Home Featured 2023 Commencement Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Audrey White, School of Game Development

2023 Commencement Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Audrey White, School of Game Development

by Art U News

Audrey White is a third-generation Latina and the second woman in her family to get a college degree. A game designer from Los Angeles, CA, she focuses on level design, scripting, story writing, and music composition. She was born in Torrance, CA, and grew up with her mother, Andrea Green, her father, William White, and her guardian, Elizabeth Mitchell. As an only child, she explored various avenues such as sports, dance, and theater, but it wasn’t until she picked up her first Gameboy that she found her true calling. 

Since she was young, White knew that video games weren’t just a hobby but a crucial part of her development. They provided solace during the darkest periods of her life. From playing with Legos as a child to first experiencing “Combat Arms” on her Toshiba laptop at age 11, her passion for video games only grew stronger. 

At 16 years old, White built her first computer, and the following year, she joined a game design camp, where she discovered her true potential. She searched for a college that would nurture her dreams of being in game development, finally finding the perfect fit at Academy of Art University after four attempts. White continued to develop her skills as a remote student, facing mental health struggles along the way. However, she persevered, achieving a high GPA and growing increasingly confident in her abilities. 

White was recognized for her potential and took the lead on two projects for her Prototype Game Production Studio class. This success led to her taking on additional leadership roles throughout her degree. As a student, she officially managed five projects, which then led to an internship at Free Range Games in 2022. She was also appointed as the Lead Designer for “Plague,” a game project that was featured at the 2023 Game Developers Conference and Spring Show exhibition. 

Now brimming with confidence, White is ready to jump into the industry with her head held high, motivated by her accomplishments to date, and prepared to start the next chapter of her career.

White delivered the following speech to this year’s class of graduating students.

My fellow 2023 graduates, 

I would like to start by taking a moment to look around this room and reflect with all of you. Each graduate has accomplished so much to be here today. Late nights, self-sacrifice, and financial instability were endured, but we persevered. That perseverance is what puts pen to paper and illustrates our story. Our story is never written for us, it is our own drive that fills out the pages. I think we can all agree that reaching this point has not been an easy or straight path to the finish line. Personally, the Academy was my fourth attempt at college. Even in 2015, it was strange to go to campus interviews and ask if they had a game design program, only to have them respond with, “Oh, yeah, we have people do animation for film.” 

Nevertheless, I kept searching. I sought to write my story the way I wanted to. I began my degree after attending a game design camp when I was 17, thinking that I was going to be a 3-D modeler. I haven’t opened a 3-D modeling program since my first year. This is not because I gave up but because the Academy allowed me to explore various avenues of game development until I realized that I was a designer all along. This year, I stood proud as the lead designer for our collab game, “Plague,” at the Game Developers Conference here in San Francisco. 

Bachelor of Fine Arts valedictorian Audrey White. Photo by Bob Toy.

As I mentioned earlier, this path is not an easy one. School is not the only thing we have to deal with, now, is it? We have responsibilities outside of our courses, such as jobs, family, friends, and, most importantly, ourselves. It seems that maintaining our mental and physical health fades away when we have a nine-to-five job, four or more classes, three kids, and bills piling up. This isn’t my full story, but I know it’s one of yours, and there are many stories like it. What’s important is that all those stories continued. No one graduating this year closed the book or gave up writing. 

Our stories have been beautifully filled out over the years, to which was not alone. All of the support from our friends and families does not go unnoticed, as it was vital to every student and their journey. I’m so thankful to have my parents, best friends, and grandparents, that have continued to cheer me on, here with me today. I know I’m not the only one with loved ones present. Many of you are here with those who are incredibly proud of what you have accomplished, but I sincerely hope that the person who fills you with the most sense of pride is yourself. You are the one who got through the long hours, huge projects, leaps of self-development, and immense hardships. 

Recently, we all went through this pandemic together, and at times it may have seemed overwhelming. We might have thought to stop writing or churning out the pages, but what we see now is that everyone’s stories are only getting brighter. Being in this room with all of you today, whether I know you personally or was just with you on this crazy ride to obtain our degrees, please know that I hear you, I see you, and I understand the blood, sweat, and tears it has taken to reach this point. 

Everyone is still writing their stories. They are all so different, unique, and filled with hard work and determination to make it to the end. This is the closing of a chapter but the beginning of another incredible journey. So please, celebrate, rejoice, and be proud of yourselves. We have worked tirelessly to get to our next big step in life, so let’s let go and relish today because today is a celebration, and it will take us to the next great part of our story. 

Thank you, Class of 2023!

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