CCCC’s video game course aims big to provide pipeline to cutting-edge jobs

Posted 8/18/21

Just a few days after graduating from Central Carolina Community College, alumnus Jayden Sansom started a final class at the college: video game art and design.

The class was offered for the first …

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CCCC’s video game course aims big to provide pipeline to cutting-edge jobs

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Renderings made by recent CCCC alumus Jayden Sansom in the video game design course she took with the college this past summer. The course is being offered again this fall; registration closes Aug. 30.
Renderings made by recent CCCC alumus Jayden Sansom in the video game design course she took with the college this past summer. The course is being offered again this fall; registration closes Aug. 30.
Courtesy of Jayden Sansom
Posted

Just a few days after graduating from Central Carolina Community College, alumnus Jayden Sansom started a final class at the college: video game art and design.

The class was offered for the first time at CCCC this summer by professional video game artist Bill Green as a part of the school’s continuing education program. Sansom, who wants to work in video game design, couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“It was just perfect,” she said. “It was really fun, all in all, to try to stretch beyond my bounds and do something that is similar to what I will be doing in the future, I thought was awesome. And especially because the teacher was great — he worked with us individually and as a group and taught us really well on how to actually do all the basics and then helped us individually do more complicated things.”

CCCC’s Jon Spoon, the college’s Chatham County director of continuing education, said he was excited to develop a course in video game art and design. He hopes it will help accomplish the program’s goal of creating “a mutually beneficial pipeline between talented local students and cutting-edge local employers.”

Spoon met Green early on in his role as director of continuing education, a position he started last semester, after previously working as the college’s small business director.

“Bill had a clear vision for the kind of program he wanted to develop,” Spoon said. “He has worked as a game developer for decades, but saw a disconcerting trend among new hires in the last few years.”

Many students attending four-year university programs for game development became well-versed in the theory behind design, but often lacked the practical skills and work products to make themselves hireable, Green said.

“Bill wanted to develop a course that gives students experience with the actual tools they would be using as video game developers and help them build a portfolio of work that they could use to get a good job,” Spoon told the News + Record. “I was immediately excited about the potential.”

The video game design field is growing quickly, and nearby. Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, recently acquired the former Cary Towne Center and plans to establish its headquarters there — a move that will create hundreds of news jobs, Spoon said.

“Hopefully, we can create an educational pathway at CCCC that will allow our students to develop rewarding careers without having to leave the area,” he added.

For Green, with more than 20 years of video game expertise, the course fulfilled a long-held goal. Green, an assistant track and field coach at Chatham Central who also works full-time at video game company Ubisoft, told the News + Record in November 2020 he hoped to launch an accessible, hyper-focused video game animation class in 2021, created and taught by him in downtown Siler City, for local teens.

That course was meant to help prevent bad portfolios — ones containing poor animation or poor texturing.

“It just bothers me so much to see kids applying for jobs when they have horrible portfolios,” Green said at the time. “And what bothers me the most is they owe $100,000 back and they can’t get a job.”

Like he envisioned at the time, Green’s video design course at CCCC focuses on learning the “right ways” to model, texture and create open worlds in standard video game environments.

The course is designed with people who are gamers or would like to work in game design, Green said, but have no experience. During the two-month class, he taught students how to 3D model using programs 3D Studio Max and Unreal Engine 4.

“It’s just giving them an introduction to see if this piques your interest or not, without spending a lot of money,” he said, “You can know in two months if it’s something you’re gonna want to do or not.”

Sansom said the best part of the course was learning in part by seeing what everyone else was doing.

During her time in the class, Sansom saw classmates make the Colosseum, a gun and their classroom. She wanted to make a tailoring studio — cabinets, curtains and all — and by the end of the class, with help from Green, she did.

In future classes, Green said he plans to spend more time in the game engine and less time learning to model, as two months is too short of a time to really grasp that skill.

Students can still register for the fall offering of the course, which begins Aug. 30.

“I think the class intimidates people, because they think, oh, I’ve got to program or something,” Green said. “But it’s basically just an art class. If you can draw, if you can send an email, you’ll be fine. There’s no grades or testing, it’s just a skill to learn and to have fun — and it’s really fun.”

Though the program at CCCC is starting small, Spoon said he hopes it will continue to grow to meet the needs of students and local employers alike.

For some of the students who take the course, video game design will be an interesting hobby, Spoon said, but for others — like Sansom — it could be a professional calling.

“It’s definitely a skill that is very niche, and to have someone to be able to teach that was really, really awesome,” Sansom said of video game design. “All the classes I found before were online and it looked like you were just going to watch some videos and do some assignments that someone would take one glance at and grade it. It felt really awesome to have someone actually there and teach us.”

To register for the class, visit: https://www.cccc.edu/ecd/find-classes/index.php?PublicationDepartment=Computer%20Training.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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