By Harry Chin, 14, Culver City HS
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This is one of the MechWarrior images Eddie created while working for Microsoft in Seattle, Wash.

To anyone who likes video games, Eddie Smith, 26, has a dream job. Eddie is a "concept artist" for Sony Computer Entertainment—that means he creates art in video games for the PlayStation. But how did a kid who loved sports in high school end up making video games?

As a freshman at Westchester High School, Eddie said he considered becoming a naval officer, but decided against it because he wasn’t much of a morning person. Instead he set his sights on becoming a basketball star. He played basketball for all four years of high school. At the same time, he pursued his love of drawing by getting intensive training in painting and drawing through the Los Angeles-based Ryman Program, but he never really thought you could make a living as an artist.

After high school, Eddie went to UC Davis for a year, then transferred to Cal State San Bernardino. Though he played college basketball for three years, he soon realized that it wasn’t for him. "I found out that it was only a game for me. It wasn’t a way of life or something that I wanted to do forever." His senior year, he finally thought of pursuing art as a career, inspired by the sci-fi inventions of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

After graduation, Eddie got great offers

Eddie Smith

After he graduated with a bachelors degree in art, emphasis in painting, he got a job as a video game artist with Fox Interactive in Chicago, Illinois. A few months later, Microsoft bought Fox Interactive, and Eddie moved again to Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington. There, he learned how to paint digitally, using a stylus pen on a computer pad, and how to use three-dimensional software. Earning a salary of around $40,000, he worked on such games as Crimson Skies and MechWarrior IV, which became one of the top-selling games in the industry. He said it was fun, especially since he enjoys video games himself, such as Diablo II, Quake and Delta.

In December, Eddie was thrilled to get an offer from San Diego-based Sony Playstation, which meant he could move back to sunny California. He feels that Sony values artists more than Microsoft did. Rather than staying in their cubicles to work, employees might be found chatting with each other, playing volleyball, watching DVDs or playing Mortal Kombat in small free arcades. His laid-back working environment includes beanbag chairs and casual dress.

He earns more. He said an artist like himself earns $30,000 to $80,000 a year. Programmers earn $60,000 to $120,000 a year.

His job: "I create digital concepts for the game. I develop texture maps, it’s kinda like painting digital pictures. It’s a lot like a wrapping or cover," he said.

Eddie Smith created this fantasy world,

But he also works 8 to14 hours a day. "I spend as long as three o’clock in the morning," he said.

Today, Eddie credits the Ryman program with helping him identify his future direction. "It definitely showed me the potential I had in art. Mostly it showed me the level of art I want to achieve. It’s important that I have teachers that have better skills than me. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but they were the only teachers I ever had that I actually looked up to."

Eddie’s advice to teens: "I think that you should take a good look at yourself and find out what you love to do and grow immune to any discouragement … [Video game design] is not easy to get into, but the more people you know and the more talented you are (either in art or technical avenues) the better chances you have of finding good positions at good companies. But no matter what it takes time and a little luck. But definitely finish college, it will help you a lot."