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Posted by Stephanie Fernandez on 11/5/2019 2:30:00 PM
If the name Jasmine Aguilar sounds familiar, it’s because she was MESA’s outstanding valedictorian in 2012 and part of the first class to have the opportunity to spend both middle school and high school years at MESA.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Jasmine to learn about her life in Los Angeles and how she found success in the video game industry.
Working in the video game industry sounds like a dream come true! What kind of work are you doing?
It's a lot of hard work, but it's super fun and rewarding! I produce video games at a studio called Ready at Dawn. This essentially means that I focus on planning, tracking things like game assets, and making sure that the game actually gets finished. My days always look different, but at the core of it, I'm in a lot of meetings. The goal is to make sure that the programmers, artists, game designers, etc., that I work with, are all talking to each other, have all of the information that they need, and aren't blocked by anything out of their control.
I also help run a game conference and a game festival outside of my day job. The first is the Queerness and Games Conference held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, that highlights LGBTQIA+ issues and video games. The second is the Latinx Games Festival held in Long Beach, California, that helps connect Latinx game developers with other Latinx developers from all around the world.
How did you get into the video game industry? Was it always your goal? If not, how did you find this kind of job?
I really started when I went to college at the University of Southern California. I entered college as an undecided major, which introduced me to an elective class on the business of video games that sounded super interesting and cool. I've always loved video games, but honestly had no idea that making video games was even a job before that! After taking the elective course, I fell in love and immediately applied for the Cinematic Arts School with USC to major in Interactive Media and Game Design.
After finishing my second year at USC, tuition costs increased and I wasn't able to cover the tuition costs even with student loans. Because of this, I unfortunately had to drop from the University. I got really lucky and was able to land a job as an office assistant at a start-up mobile game studio. After a year of office assisting, I moved up and into development as a game designer making content and mini-games for a Tamagotchi-like game.
I found my true calling in being able to plan, organize, and communicate, so I moved into production to make it my main focus. I started out in making/producing mobile games but have recently been working on virtual reality and augmented reality for the past three or so years.
I imagine technology changes quickly in the video game industry. How do you keep up?
Surprisingly, Twitter has been extremely helpful for keeping up to date with latest game industry news, news on emergent technology, and my peers in the industry. A lot of people who work in the gaming industry utilize Twitter as a career networking tool. It's where I've been able to meet a good amount of my developer friends, and also where I've gotten full scholarships to game development conferences to further my career. Some of my friends have even gotten jobs through Twitter.
Is there anything specific about your time in Mapleton that prepared you for your college/career goals?
MESA, in particular, really helped me with being a part of creative projects, leading and working with a team, and working with a very wide variety of personalities. Most of my college experience and my current career in video game development involves a lot of group projects and working with people daily, which I fortunately had experience with from my time at Mapleton. This helped me as, for example, my current team consists of about 70 people and my job is to talk to all of them, even if our personalities don't mesh super well.
What advice do you have for Mapleton students currently exploring their college and career options?
My biggest pieces of advice are to keep your options open and do your research, and be professional and kind. You never know what career options are available just because they aren't 'typical' careers. I never would've known about my now-career if I didn't explore when I felt really unsure. You also never know when meeting someone could get you a really important job or connection later in life. It's always better to err on the side of caution unless you are incredibly sure you don't want to be connected with them. All of my jobs have been because I knew a friend or someone who worked at a studio and they were happy to vouch for me and my skills.