"CG Cookie Changed My Life!"

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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  • welch-garry

    Congrats,like the old saying, Never Quit!

  • David Frazier (pointoflife14)

    Amazing triumph! That's the way to do it, Ella, taking notes separate the serious from the hobbyist. The one who takes notes not only executes the acumen of determination and discipline, but it is also a well known fact that writing something boosts retention and comprehension often over 60+%. I too testify to the transformative impact "Cookie" has had on my life!

    Got a cgcookie T as a gift for Christmas from the CGC team, and I almost teared up. I wear it everywhere. THANKS ALL at CGC! You're a blessing.

  • kwayde

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story! You're an inspiration to all artists and I wish you the best with your endeavors. Keep doing your thing :)

  • Stephanie Whittaker (swhittakerrec)

    This story brought tears to my eyes. I needed to read this. As a young black woman living in New York, I've always loved Animation but because it is male and caucasian dominated, I did not see any room for me. I attended School of Visual Arts college a few years back for Graphic Design and Illustration. Because of a financial hurdle, I was forced to drop out. I stumbled on CG COOKIE in 2015 and began learning character concept and blender. I am very grateful for this site.

    Yesterday, I went back to School of Visual Arts to see if there's any possibility in clearing a huge bill that I left and getting back into school. When I dropped out, I never faced the challenge on how to pay the balance. I just left after reading the bad news letter. Yesterday, I found out what the balance was. It is $6,298.47. I don't have this right now. I felt so heartbroken. Stumbling on your story made me realize how I can take CG Cookie for granted. I am on board and will get back in gear into learning and reaching my dreams in being one of the best in the Animation game. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope to be able to support your game and see you succeed!

  • edrift3d

    What an incredible and inspirational story! I truly wish you and your family the best. Good luck and let us know when the first game comes out.

  • ellakingstone

    Thank you so much for your beautiful comment <3 I'm so happy that this article has had such an amazing impact; I honestly never expected the feedback I've had, so thank you. All I can hope for is that I can continue to help others just carry on chasing their dreams. If I can do that, then that's my time very well spent.

  • ellakingstone

    Ohmigosh, sweetie thank you so much for your comment!

    CGCookie is such an amazing place. I can't believe how much hope it brings to people, and my story is by no means unique at all and there are so many others who, like me, really lost their way and didn't know where to turn, so it's a beautiful thing to have found this community. I can't wait to see you succeed too, we can do this together! :D Please be sure to leave a link here to your social pages so I can come and check out your stuff!

  • ellakingstone

    Thank you so much! I can't believe the feedback I've had from this article; it's been amazing to see how much support we've had. I'm very grateful for your kind wishes and your comment <3

  • ellakingstone

    Thank you so much for your comment! I'm sending all my positive juju over to you to chase your dreams too, you can do it! Just keep chasing, and don't let anything hold you back :)

  • marcclintdion

    I hope all you women who've experienced this don't come to believe that all men want to discourage and sabotage you.

    No one person speaks for everyone even though sometimes it can feel that way.

    I'm happy to see that you've learned to ignore the psychological bully who hurt you and that you are now back to pursuing your dream.

    Just a tip for women in general, if the industry you are interested in is dominated by mean-spirited people, get together and start your own company.

    I'll apply there, I'd prefer to be surrounded by women. I can make the tea and coffee ;)

  • marcclintdion

    I just opened an email I received from Unity Connect titled "Juicy jobs at SubVRsive, Intriguing tasks, awesome artists"

    Two of the three people being listed as 'Featured Talent' are women. :)

    Here's the link although it's likely to have changed by the time you read it. (I can't upload the screenGrab I took)

    Unity Connect Newsletter #15

    http://app.response.unity3d.com/e/es?s=795651218&e=3532012&elqTrackId=484023e3b2924c78bc18192e2c4017e0&elq=7ce2fa4165b841f4a8afcf861ae83ee7&elqaid=3922&elqat=1

  • Barbara Holmes (barbaramirkwoodspiderling)

    Congratulations to you on your successful journey. Love that cat artwork and the real cats of course. Continued success.

  • Sean Doyle (drachengeifer)

    Great story Ella I wish the best for you. It is a hard journey but I think Indie for sometimes have been showing the world that you can make it. Create something great and try to promote it using Twitter, Facebook, etc. build some traction for the stuff you are creating. I will add you to my twitter feed at https://twitter.com/MakingGamesNow

  • Marcel Fitzner (shadowgames)

    I completely second this! I can't understand how some men are so in self-love about the male gender. Testosterones, muscles and straightout stupid dominance already ruined so much in "man"-kind's history. (Fun fact: In German we say 'Menschheit' which would translate to 'human kind' ;) )

    @Ella: I'm happy you fought yourself back on the track that you were always dreaming of! Fate sometimes makes us walk on rocky and painful paths, but eventually opportunities arise and suddenly all things fit into each other seemlessly. And now it's reality!! :D I wish you and your husband all the best to make your ideas come true! Let us know when your first game title is ready to be beta tested! ;)

    Thanks for sharing this story, Ella and CGCookies! What you guys are doing is not only creating awesome content but you also created the foundation of a great community that shares the same unstoppable spirit! :)

    Best regards
    Marcel

  • Alejandro Galán (tahariel)

    Thanks for sharing your amazing history... Best wishes for you and your family.

  • Darren McBain (oboshape)

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring, wish you all the best for the future.

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