Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition in cooperation with the Film und Medien Stiftung NRW, we talked to Casilda de Zulueta, 3D Artist & Technical Animator, Teacher at Hs Fresenius and Co-Organizer of the FemDevsMeetup. Read more about Casilda in this interview:
Hi Casi! When working with various different game studios and initiatives, are there any common key values you consider essential within our industry?

Hi! Thanks for having me! I am going to start with the importance of communication: we need to learn our peers’ professional language. The same words you use as an artist can mean completely different things to a programmer, and that is okay, for as long as you listen to each other. Mixing people of so many different disciplines demands a lot of understanding, but it’s an incredibly rewarding effort to make.

This also comes with a working environment in which all colleagues can reach out and ask whenever they have questions. It has been harder to establish this level of trust with newer teams when working solely remote, but it is not impossible. Be aware, though, that nowadays we tend to do more work than when we all were in an office building, and that is greatly due to blurring the lines between work and resting time.

Caring for your team’s health and their very essential right to disconnect is as crucial as caring for proper communication. I am here to make games together with my colleagues, not to exhaust our bodies in the process. That is something that luckily has been a norm in all studios I have worked for, but I am aware it is not as common as it should.

Nowadays I am taking care of the 3D art and character animation for Achtung Autobahn Studios, but we are still early in development to show anything. If you are curious, here is a good summary of the things I do:

What is your focus when teaching animation classes to students?

It very much depends on the scope of their studies, though I always try to find a balance. My students get to exercise on animation fundamentals, and I give them as much context as we have the time for, with both classic and modern examples from cartoons and video games. Sometimes these principles are the same ones throughout all media. There will be other cases in which processes and priorities differ, like for example when trying to balance anticipation frames in an action, or how we blend in and out of animations depending on player input.

In the end, what I want them to understand is that the art of animation is ultimately a tool to express an idea (or a series of ideas). As a means of expression, it has conventions, well-defined techniques and it involves the mastering of certain tools. At the very least, I want to get them started with traditional and digital animation techniques and introduce them to precious movies and games they might have missed.

How do you see games and other media transforming each other?

There are licensed games from films, and movies that come from video game franchises. Then we have films that feel like they would have worked much better as a game. Also, have you seen how games are terrible at being movies? But we keep removing agency from the players whenever there is a cinematic scene. As a communicative means, how do video games tell in comparison with the preceding media? Paintings, for example, did not need to look like the real thing once photography had overcome this function. Fascinating movements arose, away from this initial intention. How does the video game then transform already-existing mediums?

Marshall McLuhan writes in Understanding Media that «the “content” of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph». I took this as an invitation to observe video games (my selected object of study) as the containers of other media and try to find out what cultural artifacts, audio-visual language or design patterns are assimilated within them.

Moreover, this adaptation happens in both directions. How we understand a video game is affected by our understanding of other pre-existing media, and how we can understand other media is influenced by our relationship with games. New ways of “reading” this medium inspire the creative processes of the previous ones, not only with the new tools involved (consequence of the associated technological advancements), but it generates new meanings and symbols that can be afforded, if not remediated, in films, literature or paintings.

In any case, either as a game scholar or a developer, what fascinates me the most about games is how they can tell us stories, and how I can make them tell in a way that satisfies me and the person who gets to play.

Thank you for your time, Casi!

Links: Casilda’s WebsiteCasilda @ Twitter#FemDevsMeetup Website

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Sophie Brügmann