Moving for a dream job

AIE Alumni | Moving For Work | Kubo

AIE Alumni, Erin Halpenny graduated at the Sydney Campus in 2014 with an Advanced Diploma of Game Art and Animation. We caught-up with Erin to discuss her move for a dream job at Playside studios.

In the 3 years Erin has been working at PlaySide she has worked on games including Lego Batman, Cars: Lightning League, Kubo: A Samurai Quest and many more. Through these titles Erin also moved job titles from Graduate Artist, Artists and is now a Producer. Here is what she had to say:

AIE Alumni | Moving For Work | PlaySide
AIE Alumni | Moving For Work | Lego Batman

When starting at AIE, did you think you were going to have to move for your dream job?

I always had a hunch that I would get a job outside of Sydney, although the idea of it was very scary for me for both my parents and myself. But, I was going to chase it no matter what. I had no real idea what I was planning on doing. As long as it was making games I was super keen!


How did AIE prepare you for the workplace?

When I started studying AIE I was fresh out of high school; I wanted to study at AIE to get a job in the games industry so I treated AIE like a job. AIE supported the idea of deadlines, earning as you work and forming strong bonds with the people around you, and that is reflected in my day to day job now! I’m constantly learning, networking with others and chasing deadlines.

Did you work before and/or through studying? If so, do you think that helped with the build up to your industry job?

I would consider it an interesting job but probably not too helpful. I used to sell pet fish at a local Aquarium. We always had a lot of interesting characters come to the store.

One guy wanted to buy a Piranha and a Fighting fish to see who would win, He didn't get any fish that day and was told kindly to leave…

(For those of you who are curious of course a Piranha would win)


Did some of the team based projects at AIE help with what was about to come in the industry?

My final year group project was the most memorable group project from AIE. We had a large team of artists and a very small team of programmers. It was great to work with such talented people of many different levels and I think I learnt the most about game development when I worked with my team. It was stressful at times, but it was important to work through the pressure to make something awesome together. In this industry we have to work with so many people, Artists, Designers, Animators, Coders, Producers. The group projects made me appreciate all the efforts that we all go through to make that final game, because in the end, we all have the same dreams.

When studying at AIE, what did you do besides coming to class that made you stand out and get an industry job?

I always gave 100%. Even if it wasn't something I was particularly interested in like learning game engines or how to rig a character and so on. I treated AIE like it was my job so I never handed in anything late and I always made sure it was something I could be proud of. It's really hard to know when to let go of something because it will never be “Perfect”, so I would do the best I could in the set amount of time and tried to not stress over it.

I think that effort stood out to my teachers and fellow classmates and they spread the word. After all it’s the people closest to you that will talk about you, so try to make a good impression!


How did you find out about the job and what was the interview process like?

AIE held an industry night and I had a couple of offers and people interested in my work, we were just about to graduate and I was very nervous! I had got an offer from PlaySide Studios after they heard from one of my teachers about my work and they extended an art test for me. I knew PlaySide was in Melbourne but I still wanted to do the art test to test myself as well! I was so scared when I submitted that art test that I actually cried!

AIE Alumni | Moving For Work | Kubo

I had a phone call with the CEO and COO and they talked about the possibility of moving down!


I got the job!


I worked remotely for two months to make sure I was sure about moving down, and after saving up and making the preparations it was time to move!

What was the hardest thing about moving?

I had never moved at all in my life, I spent 20 + years living in my family home. My boyfriend of 3 years, my family, friends, everyone I knew were in Sydney. I’m so glad I had the support of all of them to make the leap and move to Melbourne. That and driving 9 hours straight with a pet fish on my lap was also quite… tricky.


What was the easiest thing about moving?

Despite how spooked I was, it was actually quite easy to get going! Everything happened so fast and before I knew it I was down here in Melbourne!

I think the most convenient part was that our new apartment was directly across the road from where I was working! (until they moved that is...)


Please share any stories, tips or thoughts to those who are looking at coming to AIE.

Don't ever be afraid to ask for help! Nothing is a silly question, even if you ask your fellow classmates! I tried to go at it alone before coming to AIE because I felt like I was too much of a beginner, I came to AIE with absolutely NO knowledge on game development, let alone how to even do 3D. Having teachers and others around you who are just as passionate as you are some of the greatest teaching tools, and some of the greatest friends!

AIE Alumni | Moving For Work | Erin Halpenny

Even now at my current job I’m still asking questions and learning how to do new things and people will ask you questions and learn from you as well! We should always be willing to help others and ask for help in return, you shouldn't try to make it alone, I know id be lost without teachers, friends and family to guide me on my way.

My advice to anyone looking to get into the games industry; study hard but have a lot of fun doing it!

I’ll be doing a talk at Gnomon Live Melbourne about getting started in the industry and about the struggles of starting as a junior, Feel free to see me there if your around and ask me things!