May 11, 2022
Having an interest in video games and 3D animation all throughout high school, Derek Lewis was looking for a university that would allow him to explore those areas. Graduating from Shawnee State University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game & Simulation Arts, he found a degree that prepared him for a successful career as a game artist.
“The Game & Simulation degrees at Shawnee State are outstanding,” he said. “I believe my time in those courses really gave me an excellent foundation for entering my first job after graduation. They do a good job of teaching the collaborative and creative atmosphere common in most game studios while also simulating the real-world deadlines and prioritization skills needed to be successful.”
When choosing his major, Lewis made the decision to pursue the game arts side of the program rather than the game programming track. Having a passion for both areas of study, the decision was purely based on preference of what he would want to pursue long-term.
“I just had to decide whether I was more interested in an art or computer science focus,” he said. “I ultimately chose the art side, but my whole professional career has been a blend of the two disciplines.”
Lewis is thankful to the Game & Simulation courses at SSU for helping to prepare him for a career following graduation. He enjoyed his experience and felt confident in his foundational knowledge of the industry, largely thanks to his connections with his faculty members.
“Greg Lyons made a huge impact on my time at SSU,” he said. “As a professor, he was instrumental in shaping my skill set for employment. I always felt Greg had my best interests in mind and put me in the best possible position to be successful after graduation.”
After completing his degree, Lewis pursued different positions in the gaming industry and felt he was prepared for a career in game studios.
“SSU prepared me for the studio atmosphere,” he said. “Coming out of graduation and starting my first job, I was pleasantly surprised how closely my time at SSU mimicked what was expected of me in my daily job.”
Exploring different positions and studios within the gaming industry, Lewis has found himself now working his dream job.
“After graduation, I started with Rocket City Studios,” he said. “From there, I had a brief stint at YEI Technology before landing at Stardock. After about a year and a half, I moved on to my dream job at Insomniac Games where I have been for over six years.”
For students looking at pursuing a degree in the gaming field, Lewis offers advice he found helpful while at SSU.
“I would encourage them to trust in what SSU has to offer and maximize the opportunities that are presented to them,” he said. “Seek out projects and collaboration with your fellow students and always try to find the fun in learning the next new technology or application.”
SSU’s four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Game & Simulation Arts prepares students for the challenges of professional practice with an understanding of the role art and design plays within the gaming pipeline. The program’s courses teach a rich background of the history of art and aesthetics, a strong vocabulary, and panel of visual experiences to master preproduction, game design and development, and ways to apply art to simulation. The degree also helps students sharpen their collaborative skills in a joint senior project with the Game Engineering program to build skills in animation, art asset development, game design, and motion capture. Both of SSU’s gaming programs were recently ranked #9 on The Princeton Review’s Top Undergraduate Schools for Game Design.
To learn more about the nationally-ranked game programs at Shawnee State University, visit shawnee.edu/gaming.