Convocation Spotlight: Jules Loughin

June 22, 2021
About Jules

I wandered into SIAT a bewildered high school music major with only a vague idea of what “Interactive Arts and Technology” could possibly mean. I had been struggling to figure out what I wanted to do professionally, but SIAT allowed me to explore a variety of mediums until I found my path: narrative design! It was the perfect intersection of logic, design thinking, and storytelling, and I took every opportunity I could to develop narrative-driven games with my talented peers. The time I spent in Studio B and room 3140 with my friends – whiteboard doodling, eating food court sushi, and calling our deadline-driven game development marathons “design sprints” – remain some of my favourite memories from my time at SFU.

Beyond my vocational pursuits, my time at SIAT also granted me a number of personal boons! Those friends I mentioned introduced me to new hobbies like D&D and Ultimate Frisbee. I picked up digital art to help with my courses, and my new pastime quickly turned into a business as I took on commissions for everything from book sleeves to wedding portraits. And a game project I co-created at SIAT took me all the way to San Jose – but I’ll tell you more about that later.

Why did you choose SIAT for your studies?

I chose SIAT because I needed a place to figure out what I wanted to do with my life – how to merge my interest in technology with my artistic background to create a viable career path. SIAT looked perfect for me, as a broad program that allows students to play in a range of mediums and disciplines throughout their education.

Also, SIAT is basically inventing school, which sounded very cool to 17-year-old Jules.

What was your favourite SIAT course or instructor?

The SIAT course I am most grateful for is Chantal Gibson’s IAT 103W. That course was critical to the rest of my SIAT experience, because Chantal’s teachings illuminated just how much of design involves storytelling. I think that this revelation was what convinced me that I could be a designer, because I had always been a storyteller. And Chantal’s feedback and enthusiasm only strengthened my newfound confidence in my craft.

What was the highlight of your undergraduate career or your best learning experience?

The highlight of my undergraduate career was the project I co-created for IAT 445: Immersive Environments. “LUX VR” was my first foray into game design, and I was lucky enough to build it alongside a team full of talented collaborators who soon became some of my favourite people.

Not only was LUX incredibly fun and rewarding to build, but players loved it! I will never forget the tears in folks’ eyes as they exited the experience, leaving behind a fictional world that only existed thanks to mine and my teammates’ imaginations. That’s a feeling I’ll be chasing for the rest of my career.

Beyond the classroom, LUX earned my team a spot in the Oculus Start program! As part of the program, one of my teammates and I got to fly down to San Jose in 2019 to attend the Oculus Connect 6 conference. It was an amazing experience, and it all stemmed from a single SIAT class.

What did you enjoy most about the SIAT community?

Honestly, just taking SIAT courses immerses you in the SIAT community. We share a unique bond that can only form upon spending every night for weeks together in Studio B, surrounded by bright yellow walls, sticky notes, and the smells of Tim Horton’s coffee. But beyond that, I also took part in SIAT’s wonderful Sketch Club whenever I could, and dedicated one of the last semesters of my undergrad to a co-op as SIAT’s Education Outreach, Promotion, and Recruitment assistant. In this role, I had a great time touring high schools across BC and teaching kids the basics of graphic and game design to get them excited about our program.

What is next on the horizon for you after graduating?

Thanks to my game design portfolio and my co-op experience, I managed to land my first job in the game industry with Electronic Arts before I graduated! I’m still working on transitioning into the narrative side of the industry from my current position in UX Research, but in the meantime, I’m continuing to build narrative experiences in my off-hours. I’m currently working on an interactive illustrated novella called “For Small Truths”, and I have a single-page TTRPG planned after that. It’s about ghosts on Mars. I’m thinking of calling it, “Ghosts on Mars”.

Any advice for incoming students considering SIAT?

If you’re worried that you don’t know enough about [insert artistic/technical field] to succeed in SIAT, do not fear! If you are interested in what SIAT has to teach you, or you want to explore the intersections of art and science, then you have everything you need. Just come in with a growth attitude and an open mind, and you will be just fine.