My name’s Maff Evans and I’m Lead Artist here at Reach Robotics. We’ve been receiving some requests for advice so I thought I’d chime in with some points from the experience I’ve gained over my 30 years in the games industry.
In practical terms, the best way to get noticed is to consistently be producing good work and making sure people can see it. I’ve lost count of the number of applicants with degrees in game production who merely rely on their coursework as a portfolio. Although completing your education is important, I have to stress that a games course by its nature covers a lot of diverse elements connected with game design and those wanting to specialize in a particular area need to go beyond the level of work featured as part of such a varied course.
At the point where you want to get into the games business, you’ll not only be competing with graduates, but with those who may have a lot more experience in the industry already. This means that employers will be comparing any applicants work with the best that’s already out there. So if you’re producing art and animation, start measuring the standard against the best existing benchmarks. If you don’t think your work is good enough yet, keep practicing until it improves. If there’s a technique you’ve seen that you don’t know how to do, hunt down tutorials online and follow them, repeating them until you know how to do it.
I spent weeks of evenings once work and family commitments were done following a series of videos on hard surface modeling — practicing over and over until I understood how it worked. When you start producing work, get as much feedback as you can. Use art forums and communities online (like Behance, Artstation, DeviantArt etc) to gather opinion — both good and bad — and listen to peoples’ criticisms. You’ll learn to tell the difference between out those who pour scorn on everything and those who have practical constructive criticism soon enough. Before too long you’ll have a decent body of work to show, so use a portfolio site to put together a collection thats as varied, extensive and high-quality as possible.
The first thing an employer wants to see when hiring an artist or animator is whether they can actually create graphics and animation or not. Sounds glib, I know, but you’d be surprised at the number of applications we’ve received that have no link to a portfolio anywhere. Suffice to say, these applicants didn’t get any further through the process. If we can’t see evidence of the quality of your work, we’re not going to hire you!
What’s more, even when not applying for jobs, consistently putting up your good work online and getting people to see it will start to make your name one to watch in art and animation. If we can see that you apply yourself to creating good work of your own volition and have generated a decent amount of quality work for its own sake, that will easily kick you up a few rungs of the ladder compared to those who simply tag their university work as a portfolio. There are a number of places and groups online (such as the Unreal Engine 4 Job Board on Facebook) that are looking for people to supply work for small projects that won’t necessarily be paid, but can offer good opportunities for practice.
To summarize, the best way to get a job as an artist or animator is keep producing art and animation. Put in the grunt work and spend your free time improving and building up a portfolio that will knock their socks off. Continually compare your work not just to your peers, but against the best in games that you play and love. Doing a character animation? Compare it to something like Uncharted. Is it as good? If not, keep trying until it is. Keep getting feedback from other artists and animators and learn from them. And once your work is collected into an impressive portfolio, spread it around and start trying to get yourself a reputation.
In short, just keep at it! As Neil Gaiman would say, “Make good art”.