High school students can get an idea of what an art director does by working on the staff of the school newspaper, magazine, or yearbook. Developing your own artistic talent is important, and this can be accomplished through self-training (reading books about animation and video games and then applying it on your own) or through formal training in animation, painting, drawing, and other creative arts. At the very least, develop your "creative eye," that is, your ability to develop ideas visually. Any art classes will help to develop these skills.
Another way to explore is by researching the career on the Internet. Visit the Web site of the International Game Developers Association (https://igda.org) to check out the community and resources sections for information about video game careers.
Video game art directors make sure that all visual aspects of a computer or video game meet the expectations of the producers, and ultimately, the client. The art director works directly and indirectly with all artists on a project, such as 2D and 3D artists, model makers, texture artists, and character animators. Depending on the size of the company, the director may work as a staff artist in addition to handling managerial tasks. But generally, the director's main responsibilities focus on planning meetings rather than design work.
Video game art directors must be skilled in and knowledgeable about design, illustration, computers, research, and writing in order to supervise the work of their department. They need to be skilled in classic art forms, such as illustration and sculpture, while still familiar with computer art tools.
To coordinate all artistic contributions of a computer or video game, video game art directors may begin with the client's concept or develop one in collaboration with the executive producer. Once the concept is established, the next step is to decide on the most effective way to create it. If the project is to create a sequel to a preexisting game, past animations and illustrations must be taken into consideration and reevaluated for use in the new game.
After deciding what needs to be created, video game art directors must hire talented staff that can pull it off. Because the visual aspects of a game are so important, the art department can be quite large, even just for the making of a single game.
The process of creating a computer or video game begins in much the same way that a television show or film is created. The art director may start with the client's concept or create one in-house in collaboration with staff members. Once a concept has been created, the art director sketches a rough storyboard based on the producer's ideas, and the plan is presented for review to the creative director. The next step is to develop a finished storyboard, with larger and more detailed frames (the individual scenes) in color. This storyboard is presented to the client for review and used as a guide for the executive producer.
Technology plays an increasingly important role in the art director's job. Most video game art directors, for example, use a variety of computer software programs, including Adobe InDesign, FrameMaker, Illustrator, and Photoshop; as well as more specialized 3D game creation tools such as Lightwave, 3ds Max, and Maya.
Video game art directors may work on more than one game at a time and must be able to keep numerous, unrelated details straight. They often work under pressure of a deadline and yet must remain calm and pleasant when dealing with clients and staff. Video game art directors are responsible for supervising the production process and staff, so they are often called upon to resolve problems with projects as well as with employees.