Every month, we pick the brain of an up-and-coming talent. This month’s Rising Star is Anthea van Leeuwen, environment artist at Playtonic Games. She tells us about her start in the games industry, dealing with crunch and her advice for aspiring environment artists
How did you break into games?
As a kid, I spent most of my free time playing video games, much to my parents’ dismay. They didn’t know at the time that I would be able to pursue my hobby as a viable job until I went to university. During my final year, I was tasked with finding an internship at a game studio. I participated in the Grads in Games Rising Star competition as a challenge for myself, and I ended up winning! The prize was exactly what I wanted and needed: an undergrad position at the amazing Sumo Digital studio. After my internship, I was lucky enough to get in contact with my current co-workers at Playtonic Games, who were happy to have me. I’ve been with them for two years now and it’s been great.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
My time at Sumo Digital will always have a special place in my heart. When I had been working on Snake Pass for about a month, my team had enough faith in me to give me creative freedom over creating my own assets as well as doing the level art and lighting for most of the levels. There was an email that was sent around from my art director, Andy Ritson, that requested that “all levels should look like this,” with an image of one of my levels attached. Seeing my levels grow as I worked on them was amazing, but when you receive an email like that from someone with years of experience in the industry, it makes you feel proud on an entirely different scale!
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the dreaded ‘crunch time.’ Although I absolutely loved working on all the projects I’ve been on so far, stuff like that has taken its toll on my mental and physical health, and I’m still trying to get on top of it. Luckily enough my co-workers are very understanding, so that helps reduce the stress levels.
“My ultimate dream would be to work together with the supportive friends that I have met along the way.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Giving something back to the world in the form of art. When we release a new title, or when I post online about a personal project, there’ll be the occasional person reacting in a way that reminds me of myself as a kid. They’ll mention that the game made them feel something good or say that my work has inspired them in some way, and that’s the sort of feeling I’d like to continue spreading. It means so much when my work sparked that feeling in others.
What’s your biggest ambition in games?
I find it hard to decide on one ‘big ambition’ when I continue to be inspired by the people in my industry and fellow artists. In the grand scheme of things though, my ultimate ‘dream’, would be to work together with the supportive friends that I have met along the way. Being able to work on something original together with a group of close friends is something special to me, and I hope that I can continue to inspire others through that as well.
What advice would you give to aspiring environment artists?
Don’t take anything for granted. Keep working on your skills as you go, our industry is incredibly dynamic so it’s dangerous to stay in the same place. Remember the people you meet along the way and stay in contact with them, share your knowledge with them, and don’t be a stranger. Entering dev challenges is what helped me along the way, so don’t be afraid of challenging yourself and putting yourself out there!