Ana Mark, Game Artist, on Designing Games For and Inspired By Kids

Not tomorrow, not next Monday. Today!


Ana is Game Artist and co-founder of Gametects. In the last 10 years she went from designing exterior designs for airplanes and gas stations to making award winning games for kids. To pursue her dreams she left law college after two years and started working as Graphic Assistant in advertising agency and learn CG through practice.

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Can you tell us a little about being a Game Artist? How did you get started?

As a Game Artist I work hand in hand with programmer on every stage of creating a game. We brainstorm and sketch everything out starting from general idea and name of the game to the smallest details of each graphic element we need to create. Before I fell in love with game developing, I was a freelance CG Artist, doing different kinds of computer graphics – layouts for websites, 3D models. Mobile applications was the next big thing, so I decided to try myself in making graphics for mobile games and gradually became a full-time Game Artist.

How has becoming a mom changed how you work?

I started to design games aimed at kids. And it was a game changer 😉 We still make games for general public in free-to-play model for all major app stores – Apple, Play Google and Amazon, but adaptation of classic video game genres for little kids is my favourite. It is both challenging and unwinding at the same time. Our latest project is a twist on tower defense genre for kids ages 5 and under.



What is the thing you dislike the most in running your business? What is the best thing? What are the biggest challenges?

What upsets me the most is how the money rush and mass production dictate standards replacing soft and fuzzy cuteness of old days of kids entertainment industry with harsh colours and minimalistic design. And you have to stick to them. My 4-year-old daughter likes the flat vector pictures way more than detailed flamboyant illustrations in kids books of my childhood. The best thing in my work is the feedback from parents and kids enjoying our games. The biggest challenge is to foolproof our games from negative reactions. You never know what can trigger an adult. I get comments like “I do not like that there are so little / many … (fill in the blank) in your game”.


Do you have any advice for moms thinking about taking the plunge to starting a business?

Do you know how stretching for a splits works? You can train once a week without pressure and it will take you a year to get results. Or you can train hard every day and get your splits in one month. If you do not train at all, your flexibility will get worse every year. The same applies to achieving any goal or dream. Ask yourself what way suites you better and start today. Not tomorrow, not next Monday. Today!


Which of your work are you most proud of and why?

My biggest success so far is the Tiny Dentist app. We designed the first game of that kind. Later the idea was copied by many other developers but it was Tiny Dentist who started this sub-genre. We managed to make the dentist fun and silly. It was highly praised by pediatric dentists, loved by kids of all ages, reached #5 Overall US App Store, was featured in “5 years” of App Store” on Apple website banners, became a part of Summer 2013 Apple Stores Promo. I still get messages from parents about how our game turned a visit to a dentist office into a fun adventure for their kids because they got to play with all the tools beforehand and were curious to see them in real.



How did you manage the day-to-day process of making your art/working/etc. with children?

I get up early, really early, at about 3-4 AM in the morning. There is an amazing book “Miracle Morning” by Hall Elrod summing up why being the “early bird” is good for you. So, before my kids get up I have an hour of “me time” which helps to get ready for what the day is going to bring to me and 2-3 hours of undisturbed working time which helps me tune in and keep the focus and pace of working throughout the day. I’m done with most of my work till dinner and then I can slow down, help kids with homework finishing my work for today.


Do you have any tips, resources, or tools for managing work/life balance?

Plan ahead. Plan every little thing you can at least for the month ahead. It’s not boring, it’s a lifesaver. I have solutions for most everyday situations written down in big notebook available for anyone on my desk. “What is for breakfast?”, “I’m bored what can I do?”, “When will you play with me?”, “What to do next with current project” and even “What book do I read before sleep?”. Listen to the President and limit decision fatigue.

What creative activities do you like to do with your kid(s)?

With both my kids I do everything I love to do myself. We make fun homeschooling projects, like handmade cardboard globe, to show them that there are a lot of different ways to learn any subjects, not just the “school” way. We learn how to play guitar together, we do spontaneous recycle craft jams – pulling everything we’d collected in our “future projects” box this far, we often draw or paint together.


Do you recommend any resources (websites, organizations, books, etc) for people interested in pursuing a career in being a Game Artist?

I would recommend for theoretical learning and Pinterest for practice. The fist resource does not need further explanation, and as for Pinterest, do a search for “game art” and learn through copying what other Game Artist have created. Do as Jack London did – educate yourself through copying the works of great authors until you become one.

Fill in the Blank

If I could have a super power, it would be None. I take life as game – when you got the cheat codes it’s not fun anymore. On the second thought though I could use a power of instant cleaning. 😉
A famous person I would love to meet: the Dalai Lama. I like his approach to taking charge of your life – “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
Kids inspire me the most. Can you keep up with a 4 year old? Repeat every move, learn new skills, expand your vocabulary, forgive instantly, love unconditionally, give selflessly, create spontaneously?
If I weren’t a Game Artist, I’d be a I’d be a cooking blogger. I love creating, mixing, experimenting, taking pictures, inventing something new and make people happy. And food is the ultimate thing to make people happy!
If I had extra 2 hours in the day, I’d post more content for Gametects fans on social media and added a couple of songs to my everyday guitar practice.