Hi! I am Enrico Santi, environment and weapons artist at Digital Extremes.
I would love to tell you about my story and how I got into the games industry. We could literally say that game art saved my life. I'm very thankful for having end up doing this.
I guess it's all too common to hear kids wanting to make video games and dreaming about creating something everyone could enjoy and play. Well, that was pretty much the case for me.
I grew up in Africa, where I was not exposed to much of the tech life. In fact, my dream was to join the Military.
My family and I were rescued from Sierra Leon when the civil war hit, and it left a huge impression on me about military life. But that's a whole other story for another time.
Shortly after having returned to Italy (my birth country), we returned to Africa, Botswana to be exact, and that's when I got my first console, the PS1.
What a time. Great games and so much time playing crash bandicoot till early in the morning, but at that time, I was still sure the army life was for me.
Fast forward a couple of years, and here I am, living in Mexico on a little island called Isla Holbox, a beautiful island to visit on holidays, by the way. It was here I got my first Xbox for Christmas with Jade Empire and Halo. My friends and I would pile into my room and play Halo online, screaming and laughing.
An itch to start developing games grew on me, so I began researching and found Maya. I opened it, created my first box, closed it, and never touched it again. This was my first nudge away from the army life into the world of games. Although my 3D box was not as detailed as others, it ignited that spark.
I ended up creating my own server for Tibia and would create my own quests, levels, etc., and fell in love with the process of making a game and having my own server.
We later moved inland to Valladolid, where I started college but was never really interested in any of the fields available, none of my friends were really into video games so it was hard to relate with anyone with the same passion.
My grades were dwindling, and barely passing. Not that I ever was an overachiever at school, but enough to pass.
It was here where I understood I was missing a purpose in life and started looking more into video games and how they are made, so I asked my then IT teacher who told me about RPG Maker, I believe it was called, but that was not for me, I wanted to make big games in 3D but did not know how until I found UDK.
One day, my buddy and I were going to head to my parent's restaurant where I had my pc to do some schoolwork when out of nowhere, some schoolmates came to ask about that week's assignment (my buddy was living with my family and me at the time, he is the straight A's type of guy so he would know) when suddenly my parents come running out telling me we had to go, the restaurant was on fire!
As you would imagine, the place was a disaster, and everything but my pc was gone (it was on the second floor). Turns out that one of the gas lines in the restaurant ruptured and caused a huge explosion. This is where things hit a little too close to home and put everything into perspective, and we ended up leaving Mexico and back to Africa.
Back to Africa in Zimbabwe! Here, I went heavily into doing 3D. I started doing a lot of free work for indie companies, where I met lots of people. Some are big names in the industry now, but, only one that I worked on ended up releasing as a game called Squad. At this point, I didn't believe I was good enough to get into the industry since the standards were so high.
After that, I tried many hobbies and jobs. I ended up at an IT company where I met my best friend who had a similar dream of making games.
My buddy and I decided to start making a game one day, and the harsh reality came crashing on us! Making 3D rocks is a hell of a lot harder than you would think! And also making a game, of course.
We tried but ultimately ended up not getting much done as neither of us had any experience. At this point, I had been doing 3D for a couple of years, and something inside me told me that the video games industry is exactly where I needed to be.
After a while, we ended up having to leave Zimbabwe and had to leave everything there. We grabbed only the clothes we had and crammed my computer parts into luggage, and left-back for Italy.
At this time, unfortunately, there were not many options as my parents were unable to work. I ended up working in a restaurant for us to get by, they were long 16 to 18 hour work days with 1 day off, and after a year of this, I had to decide what to do with my life, and I decided to give up the dream of making games.
Shortly after, my parents got offered a job with a place to stay, and we moved into a new home, and almost like clockwork, the stars and worlds aligned or something.
I got my first offer to work at a studio in Spain, though the first email that they sent was shoved into spam and I never saw it... They wrote a second time, and from there, it's history.
Video games for me have never just been a passion but a way of life. Through my hardest times, Video Games never failed me and always brought joy even in the darkest of days.
Even today, I still feel the same passion and excitement for Video Games I felt when I was just a kid when I first got my PS1.
Through all this, I made it my mission to sit and learn something new every day, sacrificing a lot of my early life to learn and improve my knowledge of 3D art.
Be it luck, skill, cosmic intervention... something happened, and I finally got in. I guess what I hope you take away from this is, if you love what you do, just keep doing it, even when things are hard and it seems impossible, any time you can spend doing what you love will take you far, if not in your career, at least it will fulfill you in some way.
There is an exit to all the bad things in life, and for me, that exit was the video games industry. I knew the hardest battle I ever had to fight was the one required to get in.
I won it and I'm in.
If you want to see more of my work, please check out my Artstation!
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