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Vol. 2, Issue 8
January 12, 2000

Painting on Polygons:

Looking For Employment as an Artist

by Rick "Flatness" Grossenbacher



’ve gotten some e-mails from people wondering about how to get into the game industry as an artist. First off, if you haven’t read it, you should check out Paul Steed’s 6/29/99 article here on loonygames about getting a job as an artist. It is a pretty comprehensive article that offers a lot of good advice. Since I’ve still been getting e-mails about this though, I just wanted to do a small write-up of my own ideas while trying to stay away from anything Paul has already covered so this wasn’t a rehashed article.

Besides raw talent, one of the biggest things that game companies look for is experience. Having actual experience making a game within a game company setting is always a huge plus in the eyes of any potential employer. And I’m not talking about making a shareware game on your own time -- but that too is always nice experience. What I’m referring to is being with a company and knowing the whole process of making a game from start to completion, meeting deadlines and milestones, and understanding exactly what needs to be done.

At this point you are probably saying: “Yeah, but if I don’t have any experience how can I get any?” That’s the monumental question, isn’t it? I hate to say this but I really don’t have a wonderful answer to that question. But I do have some advice to offer. Getting a job doing computer graphics for web pages can be a definite start, but it isn’t really game making now is it? I think the best advice I can give is to shoot for a smaller company. If you are someone who has no experience in making games and is trying to get an position with one of the top-ten game companies out there, your chances are probably somewhat slim. They tend to have extremely high standards. For one, companies generally don’t want to train you for weeks and weeks unless they absolutely have to. There are exceptions to this rule, however. If you are someone with unbridled talent, they might give you a serious look even if you don’t have any experience. But trust me, not having a single shred of experience will definitely be points against you -- even if you are a graphics demi-god.

A good way to start looking is to scour the Internet for positions. Check out the listings at www.3dcafe.com or www.3dartist.com or even do a search for game companies and check out their websites. That is exactly what I did. I also spent a lot of time researching the companies I was interested in, and boom-bam, it worked! I had three years experience as a traditional graphic artist before I got my first job in the game industry so that experience helped somewhat, but I spent so much time making my portfolio cater to the specific company that I was applying for that I was noticed. That’s what I think the key is.

Another thing is make sure you are applying for a position that is specific to what you do. Just because you are good at 2-D doesn’t necessarily mean you will be good at 3-D (and contrastly as well). I’ve seen mistakes in that area far too often. For instance, I’ve seen many people who were great, and I mean great conceptional artists, but they didn’t have a clue when it came to making video-game graphics! They just didn’t know the skill of “pixel-pushing.” By pixel-pushing I mean drawing at the pixular level or using the tools of Photoshop or Illustrator sensibly. They only knew traditional drawing skills (which are great, but not always enough).

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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Dan Zalkus. Painting on Polygons is © 2000 Rick Grossenbacher. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.