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Jobs in games: Breaking into animation with Hutch’s Lucia Gentile

Gentile studied 2D and 3D animation and has since gone on to work at the likes of Whatwapp and Hutch
Jobs in games: Breaking into animation with Hutch’s Lucia Gentile

The gaming industry is both an ambitious and creative one and continues to grow, with over three billion people playing games worldwide. With such a massive player base and mobile being the largest portion of players, the opportunities for new talent to get ahead are all around us.

One such creative, making moves on mobile is Hutch’s marketing artist, Lucia Gentile, who studied animation and got started in the industry working on PC but has since joined the Hutch team, creating digital content. We spoke with Gentile about breaking into the gaming industry, the highlights and challenges of her role and advice that she had to help other aspiring game creators. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself, how you got started in games and how you ended up in your current role?

Lucia Gentile: I have a degree in both 2D and 3D animation, and my first job was as a 3D animator at Cyber Coconut, where I worked on The Way of Life, a PC game released on Steam.

The company was small, which allowed me to learn a lot about game creation and the hard work that goes into it. Before this experience, I never considered pursuing a career in the gaming industry, but I loved every minute of it and knew I was on the right path.

“After four years at Whatwapp, I joined Hutch and moved to the UK to start a new life here.”
Lucia Gentile

After Cyber Coconut, I decided to expand my skill set and learn how to use After Effects. A few months later, I landed a job as a Marketing Artist at Whatwapp, an Italian game company specialising in card games. My official role was Marketing Artist, but I also worked on creating in-game animations using Unity, designing logos for new games, and modelling 3D assets in Maya. I believe that this experience helped me a lot to get to where I am now. After four years at Whatwapp, I joined Hutch and moved to the UK to start a new life here.

What does your current role entail?

As a Marketing Artist, I create compelling digital content to attract potential users. Most of the time, I use Unity and After Effects to create videos, but on occasion, I design static images in Photoshop or Illustrator as well.

What about your job excites you the most?

What I appreciate the most about my job is that every new project presents a fresh challenge with opportunities to learn. I learn by working alongside my colleagues - whom I love and have a wonderful team - and by challenging and pushing myself to aim higher and higher. As a creative person, it is essential for me to never get bored, and that is why I feel that this job is perfect for me.

Do you have a favourite project you have worked on during your time with Hutch?

It's so hard to pick just one! But I can share an exciting project that I worked on with my teammate, Anand Subramaniam. We had a fantastic time creating a video for Top Drives with a James Bond-inspired theme. We selected some of the most iconic chase scenes from the films and were inspired by them to create content with the available tracks and assets in the game. The process was so enjoyable that we ended up with three variations of the video. We learned a lot from it and bonded over the experience. Maybe we could attempt a Fast & Furious-inspired video in the future!

“With three live games requiring assets for app stores, user acquisition campaigns, and social media pages, I had a lot on my plate.”
Lucia Gentile

What can you tell us about your experiences and perhaps some challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Learning After Effects as an autodidact was quite challenging. While it was not difficult to learn the program, finding a solution to my needs was a big task. Although video tutorials helped me learn a lot, I had to figure out how to use the program according to my requirements. This experience had its pros and cons. On the one hand, I developed excellent problem-solving skills, but on the other hand, I missed out on some quicker and easier ways to achieve my goals because I had to figure things out on my own.

The second challenge I faced was being the sole marketing artist on my team at Whatwapp for almost two years. With three live games requiring assets for app stores, user acquisition campaigns, and social media pages, I had a lot on my plate. Though it was a tough and lonely experience, I learned a lot, and it helped me develop strong organisational and multitasking skills. I also discovered that I work best in a team. While I can work alone, I prefer to have a team that I can rely on for feedback, inspiration, and support. Fortunately, I found all that and more here at Hutch, and I am delighted to be part of this team.

Since you started in the gaming industry, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen?

One of the significant changes I noticed was the surge in the popularity of mobile games, particularly during the pandemic. During my time at Whatwapp, we experienced a remarkable increase in user engagement and new users as people sought entertainment and social interaction while staying at home. Users started demanding more events like tournaments, seasonal updates, and community activities that facilitate social interactions. However, the downside was that the market became unpredictable, and it was challenging to forecast revenues accurately.

Another significant change was the introduction of remote working, followed by the hybrid work model. It was a big shift for us as a team, and we had to learn how to collaborate while being physically apart from each other. We faced a learning curve to find the right balance of meetings during the week to ensure that we did not disrupt people's work while keeping everyone updated and not feeling too isolated.

And how about the future of the industry? Where do you see the most significant changes happening?

It’s natural for things to change, and technology will keep evolving. I believe this will have several consequences, like VR becoming more mainstream with lighter and cheaper headsets and maybe fewer space restrictions.

AI will also play a more prominent role in gaming, as some tools already use AI to make life easier for people in the game industry. For example, the program Cascadeur can interpolate between key poses to create a smooth animation. Although it’s not perfect, imagine what it could do in five years. At Hutch, it’s really important for us to ensure that potential future uses of this Al are responsible, with a focus on supporting artists rather than taking over the discipline.

We could also have more streaming services that will allow gamers to access the content they want on any screen they want, opening the gaming market to even more people. The future is incredible and scary because you can try to predict it, but it will always surprise you. I don’t know exactly what will happen, but I can’t wait to find out where we are heading.

Can you tell us anything regarding what you are currently working on or what we can expect to see for the rest of 2023?

“Being willing to learn new skills, adapt to different environments, and try new things is key.”
Lucia Gentile

As announced recently, NASCAR and Hutch are collaborating on a project. Over the past few months, our team has been working closely with the game developers to create videos and static images in preparation for the launch. I’m very excited about this project and can’t wait to see how it goes. Meanwhile, we continue to work on creating new and fresh content for our other games - F1 Clash, Top Drives, and the newly added Forza Customs - to support our user acquisition campaigns.

Finally, as someone working in the industry, what advice would you give someone looking to pursue a career in games?

  1. Play games: Playing games is one of the best ways to learn about the industry, its different genres, styles, mechanics, and trends. It can also inspire you to create your own games!
  2. Stay updated: The gaming industry constantly evolves with new technologies, platforms, markets, and audiences. You should keep yourself informed about the latest developments, news, and events in the gaming world.
  3. Experiment and be flexible: The gaming industry is very diverse and dynamic, and you may need to work with different tools, languages, and engines depending on the project and company. Being willing to learn new skills, adapt to different environments, and try new things is key.
  4. Participate in a Game Jam: Game Jams are great ways to challenge yourself, test your creativity, and showcase your talent. You can also meet other game developers, learn from them, and have fun.