Exploring the World of Game Development: Insights from Talent Acquisition and Art Direction at Mighty Kingdom

Exploring the World of Game Development: Insights from Talent Acquisition and Art Direction at Mighty Kingdom

Meet Jen and Elisa from Mighty Kingdom, a leading game development studio in Adelaide, Australia. Join us as we uncover their experiences, projects, and insights in the exciting world of game development.

Meet Jen and Elisa, two talented individuals who play integral roles at Mighty Kingdom, a leading game development studio in Adelaide, Australia. Both share a passion for the gaming industry and thrive in a collaborative and supportive company culture. Join us as we delve into their experiences, projects, and insights into the exciting world of game development.

What do you do at Mighty Kingdom?

Jen: My title is Talent Specialist – Acquisition. Primarily I’m responsible for Recruitment at Mighty Kingdom. I’m part of the wider HR team, of which there’s only two of us in total. This means I also get to dabble in other areas of HR, especially ones that overlap with and support the Talent Acquisition process.

I look after:

  • Onboarding and Inductions
  • Talent Strategy, which includes how and where to find candidates and building and maintaining a database/pipeline of talent. I also collaborate with producers and directors, creatively solving internal resourcing challenges and looking for opportunities to upskill internal employees as well as create junior/entry-level opportunities where we can.
  • Recruitment (from advertising, head-hunting, screening and interviewing, to supporting hiring managers, overseeing the full recruitment process)
  • At our company, we prioritize providing a positive candidate experience. As part of our commitment to the Circle Back Initiative, we ensure that every candidate receives thorough review and timely responses. Additionally, we actively promote anti-bias practices and continually strive for improvement in our hiring processes. We believe in creating an inclusive and fair environment for all candidates.
  • Grass roots initiatives and community engagement
  • Supporting L&D initiatives (internal and external)
  • General HR/People and Culture support and compliance

Elisa: I’m the 2D Art Discipline Lead at MK, as well as Art Lead on multiple game projects.

On the Discipline Lead side, some of the things I’m responsible for are the learning & development and identifying skill gaps of our 2D department at MK. I also help with new project scoping, 2D recruitment and I take part in higher level 2D discussions. I report directly to the Art Director.

On the Art Lead side, I’m part of a project team where I help guide and art direct both 2D and 3D teams throughout the entire art pipeline, to achieve an eye-catching and cohesive art style that fits our client’s wants and needs. I also work closely with our Game Designers and always keep in mind our technical limitations.

Where is the team at Mighty Kingdom located?

Jen: The HQ is in Adelaide, where we have a studio in the CBD, but we have remote team members all across Australia.

How did you start in games?

Elisa: My first job in the game industry was back in 2013, where I was hired as a Junior Vector Artist at Goodgame Studios in Hamburg, Germany.

I was part of a large game dev team working on a cute farm simulator game named Big Farm, and I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the art pipeline from my fellow game artists.

I was a bit of a generalist, having worked on concepts, vector art, 2D animation as well as UI Design. It was a great introduction to my game art career.

What impetus led you to work in this field?

Elisa: Obviously, being a huge game nerd is part of what influenced my decision. Gaming has always been part of my life, ever since I was a small child. With art being my other big passion, I decided it would be neat to combine the two! A decade later, I’m really glad I made that decision, as I love my job more than ever.

Jen: I came from Agency Recruitment – I have represented so many different companies and industries.

I was so excited to find a company like Mighty Kingdom, that cared so much about their employees and was committed to diversity. It’s so nice to see how much effort the industry as a whole is putting in, in this space.

What recent projects have you worked on at MK?

Elisa: The latest released project that I worked on is the Award-Winning Star Trek Lower Decks Mobile. I was the UI Designer as well as Art Lead early in the project.

Jen: I recruit across all projects at the business, as well as supporting outreach and community projects from a grass-roots, talent pipeline and DE&I perspective.

What is the company culture like?

Jen: It’s the most thoughtful group of colleagues I’ve ever worked with. They’re creative, passionate, intelligent and so supportive. Starting in a new company is always daunting, and the people at MK make you feel so welcome, and like no question is silly.

There’s lots of change happening at the moment. It’s an exciting time to be in the company. The past few months have been challenging of course, but the direction we’re heading is exciting and it’s such an interesting series of events to be a part of – seeing real change being made based on past lessons.

How are new ideas pitched and developed?

Elisa: When working for clients, we usually start with discussions around what their vision is, after which we put together a deck where we pitch the game design idea and possible art direction fitting to their requirements. Then we go through multiple feedback loops to refine the idea until it is approved by them.

How does the team collaborate?

Elisa: Our team is made up of multiple disciplines working closely together: Art, Tech Art, SFX, UI/UX, Programming, Game Design, QA, and a producer managing our team and making sure we're hitting our client deadlines.

Game Designers are generally the vision holders of the game. They collaborate closely with all discipline leads to develop the game and provide feedback. Our team hierarchy is pretty flat, so everyone is often invited to share their thoughts and ideas.

New product or business you admire?

Elisa: I recently saw a trailer for an upcoming indie title named Little Kitty, Big City, and I was so amazed by the intricate animations and facial expressions of the cat. It really felt like watching a character from a Pixar movie!

To me, this is a really good example of how games can be used as an artistic medium. I am also a big believer that strong art direction can have a bigger impact than high fidelity graphics, which is something I see proven time and time again in successful indie games.

What unique challenges and opportunities does your work bring?

Elisa: On my current team, we are actually working on 3 games simultaneously. It's sometimes a bit tricky switching between those 3 projects, especially when it comes to art directing and developing the distinct art styles.

At the same time, it's been such an amazing opportunity to learn to multi-task efficiently, it's very much been a welcome challenge. Of course, it helps that my team is amazing at what they do and due to the guidance from our producer, our workflow is like that of a well-oiled machine.

Jen: Being the sole recruiter and working in the project space means that work comes in waves, and the waves are often BIG. It’s imperative to always be recruiting in order to be able to meet the needs of the company at peak times. We have an expression of interest form on our website so that we can constantly engage with interested talent, ready for when we need to hire. Since building this database, I’ve been able to fill 80% of the vacancies this year without reaching out to the market – so as a candidate, it’s definitely worth filling out these registrations and connecting/networking proactively!

What do you find exciting about game dev?

Elisa: My two favourite parts about game dev are the beginning and the end: The initial exploration phase, where we artists get to spend time researching and coming up with the best fitting art style. This is the most creative part of the process, and where we usually have the most freedom in concepting.

Towards the end of production is when you start seeing all your hard work coming together: The final 3D assets, animation, lighting, VFX, UI and Sound are combined in the engine to form a beautiful work of art. It’s so rewarding getting to test the game at this time, seeing everything come alive.

Jen: The community! The drive to innovate and always do better. The passion when it comes to committing to be better in the DE&I space.

Also the fact that this career is attainable for anyone – there’s skills to suit most people and there’s so many indie success stories that you don’t need to even be employed to succeed! This allows people with so many different career ambitions and working styles to find a perfect option for their career goals.

Has anything recently changed your perception of the game industry?

Jen: not necessarily recently, but before I started I was worried about the lack of diversity – I now know that it’s one of the most committed industries to change and representation in this space. Also my idea of a ‘gamer’ has changed. Working for a company that has a history in casual mobile gaming and games for kids and women really reminded me of the fact that there is a game for everyone.

Do you have outreach programs?

Jen: we have previously run graduate programs which have been a successful way to introduce young talent into the industry and a studio environment.

We also have a group of volunteers internally which I help coordinate - we work with local schools and community groups on a number of things such as expos, talks, presentations, and are about to launch free workshops in partnership with AIE.

Outside of a great portfolio, what other qualities do you like to see in young artists and developers?

Elisa: A sense of curiosity, willingness to learn and grow, being a good communicator and never being afraid to ask questions!

Jen: I love hearing about your work (professional and/or volunteer) outside of game development!

Don't underestimate the personal and professional skills you build in entry-level jobs, or working with the community. Your first job in a professional career is a HUGE learning curve. Having this experience helps you settle in quicker and can help accelerate your growth.

What is on offer for a Rookie Awards winner?

Jen: The mentorship program at Mighty Kingdom is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring game developers. It all starts with a 45-minute catch-up session where we get to know each other and plan the next four weeks. Throughout the program, you'll have four hours of one-on-one mentoring with a Talent Specialist who will cover a range of important topics. We'll help you create standout resumes, write compelling cover letters, navigate job applications, and find the right job or studio for you. We'll also assist you in setting both short and long-term career goals, polishing your portfolio, building a strong professional network, leveraging LinkedIn, establishing your personal brand, and exploring valuable upskilling and mentorship opportunities. Our mentorship program is designed to provide you with the guidance and support you need to thrive in the game industry.

What advice do you have for your prospective mentee?

Jen: We've put together a helpful information guide filled with valuable advice for candidates and those aspiring to work in the gaming industry. Whether you're looking for tips on landing your ideal job or insights into starting a career in games, we've got you covered. Take a look at our guide to gain valuable insights, practical tips, and expert advice that will help you navigate your way in this exciting field.

As a Talent Specialist, Jen is the Recruiter for Mighty Kingdom. She specialises in all things to do with finding the right people, for the right role, for the right reasons. Jen empowers people through connection because recruitment is about so much more than just filling a job; its creating careers.

Jen’s strategy includes both permanent and contingent recruitment including creative resourcing solutions, as well as short and long term initiatives for a sustainable practice.

Creating delightful human experiences across the whole process underpins every aspect of her role, creating strong and meaningful relationships with candidates, hiring managers and colleagues alike.

For Jen, there is no ‘normal’ approach to finding the right people. To get extraordinary results, you need to consider extraordinary pathways, and by clearly understanding.

Elisa is the 2D Department Lead at Mighty Kingdom, one of the largest Australian headquartered game developers.

Having worked in the game industry since 2013, she specialises in all aspects of concept art and 2D pipeline. Her favourite part is developing the art direction for a project, as she can unleash her full creativity!