Student Profile: Gabe Hicks

When Gabe Hicks was younger, he watched cartoons on television as much as the next kid. However, while others were thinking about super powers, Hicks, now 20, was thinking about the technology behind the programming. He watched his favorite show, Sonic the Hedgehog, and imagined how he would create the images differently. He was fascinated with the action behind the scenes as much as the cartoon itself.

“There would sometimes be a lack of character development that I yearned for. In movies, a lot of people want action, action, action! But there are people like me who feel compelled to have more of a story along with it,” Hicks explained. “Action is almost always a nice addition, but if you could have action with a story instead of senseless action. I feel like it’d be so much better.”

The Harrisburg resident is now a sophomore at Harrisburg University. He started out as a computer science major at Shippensberg University about 40 minutes from home. Hicks quickly realized his destiny wasn’t in computer coding. “Being away from home was a great feeling, but I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing nor was I meeting people who wanted to do the same thing as me.”

Hicks traded in a dorm room for a short commute and a dream major in animation. However, while it might look fun, gaming isn’t child’s play. “This kind of work isn’t easy,” Hick admitted. “But the first time you do something that brings a vision to life, it’s so exciting that you want to create the next thing.”

HU is one of the only schools in the nation that has a Virtuasphere, a high-tech hub that allows a viewer to step in, don a virtual visor/helmet, and see everything in 3D. It allows the gaming programmers, like Hicks, to see the characters and spaces he is creating in from a first-person viewpoint.

“I can see everything in the game from the point of view of the character. There’s no way you can view this on a flat screen and get the same perspective,” Hicks said. “Since I’m in the first person view, I can see what people who will be playing the game can see. I can look down and see the ground or look to the corner and see something hidden. On a computer screen, you only see what’s in front of you.”

At HU, Hicks received one of the best pieces of advice. He was told: “follow your dreams.” He wants others to follow their calling, as well. “Come and visit HU and talk to the students and professors. Come see what you can do here and all of the possibilities,” he said, noting the professors are extremely approachable and there are many opportunities to get together with students on campus and other young professionals during a variety of town/gown events.

Plus, HU affords students access to great real-world experience. “There are internship positions EVERYWHERE.” And, there are plenty of professional speakers who come to meet with the students to share what’s going on in the working world.

“It’s important because I to hear first-hand what can happen in my industry,” Hicks continued. “HU lets me meet new people to help me learn, develop, and even make connections.”

Hicks’ degree will actually be in interactive media, and he expects to land his dream job after graduating in 2016 from Harrisburg University. What’s his dream job? “Anything where I can get paid to do what I love to do. I don’t want to grow up. I know I have to but I want to always be able to see things through the eyes of a young person. Animation gives me that ability.”