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Students & Alumni

Game Changer Files: Eric McGinnis ’21MS, 3D Artist at Vertex Solutions

January 24, 2024

Eric McGinnis, FIEA art alumnus from Cohort 17 and former strength and conditioning coach, makes his way up the the bouldering wall at Blue Swan Boulders in Creative Village, just steps away from FIEA at UCF Downtown.
Eric McGinnis ’21MS, FIEA art alumnus from Cohort 17 and former strength and conditioning coach, makes his way up the the bouldering wall at Blue Swan Boulders in Creative Village.
We’re asking FIEA alumni five questions about their experiences before, during and after graduating from UCF’s top-ranking game development program. Eric McGinnis ’21MS from Cohort 17 made a career change from strength and conditioning coach to 3D artist.
1. Status: Where are you currently working and what projects are you currently working on (if you can share)?

EM: I’m currently working for a learning technology company called Vertex Solutions. Most of our work is Defense contracting and training simulations. The majority of my time at Vertex has been spent working on a project that teaches military personnel how to perform proper maintenance on helicopters.

2. Noob: Tell us what you did before your time at FIEA. What inspired you to attend FIEA?

EM: Prior to FIEA I was working in the sports performance industry. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in Exercise Science and worked as a strength and conditioning coach for almost 10 years. Most of my brief career was spent coaching the sports teams at Rollins College.

I started learning 3D modeling in my spare time about 3 years before attending FIEA. I initially tried to make my way into the video game industry on my own, but after many failures, I decided to consider getting another degree. FIEA was the only program I was interested in because it was a graduate program, and it was ranked number one in the country. I emailed Nick Zuccarello a link to my portfolio and he told me he liked my work and looked forward to my application. Excited about his encouraging words, I applied, and the rest is history.

3. PvE: How did FIEA prepare you for the industry?

EM: Going through FIEA is almost an exact replication of what it’s like working in the industry. You must collaborate with your colleagues, provide work estimates, use task tracking software, source control, meet deadlines, etc. I think the work environment that FIEA provides is honestly its biggest strength. I don’t know how else you could really gain those skills prior to getting that first job. People that I work with noticed I had more experience in those areas than other junior artists when I fist got hired. I definitely have FIEA to thank for that.

FIEA will also help get you used to taking criticism. Working as an artist will mean you have to detach your personal feelings from your work, because it’s going to get critiqued A LOT. Between your professors, project leads, and other classmates, you’ll receive plenty of opportunity to practice accepting constructive feedback.

4. PvP: Please share any advice you have for current FIEAns as they enter the game development industry.

EM: For the sake of offering some different advice than what I hear a lot from other professionals, I’m going to say:

  1. Focus on being disciplined. Artists often have a hard time with constraints, schedules, and anything rigid. Remember that you’re being paid to do a job. Show up on time, make productive use of your hours, and focus on delivering what is being asked of you.
  2. Take care of your health. The game industry is known for being fun, but also stressful. Exercise, eat healthy, and get some sleep. You’ll be less stressed, perform better at work, and your coworkers will enjoy being around you more.
5. AFK: Do you have any recent, interesting personal successes, new hobbies, family updates or activities you would like to share?

EM: I recently moved into a new house with my girlfriend, Kendel, and that’s been an amazing change in my life. I also started volunteering with the Big Brother Big Sister organization where I’m mentoring a nine-year-old boy named Jeremy. Jeremy loves video games and has declared that he wants to be a student at FIEA, but I’m pretty sure he just wants to play the games. Most of my free time is spent hanging out with Kendel, indoor rock climbing, enjoying a cigar, competing in pistol shooting matches, or hanging out with Jeremy.