"CG Cookie Changed My Life!"

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We get a lot of heartwarming user testimonials, but it’s not often that somebody tells us that we’ve had a transformative impact on their life. Here's a story about the power of following your passion, told by Ella Kingstone.


Since I was 5 years old, I wanted to build games

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It all started with the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I would pinch my siblings’ GameBoy and sneak off to play the game relentlessly. I even made an entire map out of bits of paper complete with pop-up houses and a little BowWow that I carried around on a string everywhere I went. I was completely absorbed by the game and act it out after school with my little cat. Oh, the adventures!

A tutor told me I’d never make it in the gaming industry

I carried on designing games right up until the end of college. Then, a crushing blow came: a tutor told me that I’d never make it in the gaming industry and won’t get further than making tea and coffee because I was a girl, and the gaming world belonged to men. It was devastating and shattered everything.

I dropped out of Digital Art for Computer Games and jumped over to Illustration for Graphic Novels instead, because hey, at least I could still tell the stories, right?

I couldn't even look at my consoles for years, I was that devastated

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But at that point, I really lost my way. I changed courses 6 or 7 times and even tried psychology and Archeology, but it never felt right. I couldn't even look at my consoles for years, I was that devastated.

Then, the Indie gaming scene just exploded: I saw what people like Scott Cawthon achieved and I felt even more crushed than ever before. I kept sitting there, thinking

I thought, What the hell is Unity engine?

One morning, I was watching one of Markiplier’s videos feeling sorry for myself. He made a comment about a game being built in Unity engine. I thought, What the hell is Unity engine? One Google search later, the rest was history.

I'd suddenly found out that the engine the entire game development industry uses is unbelievably accessible, that I could built assets in Blender, which is open source, and even Pixar's Renderman software is free while you're learning. 

I can't imagine my life without my games and I am never losing sight of it again

At that point, the only thing missing was my knowledge of how to create the things to put in the games, which was where CG Cookie came in. It was like fate! The moment I saw the flows based on Concept Art, Blender, and Unity, my whole world just brightened. I wasn't going to let that chance go for anything. I can't imagine my life without my games, and I am never losing sight of it again.

All of my little characters and games I'd designed started coming back and reappearing.

I used my last commissions to buy a subscription to CG Cookie and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done

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At that time, something else happened. I had an accident and was facing losing the ability to walk.

Though I've been able to reverse it to some extent, even now, things like going for a walk with the dog are just not possible anymore because of how much pain I end up in. Even sewing with a machine, which is what I used to do for a living making plush toys, is not possible anymore because of the strain it puts on my right hip - I end up knocked out for weeks.

My condition made my work impossible. I lost everything financially and had to go bankrupt. I used what I had leftover from my last commissions to buy a subscription to CG Cookie, and it's been the best thing I've ever done.

Throughout the day, I’ll be on CG Cookie’s flows, practicing and taking notes

At the moment, I’m continuing to work as a plush maker and as an embroidery artist, so those take priority in my evenings. My days are divided between home-schooling my two children, learning about Game Design through CG Cookie and, of course, making games.

I’ll be on CG Cookie flows, going through each video one by one, taking notes and practicing the techniques that are being demonstrated. Recently, I've taken a quick break from the Blender flow to jump over to the Concept Art flow so I can have some good, strong designs ready.

We've set up our own studio!

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Recently, I accomplished a huge milestone: together with my husband, we have set up our game development studio, Ddraig House, and we're working on our first 2 games already. 'Noonie Lalunie and the Boomercats' is a 2D action-adventure RPG, and another yet-untitled, smaller and fun game for mobile and tablet.

My husband has taken over development in Unity while I work on all the concept art, visual art, animations and asset creation.

Kent and Tim have become a part of my daily life

CG Cookie has made such a massive difference to me, it's truly been an amazing experience. If I find myself stuck on something, I head to the questions section and find that the problems have already been answered by a crew member - and that is amazing. Knowing that that support is there, so should I encounter an issue I haven't managed to figure out on my own (after googling it too), then I know that I can comfortably ask the question there, knowing that the support is there whenever it's needed.

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And then there are the tutors: Kent and Tim have to become a part of my daily life through the Concept art and Blender courses because I listen to their advice and tutorship on a daily basis and take it all in - and my life is brighter for it. So they matter to me and I want to pass that on in any way I can.

Never let that spark go.

To others who are in a bad place and feeling really miserable, I want to say this: there's something in everyone - that one spark that really fires you up. But not everyone can find it or even reach it easily. Maye you've been told that you're wasting your time, you're not good enough, or that financially it's just not viable - but never let it go just because you think you of the hurdles to getting started.

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I know that feeling: I kept thinking that I need Maya, ZBrush, expensive cameras or paint, and I couldn't possibly be good enough without it - well, you are good enough! Just get started!

I've seen the things that can be achieved with OpenSource programs like Krita, Blender, and GIMP. The majority of my product photography for my plush work is done with the Instagram app on my iPhone.

Short-term solutions aren’t going to solve your long-term problems

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Then, there is the concern of how quickly you can learn. I understand: there were times when I needed to make money to be able to buy food for the week. It's why I stuck with plush making for so long, even though it was causing me an incredible amount of pain because of my illness.

I just had to push through it otherwise we wouldn't be able to heat our house properly or feed our kids. It's different now because my husband is out of university and in a job, so even though we're still going through financial difficulties, it's not on my shoulders alone to make the money to pay the bills.

That gave me a lot more breathing room, but yeah, there's definitely times when I sit there and think, We really need the money...I better open some more commissions for plush toys. But the truth remains, that's not going to solve our problems in the long term.

If you take the chance and work hard, nothing will stand in your way

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It's not an instantaneous thing, not by a long shot. And it is by no means easy either - you have to be prepared to work damn hard to get what you want out of life, but that's true all across the board, isn't it?

I don't think anyone gets anything handed to them for free, despite what it seems like. If you're really ready to put all that hard work in and take that chance, then nothing's going to stand in your way.

You have to really push yourself and believe in yourself and just keep going, even if it feels like where you're going is nowhere. It'll all make sense soon enough!


Follow Ella's studio Ddraig House on Facebook.

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    Pressman

    Thanks for sharing your amazing journey, looking forward to seeing where it leads.

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    reavenkhali

    "a tutor told me that I’d never make it in the gaming industry and won’t get further than making tea and coffee because I was a girl, and the gaming world belonged to men."

    What!? A tutor is being paid to spread this kind of discouragement? Depending on how long ago though, I almost can't fault him. Over 10 years ago it was hard to not have that kind of mentality of a male-dominated industry (not the tea and coffee thing though, I don't know the context but that's just sexist), but the industry as a whole has been pretty diligent about continually addressing the issue.

    Stories like these are at the heart of what companies are talking about when they talk about democratization.

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    Mark Smith

    Indeed thank you for sharing your experience...
    this is an awesome accounting of real life issues vs.
    the "Dream"...
    good luck be with you!!

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    Mary Fazzolari

    Thanks for sharing this story with us, Ella.
    I think nothing can stop strong will and positive attitude. I also had some bad times which stopped me to make what I really loved for so much time (like losing my father 10 years ago, and some health problem), but fortunately I'm always here, trying to fight for my dreams and making my world better. Not easy, true, its sooo easy to lose your goal and strength when you face bad times. I also have to say that CGcookie is like a big family, a place where your inner artist can show up and be recognized. The art industry has become a hard, cold a place where if you don't destroy others and stand up in the crowd, no one will see you. But This site and the amazing team knows where true talent is and gives us the chance to show our feelings and creativity. Kudos to everyone who fight for making the world a better place.

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    Omar Domenech

    Very heartfelt story. And wow, what just a few words can do to the course of someones life. I can easily imagine how someone could've casually told Hitler the same thing when he was a painter, imagine that. Makes me want to think not twice, but thrice before uttering a word.

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    Aunnop Kattiyanet

    Thanks for sharing such a great story!
    Your story will remind me not to give up so easily, even I faced such a bad situation.

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    Jonathan Gonzalez

    Way to go Ella!

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    koala

    Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you and your family the best for the future ! Keep going :), and as we say in France : "bon courage !"

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    Matthew Fricker

    I can very much relate to this , and it was lovely and inspiring to read your story. Well done for not giving up and for pushing through the hard times.

    I myself owe a huge debt to CG Cookie, which I have mentioned in the forums in the past - I was an alcoholic who had hit rock bottom a few years ago, and it was dicsovering CG Cookie that turned my life around. I found that "one spark that really fires you up" that you talk of, when I fell in love with Blender and realised how much I could do with it. CG Cookie and the community have helped me so much, as they have you , and I am now trying to work towards a freelance career in CG , and also making my own game.

    So I wish you the best of luck with your ventures, and thankyou for sharing your story :)

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    Pavla Karon

    I'm not one for holding grudges, but...somebody should send that tutor this article!

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    Jonathan Fisher

    Wow, this is awesome. Good luck to you.

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    Cy Sean

    This is very inspirational! Thank you for this :) good luck!

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    Addyson H.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Hearing stories like yours really inspires and helps me to push on and keep working hard even when I feel discouraged. Good luck on your future adventures!

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    Ryan Sweeney

    This is awesome. Not awesome that it seemed like things got short circuited along the way, but that you can dig into it now and that CG Cookie is part of that: Awesome!

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    soda_zer0

    you made me cry
    this really touched me

    I deeply valuate your journey

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    jpspears13

    Great story, thank you. You are very brave to follow your dreams - I hope I can be more like that someday soon.

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    starskriem

    l am very great full about your story, about the past you just told me.
    l also want to great games and movies, but not for me but for someone else "hoe" have given me love, hope, and brighter future.
    He saw me as somebody special and forgiven my sins.
    But to my past l only know hatred, enemies, lies, misery and must more.
    l was dead within myself and was going down.
    l was in the kingdom of darkness, the shadows closing in on me, only telling me lies, that l was not special, a piece of garbages in my very existing, trying to kill me so at l will burn in the everlasting fire.
    Till he came, l couldn't see he's faced, because he faces was brighter than the sun itself.
    But l know who he was, he was Jesus Christ the Son of God.
    Then he came closer to me like the burning sun, l couldn't believe my eyes, why in the world would ever come closer to me couldn't he see l was naked, cover with the blood of his beloved children and dirt on my body.
    l was frightened and tears began to gone down upon my seeks, then he reaches out his hand to me, l couldn't hear his voice but somehow l dit hear his voice and he said to me "Take my hand".
    l took his hand and saw light all around me, light l have never seen in my tire life and love l never knew ever existed, l felt it pulsing fro my veins.
    That is why l will do any work that he gives, but l don't know what work l should do for him, so far am going to make games and movies for him only.
    Let me tell you,
    you have been wonderfully made by God and you have been knit together piece by piece in your mother's womb, and How special does that make you?Pretty special and dit you know that you were made in the image of the God of this universe?
    Do you know how special that makes you?
    You are very special!
    If anyone ever tells you are any different, they are 100-percent wrong and don't you ever forget that!

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    badmonk

    Awesome and inspiring! I wish you and your husband all the best and good luck. Hope your games and development studio are very successful!

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    Kent Trammell

    Phenomenal story, Ella. Wow. Thanks for sharing and being a part of the CGC community!

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    Jasmine Wongus

    I know this came out a little while ago, but it's surely touched me, especially right now when I'm getting back into my favourite medium. Thank you for sharing your journey, and when I think about what you've gone through so far, it seems like anybody has that chance to persevere, and you're doing it so well! I wish you more success as the days go on! :D

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