Who is a game artist?
A games artist is a specialist that creates art (2D or 3D), so the visual elements of the game. Take backgrounds, buildings, plants, characters, vehicles, props as well as more detailed parts of games like some specific materials, fabrics, colors and texturing. A lot, right?
While you may follow a more general game art role, there's a wide range of specialties to explore. And don’t be afraid to do so! You can specialize in basically everything you can see in the game ranging from menus (UI Artists) to explosions (VFX Artist). All of these are equally important and contribute greatly to create the certain look and atmosphere of the game. Bear in mind that large studios may offer extremely specialized game art jobs, while smaller ones are mostly looking for generalists.
Game art is a relatively new field in the industry and is constantly evolving and expanding. This actually causes a lot of people to have some misconceptions about what a game artist actually does. So before we dive into the topic this let’s clear some things out and answer the burning question...
What does a Game Artist actually do?
We spoke about how important Game artists are to the game creation process, as they work on everything from characters, textures, colours, lighting, objects and the environment.
Whether the game artist is supervised by a lead artist, or is the lead artist - the responsibilities vary according to their specialisation or particular line of work: anything from very specific art assets, human figures and characters, buildings and landscapes, textures for 3D objects…. Even marketing assets such as packaging artwork, promotional materials and websites are within the scope of a game artist job.
Art jobs in the game industry - specialized
As hinted previously, art jobs in the game industry can get very granulated and specialized. Sure, you might be assigned a general art role - but usually there is a plethora of specializations required: anything from character artist, to environment artist, concept artist and beyond. It's impossible to go into details on every possible specialization - but considering that these roles are not only flexible, but can oftentime make a candidate more employable due to the specialization, we’re going to give you a brief rundown on some of the art game jobs that currently dominate the industry.
Whether using pen and paper or computer software - the concept artist creates art in the preproduction part of development - sketching and generating ideas for game worlds, characters, objects, vehicles, furniture, clothing, and whatever else the particular project demands. Their concepts might not end up in the actual game, but usually most of them get realized and then later introduced in the game as final art..
For the sake of brevity, we’ve bundled several different specializations here in a blanket category. A 3D modeler, for example, makes 3D models using various modelling software and can then further specialize into modelers that create characters, environments, or props. In a primarily 3D game they will be the backbone, creating characters, objects and environments of the game - anything from vegetation to vehicles.
On the other hand, 2D artists can be anything from the 2D equivalent of the modeler - creating environments and characters - or can specialize further into Texture Artists that create and apply textures to characters, environments and game items, such as surfaces of walls and floors of buildings.
Animators and Tech Artists
Animators are in charge of instilling life and dynamics to what would be still characters and static objects. Without animation, scenes and games are devoid of emotion and dynamism - especially if human faces are the animation subject. A subset of animation are the rigging artists - creating connections between objects to make animating them easier. Both of these require knowledge of physics and anatomy, and are quite demanding. Our next articles will cover the games animation industry and all the career paths one can follow within it.
Lighting and Effects Artists
The lighting artist deals with the lighting, very similar to a director of photography within the film industry. Their job is to place, adjust and tweak the lighting in the game - adjusting all from colour, intensity, and falloff. There is significant overlap here with someone that's an effect artist or a particle effect artist - working with particle systems and lights, bringing any area to life. Effects artists are called on to create weather effects, sparking wires, water leaks, smoke, blowing dust, steam vents – anything from sparks flying off a sword to giant explosions or the dust that rises from the ground when struck by a stomping shoe.
As you probably realize by now - knowledge is the key. Only understanding the industry, game art itself and all the specializations can help you make an informed decision about what path to follow. Which one you will pick for yourself? Next week we’ll deep-dive into the topic of portfolios and pursuing a game artist career. In the meantime, you can refer back to one of our blog entries about top jobs in game dev. Stay tuned!