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Video Game Artist Draws Success at Zynga

As a student at Westmoor High School in Daly City, Truman Simpson avoided math and science classes whenever possible. Now, as a video game designer for Zynga, he understands math’s importance.

“I spent most of my time in English studies,” he said. But something happened to Simpson when he enrolled at Cañada College in 2010. “Suddenly, math and science were fun for me.”

Simpson said he chose Cañada to study Maya, a 3D computer graphics software system designed in close collaboration with Walt Disney Feature Animation that is the industry-standard for video game designers. “Cañada’s program fit my lifestyle,” he said. “I was originally only going to take a couple of night classes but the staff’s energy and enthusiasm made me want to take more.”

Simpson said the faculty created an environment that made the tools secondary to the skills being taught in the classroom. He said faculty members Paul Naas, Roger Royce, and Domenic Allen taught him about art, creativity, and engineering, which formed the foundation of his education. The math Simpson avoided in high school now became relevant. “We learned how to use the software but the underlying principles of how to apply our skills came from the teachers at Cañada.”

Allen said Truman was a great student whose enthusiasm was infectious. “He always contributed energy and talent to his classes. He continues to give back to the community by speaking to current students at Cañada and describing his experiences at Zynga. He is an example of the great caliber of students we have at Cañada.”

Simpson said his fellow classmates were also inspiring. “Everyone came from different backgrounds and brought a different set of life experiences and we were able to bounce ideas off of each other in class and in labs. I pushed even harder, as my work was reflection of all of us.”

The skills Simpson gained at Cañada eventually earned him a job at Zynga, one of the world’s largest developers of online social games. The company was founded in San Francisco in 2007. His job at Zynga is fast-paced and goal-oriented and Simpson said he’s often working with people he’s never met before but they share the common goal of creating something they believe in. “Cañada taught me how to succeed in this type of work environment.”

Naas said Simpson executed his assignments with flair. “On one animation assignment, he took into account where I’d be sitting during the critique and animated the character so it noticed me and reacted to my presence. The room exploded with laughter when they saw the character.”

Naas said Simpson has made an impression while at Zynga. “There are at least two characters in Zynga games that have Truman’s unique hairstyle!”

Simpson said he loves creating games and is honing his skills at feature game development and technical artistry at Zynga. He said students who want to learn the skills of game development at Cañada should enter each class with an open mind. “Learn all the time and from everyone in your classes,” he said. “Every person you meet can teach you something new. As Paul Naas is so keen on saying – you never know who’s sitting next to you.”

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