Asian Women in Games: Genice Chan

In this Asian Women in Games series, we interview women who are currently in the gaming industry to learn more about them, their journeys, and their culture. We want to showcase the amazing women who are already driving change and representation in the industry by being themselves.

Today we’ve got Genice Chan, lead 2D artist working on Loading…, a first-person adventure game about the oldest and youngest members of a Vietnamese family living in southern California. Genice tells us how she became a 2D artist and how working on Loading… brought nostalgia in the form of childhood memories! 

So who is Genice?

I’m a Chinese-Canadian artist based in Vancouver, BC! I’m told people like my work for my colors, characters, and use of shapes- which works out for me cos that’s what I like to think about haha.

Some stuff I’ve worked on include projects for clients such as Studio Trigger, Twitch, Warner Bros, and Cartoon Network. On the side, I also like to teach and mentor other artists.

What led you into the world of becoming a 2D artist?

I like visual storytelling, and I like drawing! Growing up I’d get typecast as an art kid because of how much drawing I’d do. At a certain point I guess I kinda just committed to the bit?

Bits aside, my parents had met each other at a design school in Hong Kong- my mom didn’t stick to that career path, but my dad did and I feel like that background exposed me to a lot of resources from a young age. My dad teaches at a few local art programs, and I remember as a kid the scrap paper I’d doodle on would be the back of his perspective assignments and stuff like that haha.

I’ve always been too stubborn to let him teach me too directly, but looking back I feel like there was a lot I picked up just by osmosis. When it came time for me to make my own career plans, having my parents’ understanding and support made a really significant difference.

You’ve done projects for TV networks and film studios — what is most different between your work there and working on video games?

Oh man, I feel like every team and project I’ve been on is different in some way- the cocktail of different mediums, production processes, and team dynamics have led to some pretty varying experiences I think.

With games in particular, the most notable mental shift to me is designing for an audience that isn’t just passively viewing a work, but actively interfacing with it. How do you guide a player? How do you affect people with the choices you give them? How do you use that to express a narrative?

It’s all very interesting to learn and think about!

How do you feel Loading… resonates with you?

The portion of the game I’m most involved with pulls a lot from old Pokemon games and other stuff from the 2000s, so it’s been fun to revisit all of that in this context.

It’s also an honor to be trusted with a project that has the potential to reach others in such a personal way- one of the highlights for me from the Kickstarter campaign was seeing my Vietnamese friends and followers get excited when they saw their family and culture reflected in a game. I want to do my best to do them right!

Last September, you and your team went on Kickstarter to get Loading… funded. Congratulations for reaching your goal! What was the experience like and what are your takeaways for others who might be looking to do something similar with their games? 

Thank you, it was a lot of work! Toby (the developer of Loading…) definitely took the brunt of the posting, reaching out, and responding to people I think.

Prior to the Kickstarter, the team spent a good amount of time researching how other projects handled their campaigns, comparing needs and scope, and discerning what’s applicable or irrelevant to our own project.

When in doubt, it’s always helpful to look at the people that succeeded before you! I also feel that having the social media stuff planned out helped things go smoother.

What tips might you have for someone looking to get into becoming a 2D artist in games? 

Put the kind of work you want to do in your portfolio!

For example if you want to be a character pixel artist, then do character pixel sprites as if you’re already working on a game, and put that in your portfolio. Or maybe you want to do backgrounds for visual novels- in that case, make backgrounds as if you already have that job, and put that in your portfolio. I believe that when your goals are specific, that gives you a foundation for pursuing them more effectively.

Beyond that, I think it helps to learn about game design. These days, there are tons of good resources all over the internet! I’ve learned a ton from Youtube channels like Game Maker’s Toolkit, Design Doc, People Make Games, and GDC.

In particular I think it’s useful to get to know how the work you’re doing might fit into a production, and what kind of needs you might have to accommodate for.

What’s one thing from Chinese culture that you’d want to share with everyone?

I love Portugese tarts! Specifically the kind from Hong Kong-style bakeries. I went to Portugal once and tried actual Portugese tarts and it’s just not the same. They’re not as creamy!

You mention that while there’s a lot you can do, it seems that after all these years you still can’t ride a bike! What’s up with that!? Do you periodically try again now and then? (lol)

Honestly… I just never took the time to learn and don’t really have the motivation to initiate that process on my own LOL.

Every now and then I’ll have friends that offer to teach me, but it’s one of those situations where we say we’ll do it and then never do. I can swim, ice skate, and rollerblade though!

Where can people continue to follow you and your journey?

You can find me at @genicecream on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Thanks a lot for having me!

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