Unexpected Benefits

Today I arrived home from visiting Boise Idaho, current location of my boyfriend. No I’m not happy, and yes I miss him. We are six months into our relationship, and nearly two months into a long distance relationship. It sucks. My mother, in her infinite wisdom, has declared that long-distance relationships are a waste of time. My opinion? I disagree! Not only because he’s a great guy and his family is so nice to me, but because I just had an opportunity that I might not have had otherwise. I start full time at my job in a week, so my travel time will be even more limited. But this trip worked out perfectly, and I got to experience a new state, I got to experience the wonders of LAX an O’Hare airports. I got to hold, (and shoot!) several different types of guns. (More on that later.) I saw mountains! I went snow tubing and ice-skating and rock climbing, things have I haven’t done in so long. I also went to my first hockey game! It was a wonderful break from my life, and a great couple of days. And even if our relationship ends tomorrow, I will have some great memories and interesting stories to share with my friends. Totally worth it Mom, totally worth it.

On another note, shooting is FUN. I always said, oh, I couldn’t ever shoot a real gun. Turns out I can, and well enough to hit more 3 inch targets than my boyfriend, on my first go at it, I might add. I shot a handgun, a .22 rifle, and a shotgun. The handgun and the shotgun were LOUD. VERY LOUD. I liked the .22 the best. It’s a culture thing up in Idaho; everyone can talk guns, and does with great enthusiasm. But what I enjoyed best about that morning when we went shooting, was the quiet. We went out into the foothills of the mountains, and it was as quiet as I remember morning in my childhood, much quieter than Orlando ever gets. The sky was blue and the hills were white and brown with snow and dirt, and it was so peaceful. Birds called and ground squirrels whistled. I will remember the peace there, and that’s why I want to go back.

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Your mind is the scene of the crime.

I had been wanting to watch Inception again for quite a while, and the other night I finally sat down with my roommate to enjoy the DVD. I saw it in theaters, with most of the population, and enjoyed it immensely. I was thrilled to hear that it had received 8 nominations for the Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Picture. I’d like to see it win for Visual Effects, because there was quite a bit of seamless movie magic in that film that deserves recognition.  I was particularly vulnerable to empathizing with the film’s hero when I first saw it in theaters, having just gone through a traumatic break-up. I left the movie wishing I could question my own reality in such a way, dangerous thoughts that I soon snapped out of. But the ending bugged me, like an itch you can’t scratch. And I put off re-watching the film, because I was worried seeing that ending would bother me deeply all over again. Had I read the director’s thoughts on it, I would not have worried, but instead I watched it again, and was left with joy. Because, SPOILER ALERT, the real purpose to the story is not to make you question Cobb’s sanity at the end. No, it is make you realize that it because the totem is not longer his focus, that whatever reality he is living in, is the right one. His obsession with his wife and her misconceptions of reality are done away with. The only reason he doubted so much was because she doubted. As he says at the very beginning of the film “Ideas are like a virus.” He infected his wife, and was in turn infected. The true message of Inception is simple, and asks to remember the important things, our family, children, etc. So now instead of being unsettled, I am reminded, and rejoice in Cobb’s reunion with his children. The real person standing in his way was himself.

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Repost:10 Things to Do While Waiting for that Perfect Job in Game Development

I repost these few things because they’ll all I’ve wrote of worth as of yet. But just you wait! New posts coming soon!

10 Things to Do While Waiting for that Perfect Job in Game Development

Alright, so you’ve graduated your school of choice, and you are all ready to make some games! But you’ve already realized that this whole getting-a-job thing might be harder than you thought. You’ve already been to GDC once or twice, and if you haven’t why not? But you’ve been to GDC, made some connections, shown your work, you’ve applied everywhere, and still no luck. I’ve been there, believe me. And I have a few reminders for all of you aspiring game developers out there.

1. Continue building your portfolio.

I think this one is the most important, simply because I see so many young game developers just get out of school and stop. They show me some content they’ve made out in school six months ago, and when I ask to see what they are working on now, they start to look around, and say “oh, well, I’ve been busy and, well…” I’m here to tell you guys, it’s not impressive. Yes, you’ve been trying to find a job, but you need to keep your skills honed. It seems like the artist side of things is more likely to just stop working then the coder side, but that is just my experience. The more you practice, the better you will get, and if you don’t have a job after six months, you can at least have an updated demo reel.

2. Learn every program you can.

In the game industry, companies will often use many different programs to create their games, and you should know at least a bit about all of them. Maybe you came from a school that exclusively taught Autodesk Maya. Well, you are likely to find that most game studios also use Autodesk 3DS Max. Don’t get to caught up with your favorite program that you discount all the others that the industry is using. Photoshop or Mudbox? Learn them both. Most software companies will let you download trial versions or limited license student editions. You can’t use these versions to make money, but you can learn how the program works with some of your spare time. While a game company that hires you will train you in their ways of doing things, it will help you immensely to have a good grasp of all the programs they use. Research your dream companies, find out all the different tools they use if you can. Then sit yourself down and learn them yourself!

3. Build a professional presence online using LinkedIn.

Do you have a LinkedIn profile yet? If not, then go sign up now and build your page until it is at a 100% completeness according to the site. Once you’ve reached that mark, you will have added a good amount of information about your experience, and you will have reached out to some of your friends or instructors who are already using LinkedIn for recommendations of your work. Your LinkedIn functions like an online resume. Listing your experience, showing recommendations of your work, and you personally, and also allows potential employers see if you share a connection in their network. If you were taught by a potential employer’s friend, they just call that friend up and ask if you are likely to be a good hire. Find as many acquaintances on LinkedIn as you can, and encourage your friends to build their own profiles. I myself do job searches through the site, as do many other employers. LinkedIn recently added a “follow this company” feature, where you can click a button, and then receive a feed on your personal page about the changes happening to that company, just as who was hired, who left the company, and what jobs the company posts to LinkedIn. It is a great tool, and I recommend you take advantage of it.

4.  Build and update your website.

Employers these days like to see that you have your own personalized website, and that you update it frequently. Use it as an online portfolio to showcase all that work you are doing, if you are following my first piece of advice. Potential employers like to see your writing ability. Why? Because artists and programmers alike will often need to document your work. Use a blog as part of your website, and update at least weekly. Write about your industry, and the new developments that have you excited. Share any information given to you by your friends or former teachers, or any other contacts within the industry that you have. Write about the latest jobs you’ve applied for and why you would really like to work at those companies. And get your friends to link to your website, and comment on your blog posts to raise your visibility on the search results of Google and Yahoo. Build your site with searches in mind. If you’ve never thought about search engine optimization before, go check a book or two on it out of the library and see if some of the suggestions the author makes will work for you. SEO is something a lot of sites overlook, and you can use that fact to your advantage.

5. Be a professional presence online.

Don’t forget to keep your other online presences professional. Have a professional email and a personal email. That is a good way to separate things you might not want anyone to see from the image you want to employers to have of you.  Make sure whatever Facebook and Twitter accounts you use for personal fun are not in anyway linked to your professional email or website. And keep in mind, that even if they are completely separate, there is no guarantee that someone won’t find them, so don’t go too crazy. Be polite and respectful on whatever forums you post on, no matter how unrelated they are to your chosen industry. The internet has a way of figuring out connections, and you do not want some to come across a flaming post you wrote one day in a fit of temper.

6.  Be part of the industry.

But how you say? Online of course! And I don’t mean by playing World of Warcraft. If you are an artist, you should already be a part of CG Society. Post your art, get critiques, and give advice to fellow artists. Many of my friends have picked up mentors that way. If you are into games, you are likely already active on Gamasutra, GameDev.net, which markets itself as the leading resource for game developers, and of course IGN, the most often visited site in the game development community. These sites and many more have message boards or forums and the like, and being active in some of these allows you to hear what your fellow gamers like and don’t like about their current games, which can give you ideas for later!

7. Personalize each job application.

I hope you’ve heard this enough times to fully believe it, because it is very important. Do not send out 50 cover letters with just the names changed, or the first paragraph slightly altered. Make each cover letter unique, and make sure you talk about what you can bring to the table. Tell us about what your teammates have liked about you, and things your teachers have complimented you on. Sending out unique cover letters saves you the embarrassment of friends at different companies talking over recent applications, and realizing they’ve both gotten one of your cookie-cutter applications. I had an instructor tell me that cautionary tale. It makes you look lazy, which is definitely something to avoid.  Use keywords contained in the job posting to make sure that your resume is found easily in the company’s database. Most companies use a database to store applicants, and use search terms from the job posting to pull up candidates for a particular job.

8. Always have a business card on hand.

This is more important in different areas, but if you live in an area where there are a lot of companies in your industry, you especially should have a unique business card with your pertinent contact information on it with you at all times. You never know when a chance meeting could leave you wishing for a way to leave your contact information with someone. When I say pertinent information, I mean your phone number, professional email address, and website. Business cards no longer need to have your address on them. Most correspondence will happen over email. Make sure your name is readable and easy to see. I’ve seen too many business cards with great graphics that leave me searching for the owner’s name and information. The important part is your name, not the graphics you can create.

9. Get a job.

“I’m trying!” You answer. I mean, any job. Unless you have no loans and enough money to live off of, if your dream job isn’t forthcoming, move to a promising area, if you can, and get a temporary job. Freelance work is a good idea too, if you have the proper licenses for the programs you are using. You do not want to be caught making money off a student version of a program. You do not have the rights to do that, and you can end up with a hefty fine and a stay behind bars. But if you can’t freelance, you can get a job that is not in your industry. It might mean swallowing your pride and working at the local Best Buy, but you probably know a bit about computers, and it will be money coming in. So many of my friends, and students I’ve known coming out of school, just sat around and tried to get industry jobs while they slowly ran out of money. I didn’t want to work outside my industry either, but having that money coming in meant I could keep looking. And never say no to an internship, unless you’ve heard really awful things about the situation from people who’ve done that internship. Many schools can help you use an internship to push back your student loans, which will be a big help if the internship is unpaid. Internships help you get your foot in the door, and should never be taken lightly.

10. Keep your connections alive.

What I mean by this is to make sure that all those connections you made while in school stay connected. In the months after I graduated, I watched Facebook and LinkedIn updates carefully. Most of my friends struggled for months to find jobs, but then slowly but surely they started talking about art tests and interviews, and maybes and hope-sos, and finally, YES as they got the job. No matter how hard it is, keep in touch with these guys, encourage them as they take their art test, or programming test, text them and ask how it going, and when they get the job, keep up with them as they learn what it is like to actually be in the industry. They won’t be able to get you a job immediately, but they might be able to put in a good word for you at HR, or give you advice for the next time you apply. And they can only do those things if you are fresh in their mind. Don’t be pushy or annoying, and make it about about them, and they will remember you kindly. Keep in touch with teachers, most of them already have worked in the industry and have connections. If you are fresh in those teacher’s minds, when their friends mention an opening at X company, maybe they will think of you and send it your way. Networking, networking, networking!

And that, my friends is all I have for you today. Good luck, and happy hunting!

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Repost: Is Google making us stupid?

A few days ago I received this question, “In general, has the Internet diminished our ability to think critically or are we more informed than previous generations – or both?” My answer is no, the internet has not diminished our ability to think critically, it has just reduced the need, in most people’s minds anyway, to think critically. Are we more informed than previous generations? Well, according to an Merriam Webster informed means having information or based on possession of information, such as an informed opinion. It can also mean in general terms educated or knowledgeable. And with that definition in mind, I would say no, and yes. No, because I do not believe the ability to read about nearly anything imaginable on Wikipedia makes me more knowledgeable when my grandmother might have been. And yes, because if informed means having information, than we certainly have more information at our fingertips than our grandparents might have dreamed of at our age.

According to a writer from the New York Times the answer is no. His article says that all of this talk makes so sense. He points to the scientists of today, who make dizzying progress in their various fields, and are always on the computer, often have the latest and greatest mobile technology, and lecture using powerpoints and keynotes. He brings up two very good points. One, that like anything else, this is simply a time to learning some self control. Have work to do? Get off Facebook and Twitter. Want to be able to reflect deeply on what you read online? Practice! This is in part why most of us go to school, so we can learn about the world, and be encouraged to think about what we are learning, instead of just taking in whatever is sent our way. This is the practice that bothers me the most. “But I read it on the internet!” The internet is not infallible, it was made by people! And people make mistakes, and a great deal of what I read on the internet ends up being personal opinions, in various states of being well thought-out and well-written. If you take everything you read as fact, then you yourself are making yourself “stupider”, because you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to form your own opinions, and think of your own solutions.

The internet, and all the information is holds are wondrous tools, as is Facebook, and as are all of our amazing mobile phones. All of these things are simply tools, and it is up to us how we use them. Do we want to be distracted constantly? Well, there are plenty of options! But if you truly want to, you can turn off notifications, you can close the IM window, you can turn off sound, you can change your settings, and you can walk away from your computer and turn off your phone. We choose to be distracted.

I really enjoyed the article Does Google make us stupid? on pewresearch.org. The writers gathered opinions from many different teachers and professionals from around the world. One professor from Australia used the illustration of a calculator, “my ability to do mental arithmetic is worse than my grandfather’s because I grew up in an era with pervasive personal calculators…. I am not stupid compared to my grandfather, but I believe the development of my brain has been changed by the availability of technology. And this is true. We’ve seen new techniques used in schools, because teaching and learning is an ever evolving process. Speaking of calculators, when I was in school, I had a graphing calculator, but the thing confused me so much that I learned to do most of the graphing and calculations myself, on paper. My brother reached the same class, inherited my same calculator, and never worked out a single calculation himself. Now you tell me, who was or is smarter? Me, because I could do calculus in my head and on paper? Or my brother, for being able to make use of the tools we were allowed to use?

My answer is, nothing can make us individually smarter or stupider, we choose. We have more information available to us, and can be the best informed people in history if we wish. We can be the most well-read people in the history of the world if we wish. We can use our tools for good, or avoid really thinking. As of right now, Google, and the internet, cannot make us do anything. It is my choice to read through an entire article or skim a few points here and there. My choice to IM my friends instead of writing an blog. Technology and our other tools become their most dangerous when we give them the responsibility for our well-being, instead of keeping it for ourselves.

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Welcome to the blog of Chelsea

Deal with it. 🙂

But, yes good folks, welcome to the blog, and pardon my dust, I’m in the process. Check out the bio page for full introductions. At first I will repost a few blogs from my past, and then we will get on with the day to day exploring. Here’s to to my opinion!

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