GAME + ARTIST is a series of profiles of young, up-and-coming artists who help create or are inspired by video games. These profiles seek to reveal the artists' inspirations and ways of approaching art, in his or her own words, with the hope that they can in turn inspire others. This profile of game designer Jenny Jiao Hsia is the third in the series.
NAME Jenny Jiao Hsia
ALIAS cutedork / q dork
FROM New York City, NY USA
GOT STARTED by accident
I could never have imagined that I would become a game designer. I never really got into games growing up, but I took my first games class by chance (long story), which opened my eyes to the potential of the medium.
STUDIED game design
I’m in the inaugural class of the BFA in game design at NYU and I’ve been making games for 2 LONG years. I’ve been drawing for my entire life, but I never believed that I could pursue it seriously. I arrived in college thinking I would focus on pre-med, but (luckily?) that didn’t work out for me. When I first got into games, I attended a lot of game jams and worked on small projects in my free time. Honestly, I feel so fortunate to end up where I am today, and I think the thing helped me a lot was having some doors close in my life, so that other opportunities could open up.
INSPIRED BY tumblr, Nina Freeman, and cute brands
Tumblr is a huge source of inspiration for me. I have a secret tumblr blog that I keep password protected and I reblog a ton of images that I feel like would be cool to incorporate in current and future projects. I also love Nina Freeman’s work because I really admire her ability to articulate her experiences through her games. When I was little, I watched a ton of cartoons and I really liked this cute fashion brand called Tokidoki. Basically, I grew up with Sanrio and Studio Ghibli and I don’t think those two sources have ever left me.
REMEMBERS PLAYING puzzle games and Loco Roco
I played a lot of Zoombinis and Nitrome games. Growing up, I really liked Loco Roco (for the PSP). I think that one stuck for me because everything is so cute and delightful and squishy.
HAS DIFFICULTY striking the right balance
Adjusting full-time as a game developer this summer... IS TOUGH. I got really frustrated at myself for not being able to exert as much energy in my social interactions as I used to. All of a sudden, I find myself dreading crowded spaces and talking to people, and I really wish I didn’t! I think constantly creating stuff makes me more introverted and sometimes it’s tough for me to unwind without feeling terrible about it. So, yeah, work-life balance is pretty challenging but I’m getting better it!
GETS UNSTUCK BY working with her hands
When I get artist’s block, I like spending time just looking at things on the internet and getting inspired by them. I’ll look at beautiful images or videos that might have an aesthetic that I’m trying to develop for a project. Sometimes I’ll browse with a particular interest in mind like color palettes or shapes. For design, I go straight to paper prototyping. I like cutting up and playing around with tangible pieces because it’s really satisfying (and far less daunting) to flesh out ideas on paper that to go straight to software.
SEES HER WORK AS cute and playful
I am moving in a lot of different styles at the moment, so I would say a limited color palette is a unifying element to my work. I also tend to gravitate towards simple and clean shapes. Currently, I really adore soft pastel colors and something that I’ve always been incorporating in my work is cute expressive faces on my characters. For Beglitched, I wanted to embrace more of the playful and whimsical side of computers as opposed to the traditional and dark elements in the cyberpunk genre.
WANTS TO make more games!
I want keep making games and I want people to know that! I want to make a lot of money and give all that money away and have some left over to get by and make more games. I’m starting to prototype a game for my senior capstone project called Consume Me, it’s about a personal experience with dieting when I was in high school and I’m really excited to work on that as well.
WANTS VIDEO GAMES TO be beautiful
Usually, the visual aesthetic of a game is the first thing that captures my attention. Games with a distinctive visual style can have the ability to resonate with different audiences. To me, art and beauty ought to compliment the game design instead of work against it and I believe it’s important to strike a balance between the visual design and rules of a game to bring out the most compelling experience for players.
First published on August 22, 2015.