Alexia Chacon remembers the joy she felt when she got her first console from her parents at the age of 7. Drawn to games with strong storylines and an immersive atmosphere, she has since spent countless hours playing RPGs, action-adventure and horror games.
Now Alexia is turning her love of games into her career. Currently studying game design at CG Spectrum, she shares how the course is going, what she believes good game design is, and the projects she's working on with the help of her mentor and other CG Spectrum students.
A WIP scene from Into the Backrooms by Alexia Chacon
Hi Alexia! Tell us a bit about your journey and how you came to study game design at CG Spectrum.
I’m 19 years old, I used to study an engineering, but I never liked that path. This year I decided to start this journey into the games industry as a game designer.
Before finishing high school, I wanted to study something related to video games, but my parents thought that was a waste of time. After 3 years I decided to make my dream come true.
I came across CG Spectrum while I was browsing The Rookies website and I was interested in entering. I found an advisory service through The Rookies that gave me excellent references about the school, the methodology, and they helped me apply for the Game Design Diploma course.
Now I’m showing my family that this is what I really love, and I will be able to achieve big things.
How are you finding the course so far?
This course is helping me think outside the box and develop my communication skills; both visual and written. My mentor Chris Swain is always amazed at my work and encourages me to challenge myself. He helped me to have trust in myself and my potential, and gave me valuable advice to improve my portfolio.
I am very grateful to him for trusting in my work, for encouraging me to be better every time, for giving me quite useful feedback, and for the progress I have made so far.
The biggest takeaways from my classes are firstly, to learn how to communicate your ideas: your team will work with the documentation you’ll be presenting and to avoid misunderstandings, communication skills are vital. In addition to the correct way of presenting ideas, your team will trust in your work and be motivated by this.
Then, the other remarkable thing I learned is, to avoid innovating too much. Trying to make a completely new game out of every existing cliché can be a bad decision, and also a constant headache for the team, so take an idea already made and innovate a certain element. People like their comfort zone, and if you are trying to present something too different from what they are used to, there is a high possibility of failure.
I definitely look games differently now, especially as a game designer. When I play any game, I look carefully at every detail in the game, every mechanic, every core loop. This has completely changed my experience when I play, but makes me learn a lot about how to deconstruct games and look for references for my projects.
What do you enjoy most about designing games?
What I enjoy the most about designing a game is the fact that you don’t need to follow a strict plan. You have the freedom to change or add features while the game is being designed, in this way I can exploit all my creative potential.
What games are you into right now?
Right now, I’m into first person shooters and horror games because my friends and I can play together. I can’t see them frequently because of lockdown and with these games I can have a good time with them.
What does 'good game design' mean for you?
In my opinion a good game design is achieved when the game is immersive, you have that feeling of being in another reality and you are completely into the story, the characters, the environment, etc.
I consider this feeling that a game creates in its players makes the game experience remarkable and with a high replayability.
In addition, every gamer looks for this immersive sense when they buy a game, because these fictional worlds can be a temporary escape from the reality. The games that achieve this in my opinion are The Last of Us, Shadow of the Colossus, Beyond Two Souls, Dark Souls (series), God of War (series) and Silent Hill (series).
Image: The Last of Us Part 2
Tell us about the game you're currently working on: Into the Backrooms.
Into the Backrooms is based the idea on an urban legend that started to spread some time ago, and I mixed it with certain themes of the Silent Hill games. My main audience is 17+ and fans of the Survival Horror genre.
The main challenge is how to make an immersive atmosphere successfully; what else do I need to add to cause an impact in the gamer. I am currently trying to figure it out.
My mentor is challenging me to add more features and make something different from the other horror games. He showed me videos that give me a better view of how the design process develops, and what my main objective with the game is. He has given me some additional ideas to make it even better and have a good result.
We hear you're also working on a game with your CG Spectrum classmates. Can you share anything about that? What has it been like organizing and collaborating with others?
Yes, I’m currently working in a group project with other students from the school. I won’t give so much detail about it, because I want it to be a surprise. But what I can say is that the entire team really like the game idea and all of us are motivated to develop the project.
It is a completely new experience for me, and I am really enjoying so far. Everyone is helping each other with organizing the tasks, sending references, brainstorming, giving feedback, etc.
The only difficulty I found is how to manage the time zones for meetings but in general this will be an unforgettable learning experience for all of us.
What game studios do you like the work of and why? What would you like to see more of in games?
Ninja Theory’s work is just amazing and mind-blowing. My favourite game from them is Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. This game has mechanics I’ve never seen before and are quite interesting.
I would like to see more of these interesting mechanics in other big games and more mystery in the storylines, leaving all the details to be discovered by the players.
Let the players build the story in their minds and then surprise them while they are playing. For me this makes a game even more compelling and attractive.
A WIP scene from Into the Backrooms by Alexia Chacon
Where would you like to work someday?
I would like to work first with an indie team and release high-quality games as Ninja Theory did with Hellblade. Then I would like to work for Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog, or Insomniac games; these studios developed my favourite games and I would be glad to work with them.
What advice do you have for someone keen to study game design at CG Spectrum?
If you are a person that really likes how games work and have great ideas for a game, this is the perfect course for you.
The learning process during the course will help you understand how a game is built, how to organize your ideas and put them onto paper or sketches to be presented to your team, how every genre works, which steps you need to follow to structure every level, and much more.
What creative hobbies do you enjoy when you're not gaming?
In my free time I like to play games and I also enjoy exploring them with the photo mode that certain games offer. I use this mode to take nice shots of my favourite parts and to see with more detail every spot in the game.
I like to see the game with a different perspective, changing the angles of the camera, changing the filter, etc. It’s a quite interesting thing to do while you are playing and you’ll end up with amazing shots to share with other gamers.
CG Spectrum is agame development schooloffering specialized game design coursesfor beginner and advanced students. You'll be mentored by industry experts who have worked for major game studios like Ubisoft, Microsoft, and EA, and find out for yourself how to make fun and addicting video games.