Connecting With Games

 insights

Hello everyone! My name is Greg Mirles and I am a 3D Artist at Schell Games.

One of the great things about working at a studio like Schell is that our lead­er­ship encour­ages exper­i­men­ta­tion. Artists drive each other with inspi­ra­tion, Designers see potential, and Engineers give us the tools to help us explore and create unique expe­ri­ences.

It has been a year of explo­ration, growth and learning, not just about video games, but about this community of people who strive every day to make something that means something.

I hope in this rambly post that you might hear some words of encour­age­ment that will keep you motivated to keep creating, and to build those connec­tions to other creators around you!

Why the need for artistic explo­ration:

I feel incred­ibly lucky to work at a studio like Schell Games because my fellow devel­opers and I are always encour­aged to work on projects we are passionate about. This encour­age­ment meant I was able to work on games like I Expect You to Die and watch Until You Fall grow from a Game Jam prototype to a finished project. These expe­ri­ences lead me to a period of intro­spec­tion and growth in the type of games I wanted to make.

Screenshot from the First Class update to 'I Expect You to Die'.

I started to think about what I could do and the way I could channel the atmos­phere I saw from my teammates to make something that expressed how I felt. I knew that there were people on Twitter and in various game dev commu­ni­ties who had similar expe­ri­ences. That was the catalyst to a complete change in how I viewed making games and expressing yourself in those games.

Artis­ti­cally and career-wise, this has been the most fulfilling time for me yet.

Artistic explo­ration is something that is incred­ibly important for everyone, but espe­cially for artists. Without it, you might find yourself losing that creative drive that propels you forward. I know that every project I undertake allows me to explore something new and that is where the idea sparked.

It’s important to make things that you’re passionate about, even if you’re unsure about what that will look like. I always wanted to make char­ac­ters but was paralyzed by the complex­i­ties that come along with making them. I bent the rules and made my first character how I wanted to and that resulted in many of my coworkers showing me how I could further break the rules and push what I was doing! They knew I was passionate about making char­ac­ters, and their encour­age­ment kept supporting me even when I was unsure of myself. This continued to the point where now I’m looking for people to help me on this project, and have built an audience of people who want to see what else I’m working on! All because I allowed myself to explore the things that meant something to me.

1

The first character I attempted making was cute, but simple!

Building a positive network around you matters!

The first Thursday of every month at Schell Games is the Monthly Art Meeting when all the artists in the studio show off what they’ve been working on. Seeing how people respond to what you’re making is so important, but it’s also important to not get discour­aged if it takes time for people to see your vision. You have to keep creating. It took me a long time to go from my first character to where they are now! Sometimes people suggest things that don’t align with my goal for that character or level and that’s okay! The alter­na­tive perspec­tives you get wind up being an incubator for ideas that you might find useful elsewhere.

3

Another character made with the feedback of fellow artists.

One of the best things I ever did was start posting on Twitter. The #GameDev and #IndieDev Twitter tags are an absolute goldmine of creators building intensely beautiful games and art; it’s the perfect place to find a community of artists that will engage with you and your artwork! Finding a good Discord server like the Bit Bridge Indies Discord server for Pitts­burgh based game devel­opers is a great way to build that community. Also, many cities have their own Inter­na­tional Game Devel­opers Asso­ci­a­tion (IGDA) chapter!

It’s so easy to be insular and work on things in a vacuum. I am still guilty of this! You have to find reasons to show off your projects and post often! Building this habit will be one of the most useful skills you develop. Only by seeing and expe­ri­encing new things will you be able to build your voice.

4

Trying to build out a whole setting while keeping a lighthearted tone.

Social Media Habits /​Tips I use:

I already mentioned using Twitter hashtags to discover and post things that you make or find inspi­ra­tional. There are so many tags and some are only active for a day, so it’s helpful to keep an eye on what other game devel­opers are trending. #Screen­shot­Sat­urday is an example of a weekly hashtag where everyone posts a screen­shot or video of what they’re working on and people give feedback or inspi­ra­tion to keep them moving forward.

Make sure that you also talk TO other devel­opers in these social circles. Don’t be a link spammer and just drop your tweet and run away. Talk to other devel­opers, see what they’re working on, give feedback if they’re asking, and be a cool indi­vidual. Nobody wants to work with a know-it-all.

I try and post something at least once a week so people don’t forget about me. This can be hard to do and if you feel like it’s too much pressure then don’t push it too hard.

Talk about what you’re doing and why! People will be inter­ested in how you approached certain things or why you’re doing things certain ways. Spreading that knowledge, espe­cially if it’s something unique will always attract people to the projects and work you post!

Social media is a weird beast, and it can be fickle. The two most important things about social media usage for an artist I can tell you are:

  1. Followers do not mean success.
  2. If your post does not get the attention you want, that does not mean the thing you made is bad. Sometimes the post just went up at the wrong time of day for engage­ment. Don’t get discour­aged!
What Does This Mean to You?

Many indie devel­opers, artists, program­mers, and people in general want to show off the awesome things they’re working on! When you first start inter­acting with social media, it can be a real challenge to get the attention you’re looking for. However, with the tips and advice above, you will soon find yourself building a demo­graphic who want to play your game or see the art that you’re making. If you’re just a fan of game devel­op­ment and games in general, hop on Twitter and check out those hashtags, see what people are working on, and give them encour­age­ment to keep on creating and being awesome.

Thanks!