What does a game artist do? (Responsibilities and skills)
Updated 4 June 2023
A game artist is typically responsible for the visual aspects of a game. They usually work as part of a game design team to bring a game's graphics to life, whether it's a mobile game or console game. If you're considering becoming a game artist, it's important that you understand what the role involves and the recommended route to start your career. In this article, we explain what a game artist does, define what skills are typically sought after in this career and provide their average salary.
What does a game artist do?
The answer to 'What does a game artist do?' is that a game artist creates visuals for games. A game artist has many responsibilities that may vary depending on the specific project. Their style of employment, such as working for a studio or freelancing, can also impact their role as game artists. Here are some responsibilities you can expect in this career:
Creating artwork for a game
Designing artwork for a game represents one of the most significant responsibilities in this career. Throughout your career as a game artist, you may work on many games. Each game requires the development of high-quality designs for a variety of game elements. This includes characters, settings, textures, and assets. Depending on the size of the team you work with, you may be responsible for some or all these components.
Complying with an agreed art style
Some games have a very distinct artistic style. When this is the case, game artists typically create designs that comply with this style. There are many reasons for opting for a particular style, including appealing to a particular audience or for continuity purposes within an existing franchise. Although companies hire game artists because their portfolios naturally suit a certain style, their approach may require further adaptation.
Collaborating with other artists
Unless you plan to work alone as a game artist, a company may require you to collaborate as part of a larger game design team. The game design department usually comprises many individuals, including artists, designers, developers, and animators. This means that you usually receive constructive feedback from others and can implement changes accordingly. You also typically provide feedback to your colleagues.
Changing designs and artwork
When you receive feedback regarding modifying a particular aspect of your designs, it's important to respond swiftly with the relevant changes. Clients often provide deadlines for these changes, expecting you to address them in a timely manner. This means that, as a game artist, you typically work on a reactive basis, which often requires you to manage your work schedule efficiently. A single piece of art often undergoes several drafting stages before meeting the expected quality and style standards.
Connecting with artists to build a network
As with many creative careers, networking is important for a game artist. The game design industry can be competitive, and a network may aid you in finding suitable work as a game artist. Having a network can also provide you with support from like-minded individuals. Networking with other game artists is can be important for obtaining advice and developing your skills further.
Game artist skills
A game artist typically possesses several skills. One of the most important is technical, artistic ability. Many game artists develop their distinct art styles to build a portfolio that they can then present to studios. It's also beneficial for a game artist to possess various soft skills. Some of these include the following:
A game artist may work on several different game elements simultaneously. This means that organisation and time management is important. Being organised can help you stay calm under pressure, especially as game art deadlines approach.
Game artists often have their work returned to them several times for adjustments. This means that it's important for you to be resilient and handle all types of feedback professionally. These traits can help you remain objective and satisfied in your work environment and address change requests quickly and efficiently.
A game artist typically forms part of a larger team, requiring them to collaborate with others. A team can sometimes exceed 100 people when employed by a major game studio. This means that effective written and verbal communication is important if you aim to provide and maintain high-quality work and finish your projects on time.
Attention to detail
Game artists typically design all the visual elements of a game. These components are often elaborate and sophisticated and can include an intricate level of detail. Having a natural ability to pay attention to the fine details can help you showcase your skill.
Game artists often enter the industry because they have a passion for gaming. Successful game artists typically retain this passion and use it to drive them forward to continually push their artistic boundaries. Having a passion for what you do can also improve the overall quality of the work you produce due to increased effort and engagement.
The salary of a game artist
The average annual salary of a game artist is £31,354 per year. The annual earnings of a game artist can increase as you gain more experience in the industry. Earnings can also vary according to the company you work for and the location. Areas with higher living costs tend to have higher salaries.
Game artist qualifications
As a prospective game artist, you can work without any specific qualifications if you can provide a developed and well-rounded portfolio. Many game artists find that completing a relevant undergraduate degree is useful as it provides them with knowledge and practical experience. Having a relevant degree can also allow you to obtain feedback on your portfolio, increasing the chances of impressing prospective employers. If you wish to obtain a relevant qualification, many subjects exist that can provide you with the skills and knowledge that help create great game artists.
These qualifications can include the following:
computer game modelling
Game artist experience
Since game artists can display many different levels of experience, they can enter the field of game art in various ways. Each is generally seen as a valid option, and the field continues to adapt and improve its employment practices. Below are some key factors that prospective game artists can consider to increase their chances of securing employment in this field:
Previous game design experience
Previous game development experience can increase your prospects in a game art environment. This means that you likely possess a thorough understanding of the requirements of the game development industry and grasp many of the processes. Although any game development role may work to your advantage, it's highly beneficial to obtain experience in the design section of the industry.
Independent game development
Many people may credit independent work, also known as indie games, for their present positions in the gaming industry. Due to the open nature of development, companies may choose to hire skilled individuals responsible for developing their games. Indie games are an excellent way of showcasing your abilities in the field of development and can increase your visibility to potential hiring companies.
Work experience is another way to potentially secure a position as a game artist. If you choose to study further, completing internships and work experience periods is a good way of building relationships in the relevant industries and understanding what the daily responsibilities entail. Try to obtain work experience as a game artist throughout your studies. This may be beneficial when searching for future employment opportunities.
Game artist work environment
The work environments of game artists vary significantly depending on the game developer. Many developers typically prefer a 'local development process' in which staff members work together as part of one unit in the main office. In this environment, you are usually part of a development team, attend meetings and either work in a communal or personal office space.
The alternative is the 'remote development process' in which a developer's employees work from home rather than in an office. This is becoming a more prevalent and preferred option since secure data transfer technology is increasing the trust of companies in remote work. This approach allows employees to attend meetings via video conferencing platforms, while working from home, rather than commuting to an office in a different location.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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