Unicorn Sparkle: An Interview with Jen Zee of Supergiant Games

We here at NBF are very excited about the upcoming game Transistor from Supergiant Games, so I was quite thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Jen Zee, the Art Director.

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1.) Please tell us a little bit about your role at Supergiant Games.

Hello! I’m the Art Director for Supergiant Games. That basically means I work with the rest of the team to move toward a vision we all find attractive and functional as far as gameplay and story are concerned. I’m also the resident 2D artist and created all 2D environment/UI/misc. assets in both Bastion and what you’ve seen so far in Transistor, though we have since hired a new artist who will take some of those duties off my shoulders.

2.) You mentioned in Bastion that you wanted a post apocalyptic world that was still colorful. What was your inspiration for the beautiful color scheme in Transistor?

I have a love of color that I find difficult to restrain, but definitely believe muted palettes have their place and produce a mood that can work in service of the slightly more personal, more serious story we are attempting to present in Transistor. Part of the color palette is tribute to some of the traditional artists I love dearly. John William Waterhouse is an old favorite, and his use of muted palette with vibrant atmosphere was a huge inspiration, as was Gustav Klimt, an artist whose interesting shapes and flare for dramatic presentation seemed to naturally synthesize with the cyberpunk aesthetic. In a nutshell, I wanted to do something that was in the vein of Cyberpunk, but with the sparkle and shine of a unicorn.

3.) I know you are a gamer yourself. Do you think it’s important to have female protagonists/strong characters in games?

I think having characters of all types is important in games! I’m not interested in creating female protagonists for the sake of equal gender representation, as a character’s personality and story interests me more than their gender. In general though, I like my game characters to be widely varied, so that includes having male and female protagonists of both the strong and weak variety. As with all creative decisions, I am a firm believer of “doing what feels right” – if your story seems more natural with a female lead, then that’s probably what you should go for.

4.) How did the team decide to feature a female protagonist in their second game? What were your thoughts/goals when designing Red?

A female protagonist fit the story we wanted to tell and the emotions we wanted to evoke. This had nothing to do with the decision of the team, but I personally love creating female characters because I find there are many more ways to make a woman attractive to both men and women of all orientations. Creating an easy-to-love male protagonist is a hard thing to do for a lot of reasons, I think…but that’s a completely different discussion!

5.) Do you have any role models or inspirations?

I have plenty of inspirations! Too many to list, but a couple include Mother Nature, Alphonse Mucha, Alma Tadema, John Singer Sargent, Akihiko Yoshida, Ayami Kojima, Red Sonja (the movie version), Conan, and Dolph Lundgren (the master of the universe). The only role models I have are probably my Mom, Dad, and Goku.

6.) Do you have any advice for young women who are interested in getting into video game art?

This is the same advice I would give anyone getting into video game art – spend time doing what you love! Play lots of video games, draw, paint, practice! If you make good art, people will recognize that without fail – you just need to get your work out in front of people’s eyes. Don’t be afraid to take jobs that aren’t exactly what you had planned or aimed for – you’ll learn something new from each of them. There are many roads to Rome, and my path to working with Supergiant Games was by no means direct.

Be sure to check out Transistor in 2014. Interested in more Jen? Check out her blog, Twitter, and Tumblr.

2 thoughts on “Unicorn Sparkle: An Interview with Jen Zee of Supergiant Games

  1. Pingback: 3. (BA1a) Games as a Creative Communication – GA&D Journal

  2. Pingback: The Super Giant Artwork of Jen Zee - A Dribble of Ink

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