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As a gamer, Christina Parker doesn’t just reside in the virtual reality of haunted 18th century towns and taco apocalypses — she’s creating them.

Parker, a senior digital media game design major, started her own game design company in January, along with three UCF alumni, called Cherry Pie Games. Although she just started her artistry venture into designing gaming concepts, she’s already won grants from UCF and international game jams for Hollow, one of the company’s virtual reality games.

Currently, Parker is in the midst of collaborating on techniques and creative muses for her newest whimsical game concept, Tacopocalypse.

The Central Florida Future sat down with Parker to discuss her influences as an artist, the future of her company and what fans can expect from the release of her up-and-coming virtual reality games, Hollow and Emmerholt.

So describe your methods of artistry and how you like to design?

For hobbies, I like to paint. I normally use acrylic on canvas. Professionally I’m mainly a 3D artist. I really enjoy doing 2D designs and storyboard concepts. I’ve been getting a little more into environmental art, all for video games and that medium.

How did you start designing video games?

Well, this is my second degree. My first degree was actually in anthropology. I started pursuing a master’s in linguistics from UF. Unfortunately, I was really unhappy so I decided to come back to UCF from the last school, and that made me really happy. But I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I had to pursue a second bachelor’s at that point so I had a lot of friends who played video games professionally. And they were like, ‘Well, you love art. You do art all of the time, you know. You don’t make as much money as you like doing fine art or studio art.’ So they really persuaded me to go into game design as an artist. Something I had never did before, but it’s a really great fit. I enjoy it a lot.

What has been your favorite game you’ve designed so far?

Well, the last one I did — not quite the last one, the one before the last one. It’s a game called Hollow. It’s actually produced by the indie games studio that I’m apart of and co-founded called Cherry Pie Games. It’s very art heavy. It takes place in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, our own little universe. It’s very low quality, but I love it. It’s really minimal. I love the geometrics. Currently, I’m working on something called Tacopocalypse, and it’s a very different art style. It’s very 90s inspired, grunge-street style. It’s a lot of fun, and it has such an in-depth theme.

In the future, what are some bigger projects you are hoping to work on?

We do have some things in line. With Cherry Pie Games, we are going to work upon expanding our first game, Hollow. It’s very popular, and we actually received a grant from the Unreal Engine to create the game called Emmerholt, which will take place in the same universe and following the same art style. I am super excited to recreate and expand on [Hollow].

For students who are looking to get into the gamer industry, where do you suggest they start?

There’s really three different parts of the game-design industry or roles I can really say that needs to be fulfilled. There’s producer, there’s artist, there’s programmer and depending on which one of those you want to get into, it’s a lot of self-teaching. It’s a lot of going out there and playing different video games so you have all of your reference and things. It’s about teaching yourself engines, creating little projects, doing anything you can just hands on. Honestly, one of the most important tools are game jams.

Even if you’ve never made a game in completion before, you should go and learn from that environment because they are like 48 hours to create a game, and the innovation just forces you to do things that you didn’t think you were capable of. And honestly, it’s a confidence boost and they look great on your résumé.

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Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com

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