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This is an a typical situation so please read the background before replying.
Background: I do private anime art lessons out of my house to kids with a focus on traditional art fundamentals. I've had one college age student for the last 3 years who has Asperger's Syndrome. Its a high functioning form of autism where basically the person is normal but has a difficult time functioning in social situations. Too add to it, he also has a learning disability and a hard time judging spatial relationships. He came to me as not being able to draw and now is at a beginner level and is able to do basic characters from the front, inking and coloring in photoshop. All asperger's sufferers usually have one "Big Thing" in their life that they are completely obsessed with. His happens to be video games.
Problem: While he continues to improve, he's a sophmore who's gotten into a video game design program at a local state university. He got assigned to make a basic 2D game. He's been working his tail off and now has been told by the teacher that his art isn't good enough. He's devastated. As his teacher, friend and confidant, I really care about this boy. I think I can help him push through this assignment but ultimately, he's trying to become something that I think is impossible for him to become. Do I let him down easy now, or do I let him figure it out. I'm not one to discourage people but sometimes the reality of the situation is obvious.
I trust there are a lot of great artists here. Remember, I'm trying not to crush this boy's dreams. I'd love to hear some advice.
Complicated situation. How are his musical skills? Programming skills? Any prospects there? Video games are more than just the art.
(If his learning disability relates to dyslexia I could see where the programming idea might not work out so hot.)
Nothing is impossible. It is our very nature as artists to take what does not exist, and bring it into existence.
This boy can become what he wants to be. The chances of it may be (seemingly) impossibly slim, the goal out of reach. But you and I both know in the grand scheme of things, "impossible", would not be an accurate term.
You have already taken someone and helped them progress far beyond where they were before. Who is to say this same thing cannot happen again, and again thereafter. Even if it takes 15 or 30 years. Baron Impossible started late, reportedly - and take a look at that guy! He's not in the same boat as this kid, obviously, but fact still remains.
The real question you have to ask yourself, rather than the community, is this: "For how long do I want to be sticking with this kid, helping him through what will almost certainly be an incredibly difficult, potentially tiresome journey?"
If you're willing to stick with him, then stick with him. It is not impossible for him to achieve this, I would consider it fact. Even if he doesn't make it into the studios of Valve making wicked games, I think he would like to be able to say at the end of it "I did the best I could, and got farther than anyone gave me credit for." That is something to be proud of.
And if this, you feel is worth pursuing, then you probably want also to be able to say at the end of it "I gave this kid more credit than anyone, and we did the best we could."
If he fails he fails. At the end of it, though, at least you would be remembered as the one who didn't just give up on him.
My advice, anyway.
Edit: Please note, my post is incredibly "optimistic". And while very possible, would likely prove very difficult for the both of you. Hence, why it's really just more a matter of asking yourself what you're willing to stick through. Because realistically, "impossible" might not be...*that* far off.
The teacher has to realise that a videogame can go from two pixels into high rendered 3D. It's all about game design, artists can be hired. It's up to the kid to decide how far he wants to take his art, but absolutely nothing prevents him from making a videogame other than a dickhead teacher.
And pardon my bluntness but an autistic kid will get there very fast given the right direction. I'd have a chat with him, get to specifics. What exact part of videogames he sees himself in, and then set him loose on that path.
I agree. I have a friend who has full-blown autism and she taught herself how to draw, probably by finding the 'right' kind of available educational source and aiming for it. I'd post a link to her art but I know she is self-conscious of her autism. I just hope my words are enough to explain.
Just to clarify, is he designing games or making them, doing the graphics or what?
In my brief experience on a university "game design" course, students from various specialisations were typically assigned into teams (programming, design , art, sound etc)
Are you saying this guy has to produce an entire game himself? Because that's so not how it works in the world.
Guys, thank you for the kind and supportive responses. He's assigned to a team in class and they have to make a short 2D game. He's making character sprites. Right now, its a Final Fantasy 1 type game. Fortunately, he seems to have some very cool and understanding teammates. I got to chat with them online about specifics regarding graphics and we agreed on a standard and what direction they needed to go in. I think with that direction, my student is back on the horse and knows what he needs to do.
As for getting there. It's been slow and I have seen progress. He might in fact turn out to be an excellent artist one day but its going much slower than normal. He's done a bit of work in flash before and I think that if he could get into coding he might go farther by going in that direction. Still, I won't force him. I don't want to discourage him from his dream of working for a game company but I don't want to falsely inflate his ego or make it seem like its going to be easy. The issues he's facing in this class are just a taste of things to come and when success and money is on the line, people are much less understanding. He also needs to understand that people who make games, don't always get to play games much.
So what does Autism have to do with his abillity to improve. What does his work look like?
He doesn't need to interact with assholes to improve, give him books and training material. Is he paying for his education?
If everything was up to what some lecturer or someone said we'd be in a black hole.
Get him involved with communities and set up a scetchbook, he doesn't even have to interact and can take his sweet time.
Usually where people looks at disabillities theres usually an unfair advantage lurking.
Last edited by George Abraham; March 5th, 2010 at 05:42 AM.
Scetchbook: View the exhibitionist's stuff.
You could even have him come here as well. The people here are incredibly supportive and would be more than willing to add on advice, critique and that extra kick to keep posting.
I've been terrible about updating my sketchbook. But every time I do it, or even when I slack people log on and tell me to post things, or just crtique what I have. It's motivating, and while I have a lot to learn, their advice and support is driving me. I can't WAIT until my scanner is hooked up again so I can post my recent art because I want to hear what others think.
I also have a friend with aspergers. He is self concious about his art in a person to person setting. But the internet is where he thrives. He posts his art and writing regularily to online groups and I see constant, if slow, improvement. And I know that for him at least it's a huge help to have the time to compose his thoughts so he feels comfortable. People for the most part don't even know he has a problem.
I have Asperger's Syndrome myself. I think it is very commendable that you are mentoring him on the side.
As to the realities of the situation, I believe I understand where you are coming from. I'd expect him to have lots of trouble in a video game related job, if he could even get one. It's a competitive industry job-wise, so I hear.
But that doesn't mean he needs to give up his art. If he's not aiming for a job with it, then he can go as slow as he likes with progress.
I think it's probably a good idea for him to understand that enjoying playing video games is very different to making them. You stop seeing the game from the perspective of a player and have to see it all from the designer's point of view.
It's like a magic trick, and magic tricks are not fun when you know and have to think about all secrets behind them.
Whatever the case, perhaps take a softly-softly approach for now and see how things go.
I doubt dyslexia would create that many problem in programming because the computer would give a syntax error if the programmer made a typo. Now, a logic error that's difficult.
Keep in mind that this is not your normal autism. Asperger's is the highest functioning form of autism. For the most part, the person seems normal but a little quirky and seeming rude to most people.
Mr.Parker, its cool to see another guy with Asperger's on here, I'm very curious to check your art out.
I don't want to show any of his art without his permission. I'd say right now, he's in a game design program in college and his art is on a middle school level. I'm sure he'll be a good artist one day in the future, but definitely not up to where he needs to be in the next two years. He is on Deviant Art. The one thing I can say about him is that he's overflowing with creative thoughts and many artists have enjoyed doing their take on his characters. I think being there, has definitely given him some more confidence and encouragement. He does much better in an online environment than he does in person.
Last edited by shiroboi; March 5th, 2010 at 11:55 AM.