#MeetIronGalaxy – Latinx ERG Edition
At Iron Galaxy, we celebrate our people above all else. Members of our internal Latinx Employee Resource Group help us support our employees, which in turn helps us ship quality games for players worldwide. This recurring interview series is a chance to open the floor for us to speak about our experiences in the game industry.
As part of our recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re talking to some members of our Latinx ERG. Let’s chat with some stewards of Hispanic and Latin culture.
Header image from left to right: Emily Farias, Eli Montoya, Kimu Villalba, Erica Fernandez, Ernie Perez, Lupe Nunez, and Jess Ulloa,
Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here at Iron Galaxy?
Emily: I am a programmer.
Eli: I support people through the interview process and attend events to sing the praises of Iron Galaxy!
Kimu: Yohoo! I'm Kimu and I'm half Puerto Rican & half Ecuadorian 3D Character Artist! I take 2D character concept art and make the characters come alive in 3D!
Erica: I am a User Interface Designer (UI) at Iron Galaxy. I oversee making all the pretty menus and heads-up display (HUD) elements in games! I also dabble a bit in User Experience (UX) design as well.
Ernie: I am a Lead User Interface (UI) Artist. I design the look and feel of the front-end menu screens and in-game HUD. This can also include icons and any graphics that the UI requires to communicate with the player in a clear manner that reflects the spirit of the game. I also have experience as a User Experience (UX) designer.
Lupe: I'm Lupe, the Head of IT at Iron Galaxy. My job is to lead an awesome crew of IT pros as we provide business and game development support to IG's users, teams, and projects.
Jess: I’m a visual effects artist. There’s only a few VFX Artists here at IG and I’m proud to be working with such a talented group!
Iron Galaxy: How did you find your place in the games industry?
Emily: I sort of randomly realized how much I enjoyed programming and ended up going to school for CS and made my own small games while at school. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to get an internship here which turned into a full time.
Eli: There are a ton of roles in games that you're a fit for! Games are not only made by talented Artists, Engineers, and Designers, but they are also supported by amazing HR, IT, Operations, and Media professionals. My path was Fast Food -> Game Store -> Electronics Store -> Insurance -> Conventions/Events -> Social Media -> Indie Games -> Recruitment.
Kimu: Ever since my family gifted me a Game Boy Color with Pokémon Red on my birthday as a kid, something just sparked my wanting to work in the video game industry. I used to lean more toward character concept art but soon fell in love with making characters 3D. My first studio job was as a 2D Concept Artist/3D Artist for film and VR games. On the side, I would work on my own game dev projects. I later left to better my studies on 3D characters and soon joined Iron Galaxy as full time 3D Character Artist!
Erica: Becoming a designer has been the end goal for me since I was a kid. I didn't realize just how many types of game designers there were until I got into the industry. I went to college for computer science in gaming and did some freelance gaming media work to make connections. My first in-studio job was in QA. I later found a passion for UI and began to learn more on my own.
Ernie: I started out my career in graphic design, wanting to design movie posters and album covers. Video games were something that always had a varying place in my life, depending on what I was doing at the time. I didn't really get into games and how they were made until I played the WipeOut series on the PlayStation. The Designers Republic, whose work I was a huge fan of, had designed the visual identity of the games, including the UI. That was when I realized I could work in games. After working in web design, I had the chance to work at Midway Games as a UI artist and I jumped at the opportunity. I didn't know anything about game development, so I had to learn everything as I went along. At the time, the industry was just starting to see UI as a formal discipline, so I not only had to learn what UI in games meant, but also work in many roles that are now split off from Art (UX, Design, Tech). In my career, I have worked on console, mobile and web games, as well as online slot games.
Lupe: I needed to change jobs due to a family need and landed in games. I've always played video games but making and supporting them was something altogether different for me. I'd say I found my place when I felt I had successfully met my family's needs and established a career in a new industry, doing cool stuff that I really enjoy. At this point, I'd like to shout out my wife, Andrea! I couldn't have done it without her.
Jess: I’ve always loved playing video games, but never thought of making it a career until later in life. I initially started my career in psychology and a good friend of mine pushed me to consider working in games instead. I went back to school and studied game development at the University of Utah. While I was there, I got to touch on VFX a little bit, but didn’t get the full experience so I took some classes through Gnomon School of Visual Effects. IG is my first official games industry job.
Iron Galaxy: How does being Hispanic and/or Latin affect your experience in the games industry?
Emily: I bring a little of me into everything that I do <3
Eli: It affects everything I do. Historically, I've been the only POC at the organizations I've worked for. Much of tech is the same demographic and it's important to create space for people of all backgrounds.
Kimu: Spanish being my first language has made my English stumble a bit. Sometimes it's hard to communicate my thoughts into speech. Honestly, that just pumps me more to keep on practicing! It's better to say something than nothing at all. Let your thoughts shine through no matter if you stumble! I like to bring ideas related to my cultures whenever I can. Your thoughts and ideas are worth it and can do a bigger impact to the world than you think!
Erica: In my work, especially in UI, we must consider different languages. This makes me a bit more aware of localization.
Ernie: Having been born in Mexico and growing up in the States, has given me a wider perspective on things. So, when working on iconography and overall art styles, I try to look to other cultures to produce solutions that may not be the first thing people expect. Also, being bilingual, I make sure the UI accommodates other languages which can sometimes have longer character lengths than English.
Lupe: It affects me because I'm conscious of the lack of representation at different levels, fields, and disciplines. I think about my presence and the positive impact I can have on setting examples and influencing or encouraging others.
Jess: When I was a kid my family and I used to take trips to the Dominican Republic every year. My parents were nice enough to let me bring by SNES one year so we could share it with the other kids in the neighborhood. This was the first time playing on this system for them and I remember how much fun we all had together. We ended up giving it to one of the families there before we left. Memories like this remind me of how impactful games can be and how they can cross cultural boundaries.
Iron Galaxy: What does representation mean to you?
Emily: Representation means inclusion of all people in development and games. No one should feel like an outsider in this industry.
Eli: The voices of all having a seat at the table.
Kimu: Representation brings more flavors to video games, growing up with diverse games, I would learn about other countries and cultures, which made me curious to explore the world and meet new people because of it. I really think it's something that can bridge people closer.
Erica: I feel like, in gaming, we want to feel a connection with the characters we control. Having characters of diverse origins can help show people of different cultures.
Ernie: In any media, the experience should reflect the world we live in, or at least relate to the wide range of cultures that are out there. A player should feel they have something in common with the game they are playing, whether it's through the character they are controlling or the other characters and environments they encounter.
Lupe: For everyone to be included and considered. Not only present but to also be participant. Everybody represents.
Jess: I enjoy learning about different cultures and their history through games. It’s especially neat to see Hispanic culture represented in a game since I don’t come across that very often. A cool example is Resident Evil 4 which takes place in Spain. The enemies would say creepy things in Spanish that were also helpful cues to know that they spotted you or were coming up behind you!
Iron Galaxy: How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?
Emily: Maybe going to try and make my great grandmothers tortilla recipe.
Eli: Volunteering for Unidos!
Kimu: I'm going to try and not only cook my Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian food, but to bridge out and learn recipes about other Hispanic food in different countries!
Erica: Doing things like this!
Ernie: As a family, we celebrate our Hispanic roots as often as we can, but during September we especially like to celebrate Mexican Independence. This year my wife will be making Pozole to mark the occasion.
Lupe: I guess the same stuff we always do, just more of it! There's always a parrillada (grillin and chillin) at my house, so now we just have to step it up. I gotta get a playlist from this crew!
Jess: Making recipes from my Latin cookbooks. Yum! Also, listening to the Selena album I just got on vinyl.
Iron Galaxy: What improvements would you like to see in the games industry?
Emily: I want to keep seeing the games industry diversify. I want the people in this industry to continue to make this place one that is open to all. I was fortunate to get to work with a great team of people here that really have encouraged and supported me. We should all try to be that way.
Eli: More pathways for people who lack the money for a degree/games graduate program to have a reliable pathway into games.
Kimu: A bit more awareness to the situation in different countries, to not only give an opportunity for internship for students already in university, but for those that can't afford them or those already graduated but who could not find the time for internships. Many in the Latinx community must divide themselves between studying and working to handle their current life situations. They are often left with an empty portfolio.
Erica: Better career paths and work environments. I don't think you need a fancy degree to get into this industry. I have a bit, but honestly, I learned most of my skills on my own and following online tutorials.
Ernie: More opportunities for people who may not have the resources to attend places of higher education. While I am a huge proponent of a university education, I don't think it's necessary for getting a job in the games industry. That being said, scholarships for people of color or those who lack the means to attend college would help. Industry entities providing funding for scholarships, influencing colleges to provide support along with internships, would go a long way to opening doors for those who might not normally see game dev as a viable career choice.
Lupe: More representation. In leadership, management, and creative fields. I am encouraged that the conversation is more open and frequent and that we see positive change in some areas.
Jess: I’d love to see less toxicity in gaming. It’s disappointing to hear that someone stopped playing a game because of too many toxic players. Games should be a happy and safe place for all.
Iron Galaxy: What's your favorite thing about being Hispanic and/or Latin?
Emily: Everything ;)
Eli: The music. If Suavemente or Selena comes on, I will start shaking my hips and send all my foes to the Salsa Realm.
Kimu: I absolutely obsess with the food and music that just makes your heart beat to the rhythm!
Erica: Family is so big. I have a large family, and the love, food, music, and just everything about it.
Ernie: Too many to list, but the family dynamic, food, and music are at the top of the list.
Lupe: All of it! I mean, it's different for everyone, but as a proud Mexican-Chicagoan, it's my family. Being Mexican, speaking Spanish, the food, the parties, the love…it's all the best. It provides an experience and perspective that I love and wouldn't trade for anything.
Jess: The food! I grew up cooking alongside my mom and learned a lot of traditional Dominican recipes through her. I love learning recipes from other Hispanic and Latin countries and have made an effort to find recipe books or learn traditional recipes from other friends.
We're constantly working to make Iron Galaxy a company that is inviting to all. If you want to work on groundbreaking games with positive people, view our career page and apply to one of our open positions!