I’ve a bit of a confession to make. Instead of trying to figure out what to write earlier today for this blog post, I got sidetracked and signed away a decent portion of my time to competitions. While I was doing so, and getting very excited about it, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know about them until a month or two ago. Since it’s been one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done over the last while (other than, oddly, starting this blog) I thought I’d share the pros and cons with you, and a few places you can go to find the challenges.
First off – What’s this ‘Challenge’ Nonsense?
Challenges are miniature competitions held online that involve creating something and competing with other people for a prize, often held in forums. Sometimes the prize can be quite substantial (software, money, books, training, etc), other times the only real prize is the prestige associated by winning. By their nature they’re more relaxed than offline competitions, and you can spend time getting to know the other entrants.
Further, since you have to post a work in progress thread (normally), you’ll often be able to ask for and receive some advice on how to improve your models/images/whatever the challenge entails. You can also comment on and help other people with their wips should you choose; it’s a great way to meet new people.
Entering online challenges and competitions can have the following benefits:
- Exposure. Your work will be seen by potentially hundreds of people of varying skill levels and success.
- Guidance. Those same people that see your work may be inclined to offer advice and help with making your work even better.
- Test. Lets face it, being a student is great, but it’s not often we really time ourselves making models (or whatever your specialty). Challenges have a much tighter timeline, and some of them only allow you a certain amount of actual time to complete.
- Vast Improvements. For some reason, perhaps because it’s out with college work, you’ll push yourself harder with these sorts of projects. It’ll improve your work tremendously.
- Fun! It’s hard to imagine the thrill you get from completing something that strictly speaking you didn’t have to do, but that you chose to do in your own time. Try it; you’ll see what I mean.
- Prizes. I almost didn’t include this one, because it’s not really the reason I join these things (though if I ever reached a ranking position I’d be very happy with them). For some challenges the prizes can be fairly substantial, if this is a motivation for you.
- Time. As a student, or someone without much in the way of spare time, the amount of time it’d take to create something extra can be daunting. Usually it’ll take less time than you imagine it will when you first start, however this can be off-putting for some people.
- Delayed Recognition. Sometimes it’ll take a little while for people to start talking to you in these challenges, and you can feel like it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t continue. If you persevere you’ll become recognizable and people will be more inclined to talk to you. Further, if you comment on their work they’re far more likely to take a moment to look at yours.
- Failure. Let’s be honest here, when you first start these you’re not going to walk in and win. If this is going to upset you too much, perhaps you’re not ready to learn this way. I’d say that it’s still worth doing for the reasons mentioned above.
Where can I find them?
There are a lot of forums that do challenges; some monthly, some weekly, some only a few times a year. You can usually find them in most industry forums, but here’s a quick list to kick start your challenge search. All of these forums also have a well-established, supportive community, so they’re worth a look even if you don’t feel like entering anything.
- Threedy Forums – The accompanying forum for 3D Total. They run several monthly challenges on a variety of different disciplines.
- GameArtisans – They run Dominance Wars each year, though they also have a variety of other challenges.
- CGTalk – Challenges run throughout the year for a couple of months each time.
- ConceptArt.org – Informal challenges in the 3D forum, and a self portrait challenge each year in November.
- ImagineFX – Monthly and Weekly challenges in digital painting.
If you’re looking for me on any of these forums, my username is TylinaVespart – feel free to say hi!
If you have the time to do it, it’s well worth entering a couple of challenges in your chosen subject area. This month I’ll be entering GameArtisans’ chess mini-challenge, and the Speed Modelling challenge on Threedy Forums. Let me know if you decide to enter anything / what your username is if you’re already part of any of the forums I’ve mentioned.
Also, remember that you can subscribe to my feed for easier access, and follow me on twitter if you want more general updates. See you on Wednesday!