by Jacqueline Mitchell
Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School senior Tiffany Wang has been racking up some serious awards for her digital illustration and video game designs. The 17-year-old Brecksville resident most recently won a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Gold Medal – finishing in the top 1 percent of 320,000 art submissions – for her video game “good morning!”
Wang is self-taught in the realms of both digital art and video game design, though she credits her BBHHS art teacher Anne Jones as being “very supportive” of her work.
As a child, Wang said she was drawn to art and the ability “to create your own stories and tell your own worlds. I started drawing when I was really little, like scribbling on printer paper. And then I started learning digital art a few years ago, maybe in middle school.”
She started experimenting with digital art during her time spent at the library.
“I had the fortune of being close to a lot of computers when I was little,” Wang said. “I used to go to the library a lot, and there’d be all the computers there. So I learned about digital art pretty early, and then I got to have my own tablet – I still have it here, actually [in her backpack]. I got it in middle school.”
To create her digital art, Wang uses her tablet and a tablet pen, plus drawing software, including Paint Tool SAI.
“That’s basically all you need,” she said.
Her knowledge of video game design was similarly fueled by an interest in learning more about something she loved.
“I learned a lot by looking at online documentation and tutorials on how to do this, and just asking questions online,” Wang said. “I’ve always been a video game fan, like you know Flash games? They’re just like the web games that you see on the internet. Like dress-up games, cooking games; I used to be really into those. In middle school, I started learning how to use Flash games and [the programming language] ActionScript, and then in high school, I kind of transferred that knowledge into [the gaming platform] Unity to make more professional-grade games, because Unity is used in more professional spaces.”
Wang’s indie games have been played by over 80,000 users and featured by organizations like Free Game Planet, Indie Games Plus and the Cleveland Clinic. The National Center for Women in Technology recently presented her with the Award for Aspirations in Computing as one of 400 young women nationwide with outstanding technological achievements.
Regionally, Wang also won a Scholastic Gold Key in digital illustration for her piece “Reflection,” a Gold Key for video game design for “good morning!” and a Silver Key for video game design for her game “BOBA.” Her works were displayed at the Cleveland Institute of Art in January.
Though Scholastic’s national June 4 ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual event is planned for that date, and Wang’s game is featured in an online gallery with all the winners at artandwriting.org/explore/online-galleries/.
Her Scholastic Award-winning “good morning!” is a candy-colored morning routine simulator that allows the user to complete tasks like waking up, picking out outfits, brushing teeth and making waffles.
“It was what I did last winter break for a week, because I was doing a mini-game a week,” Wang said.
The first game she ever designed is called “Space Bar,” which she worked on last summer and winter. It earned her a national Scholastic gold medal and an American Visions Award in 2019.
“It’s a typing and list-runner simulator,” she said. “You can type the platform and collect coins.”
Wang has been able to gain more experience with video game design through her internship at SeeLife, a startup in Akron that she said is “looking to gamify biofeedback therapy.”
“It looks to make controlling your heart rate more accessible and engaging to children that might otherwise be boring or hard,” Wang said. “The founders themselves had to undergo biofeedback therapy, and that’s kind of where they got the idea. It’s been a really nice experience working professionally for therapeutic and game development software. I’ve been able to work with a mobile developer to help create software.”
Wang draws inspiration for her art from all around her. She cites indie developer Toby Fox, who created the video game Undertale, as one of her favorite artists.
“I have a running list of ideas, and whenever I see something throughout the day that inspires a project idea, I just write it down, and when I have time I look through it and then choose,” she said.
Much of her work features a pastel color palette.
“I draw people a lot,” she said. “And I’ve been trying to learn how to draw more scenery, so that’s kind of what my concentration is.”
In the fall, Wang plans to attend the University of California Berkeley and major in computer science, with a minor in art. She wants to become a software engineer and incorporate her illustration skills into human-computer interaction design. To view Wang’s work, visit her website, cnnmon.github.io.
Feature image photo caption: Art teacher Anne Jones (l) stands with Tiffany Wang in front of Wang’s winning digital art piece, “Reflection” (top far right), on display at the Cleveland Institute of Art on Jan. 18. Photo courtesy of T. Wang