Womenize – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Jasmin Habezai-Fekri, 3D Environment Artist at Airship Syndicate. Read more about Jasmin in this interview:
Hi Jasmin, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! You’re currently working as a 3D Environment Artist at Airship Syndicate and have also gained experience at other well-known studios. Could you tell us a bit more about what sparked your interest in becoming an Environment Artist, as well as your journey into the games industry?

Hey! Thank you for having me.
Growing up, I always had an initial interest in visual arts and playing video games. However, back then I already leaned more towards drawing landscapes or my surroundings, taking notice of how beautiful and fascinating the houses in “Animal Crossing” were or the world-building done inside Pixar movies. But as for many game devs or artists, I never thought that those environments we see in video games or animation movies are made by someone or that I could be THAT someone.

After high school, I wasn’t entirely sure what field to go into, I even considered studying History (fun fact: since I am still very passionate about history, I incorporated it into my bachelor thesis dealing with how historical events are depicted in video games and the influence this can have on players) or Graphic Design. Coincidently, when I started researching creative classes at various universities within Europe, I discovered the Digital Games track at my local university in Germany, at the Cologne Game Lab. Once I realised that for the initial application I will need a portfolio, I immediately went into the rabbit hole of 3D, learning Blender through Youtube and slowly approaching the environment art world online. Even during my first months of learning 3D, I never considered making characters and specialized myself in making small dioramas, props and eventually full-scaled environments. 

During the 3 years I was at university, I gradually worked on my 3D skillset and portfolio, while also being more active on social media by sharing my projects, breakdowns of my workflows and getting to know more artists within the games industry. The 3D community I slowly became part of was a huge aspect during that time and it still is. Not only was I excited to get to know people who share the same interests as me, but also supporting and seeing each other grow over the years was a great boost to continue working on my skills. Especially through Twitter, I got to know a lot of inspiring female artists who work successfully in the industry such as Yekaterina Bourykina or Grace Liu, who continue to inspire me a lot. Simultaneously, I got freelance jobs on game projects, which gave me the opportunity to work with great studios such as Monomi Park and Airborn Studios while being a student.

Another keystone in my journey was doing an internship at Square Enix in Montreal. Being inside a studio, taking on responsibilities and being part of a team while living in a different country left a huge positive impact on me to continue. Having all those experiences gave me a lot of momentum for my time after university, the biggest being the mental reassurance to transition from part-time to full-time employment, seeing that my efforts were worth it. 

As a 3D Environment Artist, you create the spaces in which a game takes place and players can interact with and experience the game’s world. Where do you draw your inspirations from to create all these different beautiful and whimsical spaces?

I slightly mentioned this earlier, but growing up, I was obsessed with Pixar, Disney, Ghibli and anything fairytale/whimsical. I was also always out and about in nature and loved to explore and observe my surroundings, let it be forests or old castles in our area. Besides that, most of the video games I am drawn to are colourful in their whole DNA, such as “Animal Crossing”, which has been a big source of inspiration to me throughout the years.

Making environments gives me so much room to create spaces I would like to exist in myself and hearing that others see these environments as a place to mentally escape or teleport to, maybe forget their worries for a couple of seconds, brings me a lot of joy. I personally love that about games as a medium, since it gives us the opportunity to either experience different worlds, lives and emotions. Therefore up to this day, I am very happy I chose this path, even though it isn’t always a walk in the park, it is worth having this sort of positive power with the art we create.

Tell us more about the podcast you host together with Ashley Wade, the All Inclusive Podcast.

Ashley and I started our podcast in September 2020. We both were pretty spontaneous about the idea to make one since we were casually talking about how there isn’t enough diversity in the current game dev podcast scene. So we thought, why don’t we just start one ourselves? We both agreed that the main premise for our podcast was to make it feel diverse and purposeful, however not in a forced way. We wanted to include diversity in our podcast’s DNA because that’s how the industry and our world as a whole is. We also wanted to give our guests a platform to talk about topics they are passionate about. Currently, we are on a little hiatus, but there are over 10 episodes that you can already check out on several streaming platforms such as Spotify, Google & Apple Podcast and many more. One of our most recent guests was Anna Hollinrake, who was also featured in the Womenize! – Inspiring Stories series! 

If anyone reading this feels like they know someone who’d be a great contribution to the podcast, feel free to email us at allinclusivepdcst@gmail.com. We would love to chat with you!

Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts with us, Jasmin!

Jasmin’s Links: Artstation PortfolioTwitterInstagramAll Inclusive Podcast

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Jessica Hackenbroch