Between high culture and mainstream media

Just came back from the yearly BNO general meeting of members – yesterday I went to the monthly Dutch Game Garden network lunch. Both events to meet industry contacts, though very different people attending. I often wonder how many people would go to both of these very different meetings, and I feel it must be only me.

Ever since I decided to take a chance on the game industry, I felt a bit of an intern struggle to create work I feel truly fulfilled about. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on game assets and illustrations! I would be quite happy if I could draw buildings and plants for games for the coming years, sure! Thing is, my art school background nags at me when I see more ‘high culture’ designers present their work at events such as Object or Dutch Design Week. It is as if I miss working towards a higher goal, bringing humanity further that those designers aim for, which I cannot really achieve just drawing trees and bushes for some entertainment game.

Being among these ‘high culture’ designers at the BNO feels weird when I think about while I sell my work at extremely low-culture places such as Dutch Comic Con. One of my teachers once even implied those conventions are not a place for schooled Creative Pioneers like me. I actually love to present at such low-brow conventions! Is it below my education when most of my fellow convention artists are hobbyists and the work presented is fan art (even though I aim long term for more original work)? That’s a quite narrow way to see it, isn’t it?

While the Dutch Design Week might be the pinnacle of ‘conceptual’ design, it does not reach the masses. I doubt all of the people at the DGG network lunch have even heard of it – which is perfectly fine, what does game development have to do with design furniture? Games need nice-looking imagery, not conceptual ideas, at least the mainstream ones.

Tapping into that, I’ve always seen it as a decifit that I didn’t study Game Art. I’m sure having done a broader Illustration Bachelor has its advantages; I just haven’t found out how to tap into those talents. It’s nice I have a better understanding of art history and contemporary design, have had freeform figure drawing lessons or did projects about the local neighborhood, but those aren’t skills the industry asks for. Those 3D modelling or C# lessons would have been much more valuable.

My graduation project was the first and last time I was able to combine what I simply love to do (drawing creatures) with a statement (representation of harpies and women alike). It seems that my art teachers where more happy about this project than the industry people I have talked about it, but it’s a start.

During this project I stumbled upon themes I found highly interesting and that I would love to develop further, such as helping people connecting more to nature, feeling more part of a whole and the role of monsters and creatures in our culture.

Now I could of course could create games about these themes myself – the medium is perfect for statements short and long. Thing is, learning how to program and design are separate disciplines in themselves. Even though I love to learn to make my own games from scratch, it seems wiser to focus on art for now until I can make a modest income with that.

I think my best bet for now is to try to combine the ‘simple things I draw for money’ and the ‘statements I want to make about the world’ in small illustration-heavy projects such as comics and zines – in such a way that they tick all the industry boxes and make me feel I’m drawing nice things and contributing ideas to the world. That’s enough challenge for now!