We meet a rising star of the video game industry who aims to make others shine.
“If I am seen as a role model I hope it means I am helping people do awesome things,” says BAFTA Breakthrough Brit Jodie Azhar.
As a lead technical artist at Horsham based game developers Creative Assembly, Jodie is aware her position can be used to break boundaries and is passionate for it to do just that.
“I want to empower young people who have a passion for creativity and technology to pursue those subjects,” she explains.
“I feel that especially for young women wanting to work in an industry that has been male dominated, having role models they can identify helps show that this is an industry they belong in and can succeed.”
Despite admitting she’s played video games her entire life and had a father who worked in the computer hardware industry, Jodie admits she never ‘made the mental leap’ when she was younger that she’d end up in the industry herself.
“Once I started my career it all made sense,” she smiles. “Being able to use maths and logic skills to create computer software and video games is both challenging and hugely rewarding. I think my younger self would be surprised at where I’ve ended up but if I’d known earlier that this is what I was going to do I think I’d have been even more inspired to push myself.”
Drive and motivation isn’t something that has been lacking however, with Jodie adding that attending leading secondary school Millais offered the perfect environment to push herself – despite not being sure where it would lead.
“I think sometimes we get too focused on what the end result will be and wanting to know exactly what a particular subject will achieve in the long run,” she insists.
“Having the chance to explore different subjects at school is something I appreciate as an adult. I can pick up on and use skills that might not directly help me in my day job, but are interesting and can influence my creativity without me realising.”
As a result, following your interests is Jodie’s advice.
“It takes a wide range of people with a diverse range of skills to contribute to making our games and there are a lot more opportunities than people expect. For anyone thinking about a career in the games industry; identify what you enjoy doing and then what jobs those skills apply to.
“Without having taken art as my ‘fun’ GCSE I probably wouldn’t be where I am now and there are plenty of other jobs for artistic people in games,” admits Jodie, who deems it ‘one of the privotal moments in my life’.
“I’d always liked it as a subject but I saw maths and traditional academic subjects as my strengths. It was only in the last week of deciding what options to take I decided to swap geography for art just because I enjoyed it. I think it’s important for young people to know what career options are available to creative people as there’s so much more than being a fine artist or illustrator.”
That combination of technical understanding and artistic vision has proved a winning formula.
Among Jodie’s accolades are being listed in Develop’s ‘30 Under 30 Ones to Watch’ in 2013 and several Women in Games award nominations.
The BAFTA selection came about last year as part of its initiative to showcase emerging talent.
“BAFTA is often best known for its award ceremonies and people may not realise that it’s a charity that does a lot to support people in the creative industries,” Jodie says. “For the Breakthrough Brit initiative I had to put myself forward for consideration and due to my work on Total War: Warhammer, I was lucky enough to be selected.”
Describing this as a ‘brilliant suprise’, due to the amount of competition, Jodie reveals: “It’s given me some great opportunities to meet people in the industry that I admire and the support of BAFTA has been fantastic.”
Creative Assembly is no stranger to awards either and with 2017 marking its 30th anniversary, this year has been one to celebrate.
With the future set to see techological advances continue to push innovation, Jodie states her keeness is for games to make the most of the opportunities they present to aid human and global interaction.
“Modern life can be very fast paced and games can give people a chance to reflect and explore how we interact with new ideas and satisfy the caring side of ourselves,” agrees Jodie.
“I want to continue to push myself with new challenges in how we apply technology, allowing people to engage with different ideas that we don’t naturally associate with video games. This could be in self-care, exploring different cultures, or making information and education more accessible to people.”
However Jodie adds the beauty of the industry is ‘we can’t predict where it’s going to go next’...