Q & A with Yifat Shaik - Our 3D Design Innovator in Residence

September 26, 2015 | Dawn

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Meet Yifat Shaik, Innovator in Residence, Toronto Reference Library.

Yifat ShaikAspiring and practicing 3D designers are already learning about 3D design from the multi-talented Yifat Shaik through her workshops, 3D design meet-ups, and lectures.

Yifat's experience includes game design, illustration (using both traditional and digital media), 2D animation, graphic design, 3D modelling in Maya, and compositing. Yifat's interests include creating games that focus on social interaction with unique gameplay mechanics all while creating compelling games.

We sat down to chat with her about her enthusiasm for teaching 3D design.


What interested you about the library’s Innovator in Residence position and what you are looking most forward to during your residency?

There were a few reasons which drew me to the residency from the get go. First I was lucky enough to know a few people who have done the residency before and they really enjoyed their time and recommended me to give it a try. Secondly I was interested in the Toronto Reference Library's quest to find new and alternative options for community engagement. Lastly, and most importantly, I was interested in introducing 3D design to audiences that have less access to learn it, specifically groups who tend to shy away from tech. My goal during my residency is to make 3D less intimidating, to show people how fun it really is and to provide an alternative and more accessible way of teaching 3D.

How did you first get involved in 3D design?

During the third year of my undergrad in Animation Studies, I had to choose between majoring in 2D animation, 3D or Stopmotion animation. I choose 3D, mostly because I figured out I would mostly likely get a job after graduating if I knew 3D animation, and that I like (and am good) with more technical artistic work. So not a really interesting story, but I am guessing many 3D designers share a similar history.

What do you enjoy the most about working as a 3D designer?

I mostly just enjoy the freedom of the limitless possibilities 3D design offers. While I do illustrations and other forms of art, sometime I can feel a bit limited when my skills just don’t match up to what I want to do.

I never really feel that with 3D.

While it does happen that I want to do something specific and I am not sure how to do it, a quick search online usually provides a path to solve my problem. I also, personally, really enjoy the process of solving problems, and trying to figure out a process to make something new.

You also are active in game design. Tell us about how you approach game design?

I think games have a lot more to offer than the current role imposed on them - as a shallow form of popular entertainment. For me games are just another form of artistic expression, which could (and did in certain cases) present a new point of view on society, community and interaction.

There is something in the fact that games are both enjoyable and approachable, despite being difficult and at times hard to learn, that is worth exploring as an artist.

For me (and many will disagree about this) games are about mechanics and system, and I generally tend to focus more on playing around with existing genres and modifying the mechanics and the code to try and create something new. I am also really interested in social interactions in a game world and what we can deduce from them about social interactions in the real world.

What are some of your favourite games and why?

I tend to like a broad range of games from different genres, so I can’t point to one or two specific games. World of Warcraft, while not as good as it used to be, is the game that got me back into playing games eight years ago, so I still count it as one of my favorite.

Journey was the first time that I experienced a different way of playing and making games.

Her Story was probably the best game I played in a very long time, just a unique gaming experience that is worth checking out, especially if you like true crime stories.

Grim Fandango I am a huge fan of 90’s point-and-click adventure game and this one is one of my favourites.

There are also many wonderful independent and alternative (and even some mainstream) games which I loved that are just too numerous to count. I suggest checking out websites like itch.io and start playing some of the games there, it will be worth it.

Can anyone learn how to create 3D designs?

Yes, I believe so! but it does take some stubbornness and tenacity. I can help people start exploring this world, but it is their choice to take it farther. Which means doing tutorials and developing on their own.

Are you working on any new projects you would like to tell us about?

While currently I have very little time to work on my personal projects I do have a few that are in the process of development. The main one I am working on right now, together with Derek Quenneville, is Real Army Simulator, a narrative game about my army experience. We recently finished the first part of the game, and were lucky enough to have the game accepted to a few events in North America, namely Teacade in Montreal and Boston Fig in Boston. Other than that I am in the early process of creating a few other personal projects, including a game that is a homage to Brutalist Architecture and a game about the immigration experience.