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Career Guide: Becoming a Game Artist

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As we continue our series of guides to game careers, this time we’re taking a look at another very popular, fascinating role: the game artist.

So whether you’ve an inspiring game maker in a the family, are a parent or guardian looking at ways to inspire getting enthused about school subjects, or are generally interested in how games are made, read on.

The role:

There are all kinds of game artists. There are character artists, who develop the look and style of games' characters. There are environment artists too, who flesh out the worlds in which games are set. There are concept artists, who create art to help guide the team building the game; art which is often never seen in a final release. Others craft the objects that fill game worlds, or create menu assets, or 2D visuals. And there are many more, including those that tackle all of the above.

Game artists typically use computer art creation software to build illustrations and 3D models used in games. But traditional drawing and even painting is sometimes used too.

Perhaps most significantly, while many game artists are creating the content of a game designed by other people, most are also working in conjunction with designers, coders, audio teams and so on. That means a game artist’s work can really influence the design of the game. The initial illustrations of a game’s levels might inspire a game designer to add a new gameplay mechanic, for example.

The opportunity:

Game artists can make a living out of their passion for drawing, illustrating and designing, while also being involved in the process of making games, and getting experience in how many parts of a game studio work, expanding the potential of a game industry careers

In the 2016 Salary Survey by Develop, it was found that the average wage of a junior artist globally was £21,250 a year globally. A lead artist on a game can expect to earn an average of £41,985 per year globally, or a little less by the UK average of £41,230 per year.

The challenges:

A lot of people want to be game artists, meaning it is rather competitive. Fortunately, a good number of game art roles do exist in the UK and across the world. However, with so many generalist artists about, to get the game art jobs applicants need to distinguish themselves with knowledge or even experience of other skills in the game development process. More on that below.

The qualifications:

An art qualification – and the experience it brings – will certainly help, and up to any level. Perhaps more so, a portfolio is extremely important. Prospective game artists will need to have a number of examples of their work to hand or easily available. A variety of styles are worth providing, to demonstrate the ability to deliver different looks beyond one personal style. Published work is great, but not essential. Animated or 3D work will equally prove a useful advantage.

Some experience or qualifications in other elements of making games would be helpful to stand as a game-specialist artist. That might mean staying with physics or maths a little longer in education, learning coding, or getting work experience at a game developer in any role. A game design or game art degree would be very meaningful to some employers, and that can be attended by following both creative and scientific education.

IMAGE CREDIT: The Good Life concept art from While Owls studio.
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Will Freeman