Pipe Dream sat down with Sunil Thankamushy, an animation director and creative executive in the video game industry. Thankamushy has worked on a variety of video games including Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. His TEDxBinghamtonUniversity talk, “Ideas and Creativity Driven by Deep Meditation,” focuses on the importance and power of ideas. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Pipe Dream: How did you get into the video game industry and animation in general?
Sunil Thankamushy: I have always wanted to draw. I had a newspaper cartoon strip when I was a freshman in college. After a few years of that, I had a feeling I had to get into something deeper and a friend of mine in college mentioned to me, ‘You need to get into animation.’ So I started to look it up more and I found that there was not much 3D animation at that time. But UCLA was one place that had a great program, among literally a handful of places worldwide. I got accepted and it was after I got accepted that I really understood what I was getting into. That’s how animation started. By the end of the program at UCLA, there’s the animation project. I wanted to do feature animation but then there was this thing growing — this new, next-generation computer games. And that was fascinating to me because it was animation and technology and I love technology, especially the use of technologies to do cool things. I intuitively felt like that’s what I should be doing. As an artist, I was thinking the graphics are better here. But as a creative person, I felt that I needed to go into computer games. Best decision I ever made.
PD: What exactly is your TED talk about?
ST: The TED talk is about an idea a day, the power of ideas and how precious they are and how we all have great ideas — that we are aware of and that we may not be aware of.
PD: How did your work inspire your talk?
ST: My entire life has been a pursuit of ideas. If there is a motto for my life, it’s the pursuit of ideas, so I’m easily inspired. I got an idea to be a newspaper cartoonist, so I started to do cartoons. I got an idea to go into animation, so I pursued that, I got an idea that animation is the next thing to tell stories in the next level and I went into the highest form of that, which is games. I got an idea that games should be more than just entertainment and that it should be enhancing and developing people’s capacity potential, and so I became an entrepreneur. So that’s just the broad thing. On a daily basis, I literally run on ideas. I have a whole system worked out in terms of gathering ideas, and collecting them and sorting them. It started from my dad. My dad is a scientist and he was my inspiration. We are an idea family. Other people are sports families, other people are this and that, but we are none of that — we are an idea family. I tell my kids, ‘Remember, you come from an idea family.’