Late last night, Twitter flared with anger – led by artist Sonia Leong — over a post entitled How to hire an artist by a designer of Flash-based computer games. Although we usually don’t quote things so extensively, it seems that running enough of an excerpt to get the whole story is important here (plus it may be taken down). This is what the author, Christopher Gregorio, has to say about selecting an artist for a game project:
How to find an artist:
I recommend looking through art sites such as Deviantart for an artist which suits your taste, or any other site that has a decent art community such as Newgrounds. There’s a few reasons you want to find an artist this way. First of all, they’re cheaper. These guys aren’t used to making a lot of money for their work so they will be more appreciative of the chance even if they are being payed slightly less than what professionals are payed. Second of all, they’re better. The quality of art you can find through this method is pretty amazing, and the vast amount of artists guarantee you will find something that suits your tastes and needs. Unless you have a specific price you want to pay in mind, ask THEM what they are willing to charge for the project. This usually causes people to give offers that are lower than what you normally pay, and will make them happy.
How NOT to find an artist:
Do not look for either professional artists, or an artist that has done a lot of game design work in the past. The problem with artists who do this as their full time job is that they’re usually expensive. Compared to what you can find through art sites, these guys tend to cost an arm and a leg. Artists who have done a lot of game design work are also bad for a similar reason, they know how much flash games can earn so they expect a decent percentage of the profit. It’s ridiculous to pay something 50% of a sponsorship when you can find someone else who would accept $500 for the same job. When your game sells for $10,000, the difference in cost is a multitude of 10.
Elsewhere in the post, Gregorio advises keeping artists “in the dark” because “If an artist knows how much their artwork will increase the value of the game they will then feel they deserve that amount of money.”
It would be nice to dismiss this as a joke (it’s not) or the rantings of someone who’s completely unprofessional (they are) but the reality for any artists reading this is that…this is how some people really think.
After the post began to get wider play, Gregorio came back to defend himself in an update…but it’s less of a defense than defensiveness:
Alright, now about the part the majority of you are most upset about, my “Keep them in the dark” comment. My wording on this was poorly thought out. Many people claim about this being unethical, but in reality it’s how all businesses work. When a company makes a profit, does it take that profit and evenly split it up among all of it’s employee’s? No. The most it ever does is sometimes gives bonuses which I also do when a game performs very well. As I’ve said before, I pay artists based on what they believe their work is worth rather than the estimated value it increases a game by. I’m sorry for anyone that finds capitalism to be the devil.
We’d like to say that all publishers want to help all their freelancers get paid a lot of money for a satisfying job — and many do — but there are also “capitalists” out there who are consciously taking advantage of the naiveté and inexperience of beginning artists. And unless beginning artists understand this, they will continue to be preyed upon by assholes.
And who is this Christopher Gregorio? According to a bio page:
My name is Christopher Gregorio, I’m from the United States (North Carolina), and I develop online flash games. I’ve been in the industry for a little over two years and have released several large titles, here’s a few that may ring a bell… Medieval Rampage 1 & 2, Cell Warfare, and Penguin Massacre. Last year I earned over $45,000 from developing these games through several different forms of monetization.
Wow, $45,000 — we are talking a real money spout here.
We’re not familiar enough with the world of Flash games to know where Gregorio stands in the hierarchy of success — $45K is chump change when console video game franchises routinely break the $1 billion barrier, but everyone’s gotta gnaw the bone of success somehow.
What we do know is that unless you value yourself and your work, no one else will either. Gregorio may be a particularly smug and clueless asswipe, but he’s just thinking what lots of people are saying. And entire companies have been based on his premise.
[Photo above from starberryshyne’s Flickr page.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.