by Manvendra Shukul
Gaming is hot business, and everyone acknowledges it now. The transformation of a nascent, hobbyist engagement that was frowned upon by parents and teachers alike has mushroomed into a $100 billion USD globally. Today, it is the largest segment within the entertainment industry, far exceeding movies or music.
The definition of gaming has changed and so has the gaming industry, which in turn is redefining entertainment. India is no exception and the Indian gaming industry is currently valued at over $300 million or approximately Rs 2000 crores. The phenomenon that gaming has now become can be attributed to a string of factors that revolutionised the industry and made it what it is today. With a population of 1.3 billion people and two-thirds of them under the age of 35, India has the world’s largest youth population. The growth is driven by higher disposable incomes, introduction of new gaming genres, and the increasing number of smartphone and tablet users piggybacking on the improving connectivity across the country. With these distinct advantages, India is all set to become one of the world’s leading markets for Gaming.
A growing gaming industry means increasing career opportunities
Now that gaming is one of the fastest-growing sectors in India, it is becoming a serious career option of choice for a vast number of talented young students from diverse backgrounds. Game development professionals are in great demand across the globe. Primarily because of its well-established reputation as an IT as well as BPO hub, India has developed vast reserves of technical and creative skills, infrastructure, and the professional aptitude required to complement international game development needs. The result is that there is huge employment potential for young aspirants within India as it develops as an outsourcing hub for international gaming companies.
Career options in the gaming industry range from game animation, game art creation in 2D and 3D, game design, game testing, game programming, project management, as well as general management positions. While artistic ability is a key pre-requisite for a career in game art creation, one also needs to be skilled in the use of digital tools like Maya, Max, Photoshop, Z Brush, Substance Designer etc., while having a rudimentary understanding of how game engines such as Unreal or Unity work. Finally, one needs to have knowledge of the video game art creation pipeline, and the processes and techniques involved in the creation of digital assets for games.
Within the game art discipline, the career trajectory pans out like so:
Artist: This is a starting position and entails hands-on art creation under the supervision of a Lead Artist.
Senior Artist: These are experienced artists who have been in field for at least 4 to 5 years and typically are entrusted with the more complex art creation tasks on a project. They are expected to work independently with minimal supervision or direction, and may sometimes be required to take one or two junior artists under their wings.
Lead Artist: They lead teams of artists in specific areas such as Character creation or Environment creation. These are experienced and talented artists with team management capabilities.
Art Director: They are responsible for laying out the artistic vision for a game and providing leadership to the art team. This is a senior position that requires not only visualization and artistic ability, but also strong leaderships skills.
Some of the other roles are Animator, Animation Director, Concept Artist, Illustrator and Game QC Artist.
Here’s how you can train to become a game artist
Students looking to make a career in the field of game art should consider applying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program from a good university, followed by a good training programme that is led by professionals who can share their knowledge and give hands-on training on tools, techniques, and processes. The industry is so diverse that it takes a while for students to discover what field is suitable for them. This usually comes through trial and error, and it therefore makes sense to enrol in a generalized game art program that provides fundamental training and exposure to each of the areas. This will enable the student to get a thorough understanding of the specific skills required to work in that area.
The names of few popular institutes in India offering courses for game artists and game designers are:
- NID (National Institute of Design)- Ahmedabad,
- MAEER’S MIT Institute of Design- Pune,
- Backstage Pass – Hyderabad, and
- Asian Institute of Gaming and Animation (AIGM)- Bangalore etc.
- Lakshya Digital itself runs an inGame Academy – a non-profit initiative that makes high-quality professional training in game art creation available to talented artists, giving them a concrete and holistic environment to launch themselves into the thriving gaming industry. The academy is operational in Gurugram and Pune.
The Gaming industry pays well
Salaries offered in the gaming industry are comparable to other IT establishments, and are as per industry standards. While newcomers start with a modest salary, the average artist salary is around INR 5-7 lakhs per annum. This can grow to 12 lakhs or more by the time one becomes a Lead (or even earlier) and can grow by huge leaps thereafter.
Additionally, there are incentives and ESOPs for senior employees in companies with a good track record. Post-employment, the growth potential is immense and while–like everywhere–a lot depends on individual talent, skills, and the aspiration to succeed, gaming offers one of the most challenging and rewarding employment opportunities in the job market today.
However, there is no space to be complacent in a fast-changing industry such as gaming. The industry is constantly evolving and so are the associated technologies and tools. Young game developers and artists need to stay abreast of the latest technologies and trends to ensure that their careers don’t stagnate. Another major challenge is that of creating games and art that appeal to international audiences. For this, it is important that they understand international audiences as well as their tastes and preferences. This is not easy, and gaming professionals must be fluent with as many top international games as possible and get exposure to international pop culture to remain relevant in this business.
Manvendra Shukul is the CEO of Lakshya Digital, a game art studio headquartered in Gurugram.
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