Brennan Howell enrolled at Fairhaven School when he was 8 years old and graduated in 2015. He is currently finishing his degree in Game Art & Animation at Champlain College in Vermont.
My first few years at Fairhaven were pretty much spent doing a combination of playing Pokemon, playing on other people’s Playstations, and in the computer rooms. There was a bit of running around in the woods that went on as well. My mom was pretty much on board with the whole thing from the start, but my dad needed to be convinced. He was the type to ask what I learned each day, and I would say “I don’t know, stuff.” It wasn’t exactly what he wanted to hear, but I think he really started to see that Fairhaven was good for me when I started to become much more articulate and confident, two things that I definitely wasn’t when I started Fairhaven.
It’s hard to pin down exactly when something like that happens to you, but even from my first weeks at Fairhaven I started to get involved with the JC. And by get involved with, I mean written up! I’m sure it would sound weird to someone who’s not that familiar with the school that “getting in trouble” was one of the biggest boosts to my development, but it forces you to think about your actions and how they affect others. You develop mindfulness and self-awareness at a really young age. It’s not just a chance to self-reflect, but it’s also time learning how to communicate effectively.
I realize that letting go is probably one of the hardest things a parent can do for their kid, but I would urge them not to see playing games as any kind of warning sign. Through playing games you develop communication, problem solving, and creativity. You learn what you’re passionate about. These are all skills that can be applied to any industry.
All that time playing video games is the thing that taught me how I wanted to live my life. Not to say I’ll be playing video games all the time, but instead it let me find the fun in anything I did. After a few years at Fairhaven, I was spending a lot less time playing video games, but that doesn’t mean I was enjoying my time any less. I was able to find fun and play in most other aspects of the school.
Since going off to Champlain College to study game art, I’ve found so many ways to find the play in life. I was able to join the improv troupe at my school, and I’ve become involved with the school community by being a resident assistant and a student ambassador. Since I was able to use my time at Fairhaven to discover what I love, I enjoy the time I spend in the labs doing my homework.
From everything that I know about the game industry, it’s a really close-knit community, and that’s all I need to start being able to find the fun. A bunch of driven people all doing what they love and teaching each other along the way is my ideal environment, and as I’m saying that right now it honestly could describe Fairhaven.
The thing about game art is that it’s really a grind. You spend hours on hours, back to back in the labs, and being able to find the parts of that process that give me the energy and motivation to keep going all comes back to Fairhaven. It’s exactly how I felt on those weeks leading up to a big theater performance when I acted in the school plays.
When you find your passion, you spend much of your waking time on it. Unlike a lot of my peers coming from more traditional schools, I already had experience with that. I know so many people who have switched their major more than once. I’m glad that they’re able to do that and find their path, but I was able to do that long before college, and I’m grateful for it. I can’t thank Fairhaven enough for how well it set me up for my success at Champlain.