Women in gaming: Interview with a Technical Artist at Hutch Games

Article written by Andy Turton, Director of X4 Technology.

As a technical artist working at Hutch Games, no two days are the same. From working on shaders, UI and VFX to working on tools to speed up the art team’s workflow, bridging the gap between art and code is a simple way to describe the role.

As part of X4 Technology’s women in gaming series, Jing Tan Chun, Technical Artist at Hutch Games, Women in Games Ambassador and Culture Ambassador, shared with me some interesting insights not just into her role, but also her thoughts on female representation in gaming and what she thinks is going to be the next fastest growing trend in gaming.

What do you enjoy most about being a Technical Artist?

The thing I enjoy most is being able to get involved with both the technical and artistic side of development.

As a technical artist, I get to be more of a generalist rather than having to choose either a very technical or very artistic role. I can work on multiple aspects within the game production process: it’s an incredibly varied job and that’s always motivating. Also, people love you when your tools and documentation make their lives easier!

What’s the most challenging part of your role?

I think the most challenging part of being a technical artist is also the most interesting and rewarding part: due to the many facets of the role, and the rapid rate at which game technology is evolving, “Technical Art” has become a catch-all term for a million different things.

It can be challenging to live up to these expectations as a technical artist. I need to constantly learn new things and adapt to new situations – it’s important to get on top of the latest developments in art and programming tools. Being the bridge between art and code, I really need to be proficient at both to handle the delicate balancing act between visual fidelity and performance.

What does a typical day look like as a technical artist at Hutch Games?

There really is no typical day as a technical artist at Hutch Games – it varies day on day depending on what the project needs, but I often start the day with a review of the progress of my tasks, along with a team catch-up so we’re clear about what the priorities are and what potential issues might come up.

After that, I might be working on some shaders, UI, VFX, tools for the art team to speed up their workflow, writing documentation and guides, optimising the game’s performance, or troubleshooting and resolving visual issues in the game (that’s a lot now that I write it out).

My day often ends with checking my inbox to catch up on the emails that I’ve missed throughout the day!

As a Woman in Games Ambassador and a Culture Ambassador, do you feel efforts to improve culture and female representation are building momentum in the gaming industry?

Yes, efforts to improve culture and representation of women is certainly building momentum – there are more support groups and mentorship schemes now and many companies have signed up to the #RaiseTheGame pledge after the UKIE games industry census highlighted the diversity problem, although I feel a lot of the efforts have been focused on getting more women into games rather than keeping them in the industry.

The industry should continue to improve and take more actions to resolve the issues of women leaving the games industry, otherwise we’re going to continue to lose the women we managed to attract.

A few support groups and mentorship schemes:

How has the current COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?

Transitioning to work from home entirely was the simple part for me, especially when my workplace already allowed staff to work from home part-time previously. However, the extra steps required to communicate successfully and the increased challenges of collaborating over video meetings has made some parts of my work slower. Since I started working remotely, I’ve found that I need to get used to over communication and expressing my ideas in new, clearer ways.

What do you think is going to be the next fastest growing trend in gaming?

I think procedural content creation (especially texturing) and photogrammetry workflows are going to become more commonplace, leading to more believable worlds and immersive experiences in games. As a result, teams will need to adapt to new workflows, games will be less focused on optimisation and more focused on making really great content as processing capabilities increase.

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