17.5 Rules for a Successful
Video Games Career

Kirill Tokarev
Editor-in-chief at 80 Level Media Outlet + Recruitment Service
for video game industry professionals;
artists, designers and animators.
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We invited Kirill Tokarev to give a talk to our internal student community all about the reality of working in games, how to get your foot in the door and advice for making the process easier.

In this article, Kirill, having asked a bunch of artists for their input, covers the industry skills needed and the habits you should develop in order to stay current whilst doing a job you love.
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  • You have to love it, like, REALLY love it. Playing video games and building video games are two completely different things.
  • Your hobby stops being a hobby and instead becomes a full time, no getting away from it job, with endless amounts of study.
  • It's really competitive, so if you don't eat, sleep and breath building video games then you'll be left behind.
  • You need to understand the fundamentals of art - the rule of thirds is used by every artist everywhere. It informs composition, camera angles, the placement of objects and assets.
  • A good knowledge of anatomy is crucial for artists as it helps you create anything from a giant Ogre to a tiny Princess - however different, they have pretty much the same anatomy.
  • If you don't want to discover and learn new approaches you're missing out on amazing opportunities to pioneer the change in processes to speed up workflows + production.
  • By staying ahead of the game, you're staying ahead of the competition and as a result making yourself more employable.
  • Be inspired, or in non-corporate terms, appropriate something that you did not come up with alone.
  • Don't be afraid of analyzing artwork of others and taking direct inspiration from it - everyone is doing this! It's how art works + how new ideas are born.
  • Squid Games artwork was inspired by Money Heist and PlayStation.
  • Notice the difference between being inspired and cloning someone else's artwork.
  • The key is to learn by doing. Yes, look at the world around you. Yes, notice all its oddities and patterns.
  • But, fundamentally you'll learn best by getting in as much practice as possible, doing the same things over again, by perfecting your process, overcoming those challenges.
  • Ensure your portfolio covers what you're all about. What are you doing and why are you different from those doing something similar? If you're into Stylized, we want to see the Stylized stuff. If you're into hard surface and vehicles, we want to see the vehicles + hard surface stuff. You get the idea.
  • By including "a bit of everything" in your portfolio, you're making it harder for the person hiring to make a decision on whether it's a pass or not.
  • Include only the highest quality artwork in your portfolio - things you are proud of and artwork where you got feedback, improved it and it now looks top-notch.
  • Edit your portfolio to include artwork that relates to the position you are applying for.
  • It's ok to specialize - in fact, it's a good thing!
  • Many artists who describe themselves as a "3D Generalist" have been dabbling in a bit of everything, but in reality, have mastered very little.
  • Really get to know the kind of artwork you like to create, are good at and look for the studios who are producing this style, and aim for those!
  • Take value in the critical and "negative" feedback, think about it and implement it in your work.
  • Most importantly don't take things personally, it's not about you, it's about the artwork you produce and the industry at large.
  • This is just as important as receiving feedback - you don't need to grill the artwork of others.
  • You can point out areas that need improvement without telling someone that what they've created is a piece of sh!t and they have no talent.
  • Upskill! You need to learn something techie.
  • After all, it's where the money's at!
  • The industry is saturated with Environmental, Character and Prop Artists.
  • Really REALLY good Technical and VFX Artists are few and far between. These are the types of artists that every studio wants + needs.
  • Learn from the mistakes of others and don't make those same mistakes yourself.
  • During the building of Witcher 3, they experienced a lot of problems with bugs and optimization. After bug + glitch hunts they found an asset which was made up of over 15 million triangles - a similar size to an entire city.
  • Don't cut corners for the sake of saving time. After all, every poly count counts!
  • Learn to do unwrapping for your models - properly!
  • Brendan Greene - initially a web designer who started playing with DayZ, modifying and created a Battle Royale theme, and later went on to make PUBG which then influenced a bunch of other things.
  • Sjoerd De Jong - Started out by modding Unreal Tournament - building different levels, and became an evangelist technical artist who went on to later release his own games, he now works for Epic Games.
  • Minh Le - started out at Half-Life, then he worked at Counter Strike and then RUST and now Black Desert Online. His portfolio is one of the vastest, most diverse and he started out modding a game about shooting people.
  • Visit Expos and Games events - GDC and Games Con if you have the budget. But if you don't you can go smaller to events like Game Jam or whatever events you have in your country.
  • You need to get out there, network and show people what you're building and most importantly get feedback!
  • Eventually all this connecting will help you to get a job, and get another job and another, or build you own company, or work on a game you really like.
  • Crunch is going to happen for everyone and in every company - where there are deadlines to be met and all nighters are needed. But at the same time, your body really needs to sleep. You need to go for a walk and spend time with your friends, your family and just generally get a change of scenery.
  • You also need to think seriously about money. You need to accumulate savings and put more away when times are good in order to cover yourself when times are bad.
  • You need to carve out your own journey, learn from what is going on around you and establish what works best for you.
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