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Jay ups his game with TAFE Queensland

Jay Wedge has always been a passionate gamer, but he never dreamed that being a game designer would one day be his career. 

"Growing up, I had two passions – gaming and music. Pursuing my music career saw me travel the world as a session musician, supporting international artists and playing in front of thousands of people in some amazing countries,” explained Jay.

“I was on tour for 15 years straight, and when the pandemic hit, it completely stopped the industry, so I asked myself, 'What do I want to do in life,' and the answer was game design.”

"Becoming a game designer was always in the back of my mind, and when it was time to change careers, I came to TAFE Queensland with absolutely no prior gaming knowledge - I didn't even know what Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V did!” he said.

Enrolling in the Bachelor of Digital Design (Game Design) (ARB302), delivered in partnership with the University of Canberra, Jay immediately began developing his specialist skills and knowledge in game art, game design, and interactive digital media theory and production.

His understanding of the game design production process deepened throughout the course – learning the same concept development and production methodologies used in today's leading game studios.

Now in the final year of his three-year degree at TAFE’s South Bank campus, Jay has learnt concept art, 3D modelling and sculpting, 3D texturing, animation, and real-time rendering, putting him on the path to specialise as a level designer.

“I enjoy playing Zelda, Final Fantasy, Mario, Last of Us and Horizon – and I was fascinated with level design, so I’ve focussed my studies on creating immersive worlds that provide players with a deep level of escapism,” he explained.

His like-minded classmates, industry-expert teachers, equipment and facilities saw Jay supported, nurtured and encouraged to become the game designer he was always destined to be.

"The campus has an Alienware Gaming computer lab using 3D Max, Photoshop, InDesign and Substance Painter for 3D and 2D modelling and texturing. We then put our designs into Unity and Unreal Engine programs to bring them to life."

Jay’s collaboration with classmates extended beyond the classroom, where he partnered with six other students to start Lil’ Elephant Studios and create a playable game, netting the team a grant to progress the game further.

“We developed Ribbet, where the player is a frog caught by a French Chef, and you've got to escape his kitchen and his restaurant, similar to Crash Bandicoot, Astro Bot, or Sackboy,” he explained.

“It was the combination of all our strengths with me designing levels sound by drawing a 2D Mud Map and thinking, ‘Okay, ribbit needs to jump over this to escape,’ then working it out in team meetings and getting the 3D modellers to animate sinks or a mincer, then placing it all in the world doing the audio as well,” he explained.

“My classmates were all experts at tech design and programming, design, video effects, environment art, animation, 3D art and character Art – so we each brought equal expertise to the project.”

Originally intending to practice, better their skills and build their game design portfolios to get jobs, the game was showcased at the Queensland Games Festival, where several people played it and liked it, and it gained traction.

Ribbet earned the Lil’ Elephant Studios team a Screen Queensland Games Grant to facilitate the growth and support of the game over its lifetime.

“Ribbet is currently one level, but by the end of the year, we'll have seven, release it on the global game community site Steam, and hopefully get it on Nintendo Switch because it appeals to younger players,” explained Jay.

That wasn’t Jay’s only award, as he also won the University of Canberra Digital Design 24-hour Challenge for his single-player “Paper Plane Tosser” game, where players must throw a paper plane as far as possible through a city full of obstacles.

"There are so many opportunities in game design. Game art and coding are one thing, but there's also computer programming, working in the film industry, texture design, building models and special effects. The possibilities are endless," he said.

Now in his final year of study, Jay is confident that the invaluable skills, knowledge and confidence he has developed will see him successfully specialise in level design and sound design for games.

“I can do this with no experience in game development, and if anyone can. I came here at 37 years old, and in just three short years, I’ve coded and designed 15 games – and won awards for two of them.”

"Sure, it was a challenge to begin with, but my teacher and classmates are so passionate, supportive and understanding that everyone has helped me understand game design quickly and comprehensively - enhancing my knowledge and stoking my passion.”

"Thanks to the collaborative study environment and everyone within it, I know my future and am already a successful game designer,” concluded Jay.