There is so much going on in making a video game. The design, the structure, the programming, the vocal work, the music, it just goes on and on. Among these, one aspect that can separate the release from any other product on the market is art.
The world you live in for the hours that follow has such a big impact on the overall feel of a game. Being able to sit down and think about those enchanting realms and all the little details that go with them is a gift that many. of us would love to own.
Regarding the artistic aspect, how do you start? Having a vivid imagination goes a long way, but what steps can you take to make sure you’re on the right track?
Canadian Developer Ludia is a studio that used their imaginative talents to help create new versions of existing franchises such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon, and Jurassic World.
So, as part of our Jobs in Games series, we spoke with the artistic director of studio Ludia Serge Mongeau on the daily work with art as well as on the misconceptions that accompany the territory.
PocketGamer.Biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it involves?
Serge Mongeau: My role at Ludia is that of artistic director of the studio. My mission is to support our team of 100 talented artists with the appropriate training, tools and best practices.
I am involved in the hiring process as well as the performance reviews. Finally, I build bridges between teams to nurture a strong sense of community at the studio level.
How did you first get into games and how did you progress in the role?
As far as I can remember, I have always been an avid player. When I was 10, I found a used Commodore 64 on the sidewalk. I took it home and started developing games – it was my eureka moment. I wanted to do this for a living.
I remember I couldn’t save my projects so I would keep my computer on until there was a power outage and then start over. I guess that’s how you manage project management at 10 years. Back then, school offerings were scarce in video games, so I took a software engineering course.
It was while writing software at school that I discovered a passion for UI / UX. It was my second eureka moment. Then a guy was crazy enough to hire me as an artist (thank you Philippe).
The UI design being so central in the vision of the product, it was natural for me to train myself in movement, VFX, animation, 3D and the technical side. I was then offered a management position and that paved the way for artistic direction and studio management.
Your wallet is your window to the world. You have to let the world know how you think.
Is this something that you have ever imagined yourself doing?
If I could create my perfect work, this would be it.
What did you study (if any) to get your role? What courses would you recommend to aspiring professionals in the region?
I studied software engineering but it is quite unusual. For the artistic part, it was mostly about spending thousands of hours at home learning and practicing. Never underestimate the quality of the content you can find online. I would say it doesn’t really matter what you learn – just stay in a learning mindset. Always seek to improve your skills.
Your wallet is your window to the world. You have to let the world know how you think. Do not hesitate to show your process, your references and your inspirations, show yourself why. Otherwise, these are just pretty pictures on a black background.
What part of your role do you find the most fulfilling?
Develop new talents. I like to see people flourish. You never forget the first person who trusted you. When you have the privilege of being that person, it is truly rewarding. He instills a strong sense of purpose in what I do.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
As an artist trying to get into management, there is often a misconception that it is difficult to be creative and have appropriate organizational skills. It’s a shame because creativity comes from a lot of places. It is certainly not limited to art, yet it is the artists who suffer the most from this misconception.
To counter this, try to be very careful and have a deep understanding of the product you are developing. Invest in the features you are working on, contribute ideas, and understand the perceived value of what you put into your game.
If you show that you can balance the quality of your work with a strong technical sensibility and a strong sense of business value, you will definitely do your part to remove the stigma and I am sure a great career awaits you. It’s also a lot of fun. Everybody wins.
Find a studio where you feel comfortable with values.
Is there anything about the job / industry that you wish you knew when you first joined?
Find a studio where you feel comfortable with values. For example, at Ludia we don’t hire brilliant fools, but we have tons of bright, humble, and inspiring people in a collaborative environment. This is the key for me.
What other advice would you give to someone looking for a job in this trade?
The best ideas rarely crop up in meeting rooms or even in the office for that matter. They arise when you are doing the most mundane tasks when your mind can have a life of its own and wander. Make room for these moments.
It will sound cliché and overkill, but keep a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I wish my young self understood this sooner. Also, if this is important to you, be sure to choose a studio where it is part of the culture.