Art in the Video Game Industry: Putting the “A” in STE(A)M

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“Stormland Reveal Robot” by Dave Guertin, from the 2019 Into the Pixel competition.

The business of video games relies heavily on artists of all kinds. Programmers and game developers tend to get most of the spotlight. However, a huge variety of other vital jobs in the industry lie at the intersection of technology and the arts.

Most video games are an enormous production, incorporating a variety of artistic disciplines like writing, music, sound, design, visual art, animation, acting, voice acting, and more. Taking a game from an idea to an end product is a major undertaking.

The time, intensity, and coordination required to develop most titles isn’t always obvious to the players enjoying a seamlessly immersive final product. As a popular Twitter thread by game writer Sarah Arellano highlights, something as simple as the addition of a purse to a scene in a game can require immense coordination across audio, art, animation, design, and narrative departments. Making a character leap a fence can take 18 months.

When you consider the size and range of the video game industry today, it becomes clear how there are jobs in so many different disciplines. From massive AAA titles to niche indie productions, video games run the gamut in terms of genres, platforms, and intensity. Perhaps because of this, traditional institutions have come to recognize video games as a valuable art form. The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and more have since held video game-focused exhibits. The Supreme Court has also ruled video games to be a form of protected creative expression.

As video games grow in popularity, individual artists from the industry have enjoyed increased recognition from the wider world. Video games (and their creative byproducts) influence people and popular culture far beyond just the video game sphere. Legendary Japanese game creator Hideo Kojima counts celebrities including Kanye West among his fans.

The video game industry proves there’s a lot more to creating a successful workforce than pure STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Through incorporating art and creativity, video games open the door for a wider range of people to connect with the technology of today.

“Jaelan: Warrior in Wait” by Mingchen Shen, from the 2019 Into the Pixel competition.

People who play video games are also more likely to have a creative hobby and play a musical instrument than the average American.

In addition, as educational initiatives like Code Ninjas and Girls Make Games prove, video games help draw children to more traditional STEM fields. This approach is especially effective for children who might not fit into traditional STEM career molds. High-powered tech executives like Elon Musk often trace their interest in technology back to positive experiences with video games in their childhood. Girls who play video games are 3x more likely to study STEM degrees.

The video game industry’s creativity inspires and entertains people from every walk of life. From audio engineers and narrative designers to animators and illustrators, it takes a village to create the video games people love. Video games today are undeniably an art form–and the people who create them are artists like any other.



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