People at Gameforge - Arne / Art Director

Briefly introduce yourself and tell us about what you do at Gameforge and how long you have been a member of the Art department.

My name is Arne, I’m the Art Director at Gameforge and have been working for the company since 2006. Before moving to Karlsruhe in 2013, I spent seven years at our office in Berlin.
As the Art Director, I’m responsible for managing the Art department, as well as providing coaching assistance and advice.

Describe your typical working day.

In the mornings it’s always important to check over the things which were finished the previous day, and provide feedback so that the others know how they should continue. Since my job primarily revolves around providing feedback, I’m a constant point of contact for all issues and questions regarding design.
Towards the end of the day, I make a bit of time for each member of the team and pay them a short visit, making sure nobody feels at a lost end and that any potential problems have been dealt with.

What are your three most common tasks at work?

We have a lot of games and each has its own angle in the marketplace. In my role as Art Director I have to provide creative guidance in various areas, including things such as colour coding, specifying the framework for how characters should appear, as well as guiding the overall brand design in general.
As part and parcel of that, I need to ensure that the members of my team are motivated, that they can do their job well, and that they have opportunities to improve.

What is the most enjoyable thing about being the Art Director?

Prototyping. That’s the stage of work where you get to experiment, trying out different things without being straitjacketed by fixed rules or having to nail yourself to any specific content. Simply using free association to try different layouts and see how things look, basically improvising on the fly. It’s the phase where you need to put your fears to one side and be ready to make mistakes. Making mistakes is an important part of the process, and only by making mistakes can you truly work creatively.

What makes you and your position indispensable for Gameforge?

The important thing is motivating people, making sure they enjoy what they’re doing, and allowing them to see how they can improve and really discover their potential.
That’s something close to my heart and that’s what makes me important for the company.
In terms of design, you never finish developing, so it’s important that you have the courage to challenge yourself. It’s my job to understand how to inspire and motivate people.

What made you decide to become an Art Director?

For me the decision was a simple one: I wanted to become either a professional musician or a graphic designer. In the end I chose to become the latter because drawing comes as naturally to me as speaking does to others. I’ve always found expression through creative drawing.
And I can definitely say that I love my job.

Which three words describe the collaboration in your team?

The most important thing for me is trust, also in the sense that each person should deal with the tasks assigned to them, since creative types can sometimes be a bit sensitive.
It’s also important to enjoy what you do. And the third thing is good organisation. Not in the sense of having a tidy desk and everything spick and span, but it terms of general attitude. Since we have so many games with such different requirements, as a team we need to be very well organised in terms of our service structure to ensure we can find common ground.

What qualities does an applicant need to have to be successful in your department, both in terms of the job and in terms of the team?

Gameforge is unfortunately all too often perceived to be a pure development house, and lots of people apply to join us as specialists in a productive capacity, i.e. programmers, concept artists, level designers and the like.
What we’re generally looking for in our department are those all-rounders. We need people who can design a banner set or draw a cool character, but who are also capable of designing a cool web layout and so on. My favourite kind of people are those who you can give a bucket of nails and a couple of breadsticks and they’ll turn it into something magical. Then you know they’re capable of improvising and – in creative terms at least – turning sawdust into gold. Academic qualifications, certificates, letters of recommendation, none of that stuff is important to me, since the differences in quality are far too great. For me it’s the portfolio where you can really tell if someone cuts the mustard or not. It’s important that we find people with talent, expressiveness, a capacity for abstraction and the ability to work as a team player, since only as a team can we meet the challenges required of us.

In your opinion, what makes Gameforge special as an employer?

Just thinking of my colleagues here, it’s a very human company. Sometimes things get a little chaotic, but you always feel like you’re recognised and appreciated as an individual here.
We have the courage to adapt and change, because a company needs to be flexible if it is to react to changing conditions and reorient itself.

What games are you interested in most?

I’m the epitome of a classic MMO player. I enjoy playing games over a longer period of time, irrespective of the genre.
I’m the exploring type, running around a map for hours on end, leaving no stone unturned. It’s the overall feeling that grabs me most, playing the game itself is something that just happens as a side effect.

What is your favourite Gameforge game and why?

I’ve always been fascinated by TERA because of its amazing graphics and environmental design. As someone with a keen taste for visuals, there’s nothing better than standing in a glorious landscape, moving the camera to look into the sky and then seeing some crazy gigantic flowers. Just awesome!

And now for an inside story. What was your personal highlight at Gameforge?

Everything revolving around the design for Dropzone, when I noticed how the team started to open up and make things possible of their own accord. It was something of a breakthrough for the department, and since then we’ve made a lot of good progress.

Why do you like working in Karlsruhe and what’s your favourite location here?

I find everything around the central palace grounds very beautiful. It has something of a restorative character to it, almost like a health resort. After seven years of bedlam in Berlin, I deliberately chose to live in a small village when making the move to Karlsruhe.
Karlsruhe is a very beautiful and tidy city, where the pace of life isn’t very hectic.

What are you interested in outside of work?

Even though I don’t actively play any more, music remains one of my passions. When I was younger I used to play the trumpet, but since I can only follow sheet music and am no good at improvising, I switched to playing the bass and played in a band for 17 years.

What do you still want to achieve in life?

My dream would be to own a small house and studio on the coast in New Zealand. Simply enjoying life itself – that would be my idea of peace.
In terms of career, I’m neither interested in titles nor what they stand for. I do my job because I enjoy it, not because it comes with any special title. I’m an Art Director because I love doing it.

Imagine Gameforge were a party. What would your responsibilities be before, during and/or after the party?

I’d be standing at the bar, mixing cocktails and washing glasses, because you’d always have something to do.

On a scale of 1 to 10 – how crazy are you?

The question is whether I’m at all crazy. I don’t think I’m in the slightest bit crazy, personally I’d say I’m pretty uncrazy.
Sometimes I get home after work and spend an hour lying on the couch, reading or listening to music. In my private life I’m a very calm person, maybe as a way of balancing out my working life, since you need to revel in a little madness when you work in a creative field.
When I’m calm and collected, I can concentrate on myself again and try to satisfy my needs and those of my colleagues. So, maybe I’d rate myself a 4 on the craziness front.

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