Creative Dundee

Blog: From Branding to Games Design

Our blog series regularly invites guests to share their thoughts on different aspects of life in Dundee, their own practice, and anything in between.

In this edition we have Smart Hopewell, a Dyslexic cinematic concept artist, writer and creative, currently working on cinematic shorts and radio shows that encourage and inspire hope. This feature is brought to you by Creative Dundee in partnership with InGAME – creating space to explore the future of the creative industries and video games sectors, locally.

The world had changed. My Graphics & Web Design business of three years had buckled under the weight of the pandemic. Forcing me to reflect and pray to help me figure out what’s next. During a part of this time, I had been quarantining with my older sister. This was a blessing as we often hung out together, talking, cooking or watching movies and tv shows.

One of the shows we started watching together was Portrait Artist of the Year. This show was therapy to me. I am creative but it had been a while since I had seen other creative people express their passions through painting, sketching and drawing. Being Dyslexic has been and is still a challenge for me. I found this to be true when studying for my GCSE art exams in High School.

My unique view on art didn’t fit the curriculum and this made my learning experience stressful. But Dyslexia is my superpower! With great power comes great responsibility and challenges, I faced many a foe on my adventures over the years. PAOTY helped me to overcome some of my fears towards drawing and painting.

You may be asking “so what happened next?” I’ll tell you…kid Smart and adult Smart joined forces. Together we put aside every lie spoken to us. From then on it was clear I wanted to start drawing again. My mind was made up! Illustration was the art form I was most interested in and with some help, I purchased an iPad Pro and began learning how to draw all over again. It was hard but I continued to push through it while getting encouragement from my family cheering me on.

Next, I started thinking about video game design. Apart from my usual 9 to 5 work, COVID had afforded me a little extra time to play games but this time I didn’t only want to beat games I wanted to create them too.

I understood a lot about game development but had always been too afraid to try. So I took to google in search of what to do next, training was going to be essential for me but who would help me learn? During my time searching on I stumbled upon Biome Collective on Twitter via a Creative Scotland retweet. Biome was organising a games event called Arcadia, an evening of micro-talks, game demos and discussions.

When I saw the advert I knew I had to attend it! From there I began to follow Biome and almost everyone who was mentioned in their posts on Twitter. In December I attended Arcadia, the most exciting part was that I got to chat with fellow gamers, developers, writers and more in the YouTube chat. Before this point I had never attended other gaming events, I had always wanted to go but often couldn’t afford it or the timing was off.

That month I also learned that my parents had expressed interest in wanting to move to Dundee City, which is exactly where Biome Collective is based. You can imagine my excitement when I heard this! So I started to research Dundee a little more. I learned about The Law and its volcanic history and the city’s diverse creative industries from Jute manufacturing to the Beano comics. Then I found out Dundee is the birthplace of Rockstar North (picture cartoon style eye pop here)!

After getting to connect with the lovely folk attending Arcadia I knew Dundee City was the home I had been looking for. It was then my passion for developing games went from volume five to ten. I was constantly googling “How to build games” or “How to create games for free”. Day after day and week after week my struggle was not knowing where to begin.

Names like Unreal Engine, Unity, Cryengine would come up all the time with over-complex video tutorials. I gleaned enough information to start creating my own game environments and customising premade assets, but something still felt off! I loved telling stories but didn’t want to code again or deal with oversaturated UI’s (User Interfaces). I began to do a little more reading and stumbled on to online games magazines like Game Informer or SuperJump, learning more about narrative.

Writing was not an uncommon creative outlet for me as I wrote short VO scripts for my YouTube videos. But to improve my narrative skills for games I challenged myself to write game articles for SuperJump. I improved through practice and with the help of a senior editor who checked my work weekly.

It was clear to me I needed to push further so I also began to study Blender3D and started creating some of my own cinematics which I recently debuted on my Youtube channel.

Recently I had the opportunity to apply for a mentorship programme. Doing so enabled me to be paired with an expert currently working in the games design industry. During our most recent session, she shared lots of wisdom with me and encouraged me to believe in the talents I have. Why? Because games development, whether narrative or gameplay, is a process that includes a team.

Right now I am still learning how to create more detailed work in Blender3D, writing  and telling stories. My dream is to create my own independent studio and create games that encourage and inspire others who went through what I did.

So, here I am at 33 years of age and what once seemed like the end has become my new beginning. Remember, just like me you can do anything!

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