The Creator Behind This Gorgeous Video Game Art Told Us How She Became an Artist for Games

Art is one of the most critical elements in totally engrossing players in video games, but how do video games get their art?

Karen Teixeira (aka bitmOO) is an artist, originally from Brazil and now living in London, who specializes in quirky, playful and utterly adorable art for games—and she's developed a couple of them, too. We spoke with her all about her experiences turning art into games, and what you should do if you want to see your own art in games someday.

Karen Teixeira Bitmoo photograph

(Courtesy of Karen Teixeira)

Sweety High: What's your artistic background?

Karen Teixeira: My background is illustration and traditional arts, which was my major. I've tried a little bit of everything from sculpture to etchings and photography, but illustration was definitely what I loved spending my time on most since I was a little kid.

SH: How did you get into designing art for video games?

KT: I had never considered games as a career actually. Although I grew up playing them, I'd never heard of people like me making games, nor heard of Brazilian game companies that made games. It just didn't feel like something achievable. I didn't think I could do it until I came to learn about independently developed games and started researching more that I came in contact with developers within my own country and city and learned of studios that were making mobile games.

While in university I met friends who were into making games and we tried making small things together, joined game jams—in which you develop a complete game from scratch in 48 hours—and such. Slowly I started building a small personal portfolio which led me to my first job in the industry, making art for web and mobile games in a small studio in São Paulo.



SH: Which of your projects make you most proud? Which ones were you most passionate about while you were working on them?

KT: There are a few very dear to me! Twelve A Dozen is a neat little educational game. I made art for it and was involved since day one, responsible for all 2D art in it. It's a project I'm very pretty proud of and I had a great time working on it.

Karen Teixeira Bitmoo illustrations Twelve a Dozen

(Courtesy of Karen Teixeira)

More recently, Oceanheart is a personal ongoing project I'm deeply passionate about. I'm making all the art so far, and every bit of it is a joy to work on. It's a game I've always dreamed of making.

Karen Teixeira Bitmoo illustrations Oceanheart art

(Courtesy of Karen Teixeira)

SH: How did you come up with the idea for Astroromantica, and what kind of work went into making the prototype? What was it like to see the finished result?

KT: I love visual novel and narrative-driven games and I'm especially interested in exploring themes and mechanics I don't usually see visual novels doing often.

There is a yearly visual novel game jam called NaNoReNo that happens every March in which you create a visual novel game from scratch in a month. When NaNoReNo 2016 came up I decided I wanted to try making something on my own. I had these notes on my sketchbook about wanting to make a game around reconciliation, and thought this would be a great opportunity to do it.

Karen Teixeira Bitmoo illustrations Astroromantica doodles

(Courtesy of Karen Teixeira)

Astromantica is meant to be a game about mending broken bridges and dealing with resentful stubborn characters, but it's up to you as a player to lead your character towards empathy and friendship again. It's also my own light hearted shoutout to sci-fi TV shows like Star Trek and Babylon 5 that I grew up watching.

I was already familiar with using Unity for game development, but as my coding knowledge is close to zero I relied on an extension called Fungus, which is very beginner-friendly and makes creating visual novel and adventure games much easier. It was tricky making what I had in mind. I had to poke friends for help and at times everything felt overwhelmingly difficult, but seeing something playable that I made all on my own at the end of the month was the best feeling ever. I was having so much fun with coding and structuring the game I was looking forward to doing that more than the game art! There's still a lot of work to put into it but I've definitely been learning loads and I feel pretty proud of what I've achieved so far.

Karen Teixeira Bitmoo illustrations Astroromantica characters

(Courtesy of Karen Teixeira)

SH: What advice do you have for young girls who someday want to do the type of work that you do?

KT: Don't wait until you're ready. Start making whatever it is you want to be making, right now. There are free tools and information online, and people to exchange experiences with, learning and making fun things together. We only get better at something by doing it, and making games is such a fun, collaborative process. We never really stop learning. Just remember to pace it, and start with smaller, simpler things so you can enjoy the process and work up to more complex creations naturally. Know your skills and respect your pace. Learning things takes time and resilience. And for the record: It's never too late to start learning something.

Don't be afraid to share your creations and to ask people for help. There's no shame in not knowing, nor in making mistakes. The more I felt comfortable with doing that myself, the more I was able to enjoy creating things instead of being too hard on myself. Be kind to yourself and have fun making things.

Karen Teixeira Bitmoo illustrations

(Courtesy of Karen Teixeira)


Now that you know about art in video games, click HERE to read our interview with gameplay programmer Anna Kipnis to find out how games like Psychonauts get made.