Kristal Nembhard was 2,500 miles from home when she bumped into FIEA alumni who helped her make a life-changing decision.
As an artist, Kristal Nembhard loves the idea of creating 3-D worlds for others to explore inside video games. If she can make those virtual environments seem exhilarating and full of puzzling choices then even better.
But the UCF grad and longtime Orlando resident wasn’t quite prepared to feel that way herself – a little lost in real life. It happened when she was in San Francisco attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and received word that she’d been accepted into the FIEA master’s program. Like a new twist in a complex game, she faced a many-sided decision. FIEA is a great program. But was she up to it? Did she really want to tackle all the academic and artistic challenges? Was she excited? Confused? Both?
“My second day at the GDC event I received my acceptance letter and I honestly was on the fence on whether or not I should accept,” Kristal said. She mulled over the idea of pursuing her dreams in 3-D art and virtual reality, even as she wondered about the intensity of the program.
Though she was 2,500 miles from home, it was FIEA’s vast alumni network of game developers that proved the tipping point in San Francisco. “I met with many people who already found their place in the industry,” Kristal said. “After a long talk with fellow alumni, at their booths, representing their studios, I knew what my answer would be.”
“I do realize that I chose a field that’s extremely competitive. But I do understand to make it, you must be the best, which is why I’m going to FIEA.”
Today she is in the FIEA art track with the hope of rounding out the skills needed to succeed. “Getting that chance to do something that I love and being taught and guided by the best is an experience I wanted for myself,” Kristal said. “I do realize that I chose a field that’s extremely competitive. But I do understand to make it, you must be the best, which is why I’m going to FIEA. Because there’s so much more learning that needs to be done before [entering] the real world.”
She knows, for example, that she needs a solid technical background to go with her artistic abilities. “Personally, I love being inside [a video game] engine,” Kristal said. “My goal for FIEA is to become a great 3-D artist and build a new and great foundation for my skills in tech art.”
Kristal feel drawn to understanding video games from the inside because of the “BioShock” series. “These games, especially the first, have such great design values incorporated with gameplay, art and sound. I could literally spend an entire semester just breaking down this game from the models and how they were made, textures, particles effects, the use of water, the story writing and the mechanics.”
The pressures of the program are still to be conquered, as is true for all her classmates. But thanks to the advice and support of alumni she met in San Francisco, Kristal feels prepared. “This is probably the most stressful thing anyone could put themselves through, especially with all the nonstop crunches. But I definitely know everything will pay off in the long run.”