By Mary Winkler
Artwork by James Wolf Strehle
of all sorts are a part of everyday entertainment for many of us. The
artists involved in the creation of video games, card games, mobile
games and more are an essential piece to the puzzle in this
incredibly visual interactive media. Whether you’re aiming to work
for a large well-known company like Blizzard Entertainment or Wizards
of the Coast, or a smaller company that produces mobile games like
Sunstorm Games, knowing what it takes to be a game artist is crucial
for your career’s success.
interviewed several artists and designers working in various facets
of the gaming and entertainment industry in order to get to know
their experiences as professional artists. Consider this your guide
to working as a game artist.
Do Game Artists Do?
start with a breakdown, in no particular order, of some of the roles
open to artists and designers within various gaming-related
Artists: The idea people! These artists put together a variety of
conceptual work for a game. Whether it’s characters, settings, items
within a game, or an entire world, conceptual drawings,
illustrations, and paintings are a huge part of building a game up
from a simple idea or outline. These roles are varied and may be held
by many of the artists discussed below.
Directors: These are the artists and managers responsible for leading
a project or production. We’ve discussed Art Directors in the past
and what their roles may be within a company. In the world of games,
directors may lead a project, department, or company with their
vision, or simply coordinate the efforts of others within the
The drawers, painters, sketchers, and creators of static visual
content. Illustrators are responsible for those brilliant splash
images seen on a video game’s loading screen (League of Legends,
anyone?) as well as a variety of content for a game and a game’s
auxiliary media (booklets, marketing, etc). Essentially, concept art
can become a finished illustration, and illustrators are needed to
create a game’s static visual content.
Designers: Icons, print design, layout within a game or a game’s
auxiliary media, and more! That fabulous logo for a game? Created by
a graphic designer! The booklet you’re reading to get to know a
game’s battle system? Created by a graphic designer!
Designers: The visual media that you interact with is a user
interface. These designers create those interfaces in a variety of
media and hand off their content to programmers who make games work.
In non-video games (board games, card games, etc), a UI designer
would be a graphic designer, since user interfaces are usually
software related in some way.
More… Many artists involved in video games and such play multiple
roles or move from role to role within a project or production. I
didn’t even get to animators, 3-D modelers, and other designers, as
we’ve covered them in previous articles or will in the future.
Instead, I singled out several roles above based on the artists I
interviewed. There are nuances to each and additional roles to
explore that a company or organization may offer within their
creative department when creating a game that you could be involved
with in the future. As such, let’s further explore the career of the
Anodized Robo Cub art for Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone.“I’m
mainly responsible for character concepts, costumes, weapons &
props as well as key art, storyboards and in-game illustrations.”
— Eva Widermann, freelance illustrator for companies like Blizzard
Entertainment, Disney Interactive, Wizards of the Coast, and more.
Do Game Artists Work?
have a bit of a chat about what sort of companies game artists might
work for and what sort of content they produce.
There are two main distinctions: freelance or in-house artists. Freelancers are
employed on a contract or project-by-project basis. As we’ve
discussed in previous articles, freelancers have to be self-motivated
and manage themselves while juggling multiple clients. It’s not
stable work necessarily, but it does allow for an artist to work on a
variety of products and projects. In the realm of gaming that means
that even if you work for a company that only produces video games, being able to create artwork for another company that produces card
or board games is entirely feasible.
artists work within a studio or company with other artists,
designers, engineers, and more. Depending on the size of the company
and production, and the artists’ roles within it, there may or may not be a lot of
cross-department association or work. For instance, Finnish graphic
designer Muura Karoliina
works on a small team for
RAY where there are two artists, two programmers, and one producer
working together on a mobile or slot machine game at any one time.
Character concept art for a Visual Novel game.“We
do slot machine games for online, mobile and on actual physical slot
machines in grocery stores and bars! I’ve worked on two games that
are out right now and two games that are currently in development.