. I would love to be a professor and advocate for more connection between fine arts and games and technology.
SRPS: You work with animals? In what capacity? How does that influence, if at all, your games and art?
SRPS: Talk to me about your gaming loves. When did you start playing games? What are some of the key moments in your gaming history?
CC: I've been playing games since I was very young, like 6 years old with a Nintendo and I've been playing ever since. I think the games that really had an impact on me were Echo the Dolphin, Final Fantasy 7, Elder Scrolls Oblivion, and the Fallout series. I feel like these games changed me as a person (haha). I'm really taken in by intricate environments, secrets, and multi-level game play and have been since I was very young.
SRPS: Do you have a preferred gaming platform? Tabletop, console, PC, mobile, etc.?
CC: PC and Playstation.
SRPS: What are aspects about gaming and gaming culture that you love?
CC: I really like that we're people that just want to be happy and make others happy (talking about game developers). We're not trying to get rich, we just love crafting things that make people say "Wow!" and that they enjoy. Everyone I've met in gaming has been so sweet and open, and ready to help. The culture is really close knit and it feels like a big family. Gamer culture in general -- it's so cool how we have our own language and bond over games no matter how different our backgrounds are. It teaches teamwork and togetherness, and creates this shared culture around the entire world. It's really amazing the way games unite.
SRPS: How awesome was it to be selected to be part of the IGDA WIG Ambassador?! What has your experience been like so far?
CC: The IGDA is so giving and caring, and they really care about the visibility of women and minorities in game development. The leaders in it are the most helpful people you will ever meet. When I won the scholarship, I was ecstatic and GDC in San Francisco was amazing. I learned so much from the panels, got to meet lots of excited game developers, went to great parties and of course played a lot of games. Everyone I met was so kind and I always felt 'safe' in the environment despite the bad press the industry gets. With the women in games scholarship, I was able to meet women mentors already in the industry and received private talks and advice for breaking in as well as taking other paths like education. Another cool thing is that since the game industry is relatively small I was able to meet some of my idols and found out that they were so humble and helpful. I can't say enough good things about IGDA and the developers at GDC. Oh and also there were many many women there, so there is def progress being made. A new age in gaming is coming!
WIG Ambassador? Are there specific tasks or responsibilities?
CC: The ambassadors are mainly there to be representations of the excellence of women in gaming and proof to others as well as inspiration that women can achieve in the gaming industry. We come from all different skill levels and backgrounds to show a diversity of experience.
SRPS: It sounds like you've found the right spot for yourself doing something creative and exciting in the gaming world. What would 6 year old you playing on her Nintendo think about that?
CC: I probably wouldn't even know how far along we would be now. Before game development was reserved for elite programmers and now people with more of an art focus like me are actually in demand as the platforms and people demand more creativity and fantastic places and game play. With the expansion of gaming into an art form and in virtual reality and Augmented, its really grown exponentially in my lifetime.
SRPS: Are you working on anything specific right now you care to share with us? Any big plans for the future?
CC: My semester earlier this year was so intense, having made 4 games that I've really been resting in the summer and mostly reading about gaming, and "studying" (playing games, which is actually really important), soon though I will be studying programming to expand my scope within that. I really enjoy what I know so far with programming, it gives you a lot of creative power when you can do it yourself.
SRPS: Have you received any specific advice from a mentor in gaming that totally fired you up about your future in gaming?
CC: I've had many mentors, that have been encouraging and never doubtful of my ability which encourages me to work harder and not disappoint them or myself. The thing that fires me up the most though is to watch people play my games knowing that I made something that people react to and get into, I made a little world for them and I get to see the impact of doing so. A lot of people are so surprised about the potential for art games, and I'm excited to push fine arts and gaming even more. Art and tech is the future.
SRPS: What advice do you have for young people, and especially young women, looking for a career in the games industry?
CC: Start making games and getting active in game development communities as soon as possible. It will make all the difference when you graduate college and begin looking for work. Learn the big engines really well and get involved in modding for existing games, and learn programming even if you're in artist. It will only help you more in the long run and make you more flexible on a team. Also there are a lot of people rooting for you so pay attention to them and ignore negative people.
SRPS: Where else can people find you online?
CC: My main site is www.christinazero.com and it links to everything else. On Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and other places I'm Phazero.
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