Programming, Art Design, and Audio Design
The majority of people involved in creating a video game can be found in the art and animation departments. This is because the most amount of time, energy, and (usually) budget goes toward creating the visual look of the game.
The art designers take the code written by the programmers and turn it into a visual world the players can interact with. From the lush background of an environment to the weapons and objects scattered through a level to the expressions in the characters' faces, every visual you see in a video game was drawn and created by the artists and animators on the art design team.
Being an artist or an animator is a very creative job. Although an art designer takes most of his or her instruction from the lead game designer on what exactly should be drawn, he or she also has a great deal of creative input on how the game ends up looking and is often consulted for new ideas and designs.
Hours involved: Typical forty-hour workweek, but can often turn into a sixty- to eighty-hour workweek during game production.
Work environment: Either out in the real world getting inspiration or back at the office drawing or animating on a computer.
Salary: Starting salary around $40,000; more experienced art designers can make $80,000 and up.
A four-year degree in art is recommended for anyone hoping to find a career in video game art design. Being trained as a visual artist, not just a video game artist, is an extremely important part of being a video game art designer. An artist working for a video game development company will be expected to be comfortable with all forms of visual art, whether drawing on paper or on computer drawing tablets.
Many colleges and universities today have begun to offer art programs tailored to those interested in video game art and animation. There are even trade schools nationwide that specialize in video game art design.
First and foremost, you must be a visual artist. You must be able to sketch, draw, and paint a wide range of characters, environments, and objects. If you consider yourself an artist or feel you've always had a natural talent for drawing, sketching, painting, or sculpting, then you might be perfect for a career as an art designer.
Being comfortable with math, computers, and even a little programming are important skills as well for anyone interested in video game art design.
The following software programs are a few of the most important tools available to the video game artist today.
Maya and 3D Studio Max: Two of the most widely used 3-D modeling and animation programs.
Photoshop: The industry standard for 2-D visuals and texturing.
An attention to detail is a very important personal trait for the video game art designer. Strong communication skills are helpful, since artists will often need to describe the designs they see in their heads before being tasked with implementing them. Good people skills are also important, as art designers work very closely with programmers. The artists need to make sure that the visuals they are creating will work with the software being designed by the programmers, and vice versa.
How to Get Your Foot in the Door
Keeping a sketch book with you and sketching as often as possible is a great way to hone your skills as an artist. Try drawing a different object you see every day.
The first thing a video game employer will look at is your portfolio, which is a collection of your artwork, so start coming up with eye-catching, original designs. Entering your artwork in local competitions or art fairs is a great way to get your work seen by others and a great way to get constructive feedback.
A summer apprenticeship or internship at a video game production company can lead to important job connections down the road.
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