Graphic Design in the Video Game Industry

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    raphic Design is a generalized profession with the potential for near-limitless specialization. In essence, it serves as a toolset applicable to almost every industry. This blog will explore one of the many career opportunities – the video game industry. Between consoles, PC, and mobile there are more than three billion gamers around the world. In 2023, global gaming industry revenue is projected to surpass CAD 480 Billion. In comparison, for 2022, the combined global total for movies, television, music, and other forms of entertainment was only CAD 125 Billion roughly one-quarter of the size.

    Whether you already have a Graphic Design Diploma, or are looking into getting one, securing a key role in the video game industry can be less than a year away. From marketing materials to concept art, your skills and natural talent might help drive the next big hit. Find out how Graphic Designers help to create virtual worlds right here!

    The Evolution of Art in Gaming

    Once upon a time, video game art was… limited. In the early years, characters were represented with blocky icons – something 16x16 pixels in size was fairly standard. In comparison, modern iPhone App icons are 180x180 pixels in size. Since the in-game visuals were severely lacking, it fell to artists to inspire gamers’ imaginations with unique cover art, logos, magazine ads, and more.

    Falcon, the heroic Avatar based on the Ultima series by Lord British
    Falcon the Avatar, by Denis Loubet

    Denis Loubet is one of many notable and highly respected industry veterans. He is best known for his invaluable contributions to the Ultima and Wing Commander series from Origin Systems. Since his gaming debut in 1980, he has created artwork for almost a hundred different games. Cover art, logos, concept art, marketing materials, pixel art, 3D models… Denis has done it all.

    The term Graphic Design is commonly traced back to 1922 as a process of combining typesetting, illustration, and design. The most notable changes over the decades have been in the techniques used by creatives. In his earlier years, most of Denis’ work was sketched on paper or painted on canvas. As the technology evolved, his more recent creations have shifted primarily digitally.

    Digital designs offer numerous convenient benefits including dynamic layering of line art, coloring, shading, and backgrounds. It also allows for easier adjustments and more efficient repurposing of assets.

    Multimedia Empires

    Video game adaptations were once predictable abominations – in both directions. The 1982 video game based on E.T. was so unplayable that Atari buried hundreds of thousands of its cartridges in a New Mexico landfill. Game-to-movie conversions were no better with atrocities like House of the Dead by German “filmmaker” Uwe Boll.

    Times have changed. The Super Mario Bros Movie grossed over $1.3 Billion worldwide, ranking it as the second-highest animated film of all time. The Witcher began as a series of Polish novels, but it was the visually stunning video game adaptations that gained attention worldwide. Its popularity continued to grow with the successful launch of the Netflix TV series.

    Joel and Ellie from the HBO adaptation of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us
    The Last of Us, promotional image by HBO

    The Last of Us is yet another great example of how graphic design breathed life into a franchise that transitioned from a popular game series to an equally popular TV series. From the original concept art onwards, the art team created a cohesive and memorable design for the characters and environments.

    To create strong branding, Naughty Dog’s digital marketers ensured all of the marketing and merchandizing maintained the game’s aesthetic. In 2021, the game’s unique visual style was painstakingly recreated in locations across Alberta for the HBO series. The efforts were well received and enjoyed universal acclaim from original game fans, general audiences, and critics alike.

    The Major Players in Gaming

    As of 2023, there are more than 2,800 active game studios in the USA alone. Not surprisingly, the heaviest hitters still include console giants Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. In Canada, some of the most notable game studios include BioWare, Electronic Arts, Ubi Soft, Rockstar, WB Games, Eidos, Behaviour Interactive, Relic Entertainment, and Radical Entertainment.

    Commander Shepherd and team from Mass Effect  from BioWare and EA
    Mass Effect, promotional image by BioWare

    While the USA and Japan are more commonly known as hubs for game development, a number of iconic AAA games were developed in Canada. Some of the country’s biggest hits include releases from Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, Deus Ex, and Call of Duty.

    Final Thoughts

    Graphic Design has the power to bring ideas to life in a unique way that resonates with audiences. Popular game franchises sell millions of copies worldwide, which can be incredible exposure for your digital creations. The Graphic Design Diploma Program at ABM College takes less than a year to complete and can pave the way for exciting career opportunities.

    If you’re a gamer in Calgary, be sure to check out Game Con Canada which will run June 23-25, 2023 at the BMO Center.

    ‍Contact us now to learn more about ABM College.

    You can also read more industry-relevant blogs here.

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