Temple’s Tyler School of Art doesn’t have a video game design track, much to Ian Shelton’s disappointment. But that didn’t stop the senior visual studies major from getting the most he could out of his four years here.
With his future aspiration of working in game design, Shelton also co-founded Temple University Gamers Guild, a gaming organization on Main Campus that meets weekly, in Fall 2013 which helped him connect and relate with other like-minded students. That community aspect is something he said he will miss most about leaving Temple but will still value as a resource for the future.
“There’s a lot of people who can help you out with any questions you may have about anything really, and a whole community of people that are interested in a lot of the same things you are,” Shelton said. “Not having that is tough, it’s going to be really tough.”
“I found a lot of communities inside of Temple and also outside of Temple, thanks to those people,” he added. “As long as I’m still in touch with those people, I think that’s the most I can ask for out of it.”
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Shelton said he knew he wanted to get into game design ever since he was little, having spent a lot of time with his father playing video games.
“I would go to school, come home and play Mortal Kombat for about four or five hours a day,” Shelton said. “I think that just spending a lot of time doing that made me pretty drawn to the whole idea.”
With his time at Tyler, Shelton said he had an open mind in finding classes that would help him develop his own “personal style” and open up other opportunities for the future, which included courses like animation and screen printing. But Shelton still enjoys game design the most, and even if he doesn’t work in the industry, he said there will always be time for it in his future.
“Anywhere that I could be where I can have time to think, in an office or anything else, as long as I can keep working at my game design, I don’t have to be doing it for a career,” Shelton said. “As long as I have the free time to do that, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing.”
Being in Philadelphia has also allowed Shelton to realize the options available to him in the local indie developer scene. It was through an encounter in the city with a former artist for the “Magic: The Gathering” card game that he found a particular interest in character design.
“Talking to him about it, I realized I really do enjoy character design, independent kind of design, because it not only allows me an opportunity to develop characters but also to develop ideas and to develop concepts,” Shelton said.
“I’m trying really hard to stay in Philadelphia because having access to those people and resources here, as well as being on my own, has really driven me to actually pursue a lot of things that I would never have otherwise pursued,” he added.
One of those things was the creation of TUGG, with a goal to promote inclusivity on a campus that Shelton said could’ve done better in bringing different groups of people on campus together.
“I think that one of the things that bothered me a lot about the campus is that it’s broken down so heavily into communities that it’s really hard to feel like you’re a part of just a Temple community,” Shelton said.
Some of the most memorable moments for Shelton were with TUGG, when such inclusivity allowed people to get out of their comfort zones and interact with one another. Those moments made running the organization worth it, he said.
“As far as Gamers Guild is concerned, I think that some of our most successful meetings were the ones where we were able to break down the groups that started to form even within our community,” Shelton said. “I’m not going to lie, running a student organization is a lot of work, but the fact that people actually can take something away from it really made it worth the time. I don’t mean that in such a philanthropic way, but rather it was nice to know that even when it felt like our space was not necessary to the campus’ development, it really did make a difference.”
With support from Paley Library in creating a space for game consoles and tabletop games, as well as collaborating with Temple Music and Arts Group for a Game Lounge event this past February, Shelton feels that TUGG will only continue to grow.
“The fact that there are so many people behind us, and that [includes] students, faculty, our members and non-members even, really gives us a good opportunity to actually push forward and have a bigger presence on campus,” he said.
As for himself, Shelton said that the four years at Temple has allowed him to become more open and realize that getting involved in the community is important for anyone wanting to develop not only games, but develop themselves.
“I think that one of the most important bits of advice I could offer is that there are people who share your interests,” he said. “Being able to be part of a community is really vital to you not only finding resources to do what it is you want, but knowing even for yourself what it is that you want. You learn a lot about yourself by spending time around other people.”
Albert Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.