Peter Wocken: Art in Board Games #2
Today we have Peter Wocken a Board Game Graphic Designer who has worked with on a variety of games such as Sagrada, Dead of Winter, Xia: Legends of a Drift System, and Vault Wars and with companies and publishers such as Plaid Hat Games, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), Floodgate Games, CMON, and a bunch of other companies with “Game(s)” in their name.
Hello Peter thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi Ross, it’s my pleasure talking to you. I’m a full time freelance Board Game Graphic Designer based in Minneapolis, MN.
Now we know a little more about you, I have to ask, as a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an illustrator or comic book artist. I was super inspired by geeky things growing up, and was constantly looking for new fantasy and sci-fi art. I purchased my first Magic the Gathering cards in probably third or fourth grade just for the art, but I didn’t learn how to actually play the game until maybe five years ago. I was also a voracious reader and read everything in the DragonLance and Star Wars universe.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
I was laid off from Best Buy as a Lead Production Artist (creating signage such as “Hot DVDs Just..”) and was looking to switch up what I was working on for a daily basis. I had some friends that worked at FFG and I knew that I loved gaming, so I applied as an intern and was quickly hired on full time as a Marketing Graphic Designer. After a few years in Marketing, I moved departments and became a Game Graphic Designer.
When you are working on the art of a board game can you give us a quick overview of your creative or thought process and has this changed at all since you first started?
I try to start in my sketchbook. It helps me quickly brainstorm components and icons before working on them in the computer. It’s too easy to have work start to feel precious once it’s on the computer, and it’s tempting to keep adding more details. For a while, I was only working on the computer, and when I started sketching again, my hand kept trying to find the keyboard and hit [command]+[z] and undo. At that point, I told myself that when starting a new project, I at least needed to sketch a bit of the brainstorming so I didn’t get too rusty.
You were involved in the creation of Sagrada, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
For most of the games I work on, I’m doing graphic art, so lots of borders, card layouts, logos, icons, etcetera, but I tend to stay away from doing the illustrations themselves. It’s not that I can’t do them, it’s more that my rates are high enough where generally it makes more sense for a client to hire a separate illustrator. For Sagrada though, it’s the seventh game that I’ve done for Floodgate Games. After talking through the visuals during our kickoff meeting, we knew that there wasn’t much need for illustrations since most of the cards were primarily graphics “heavy”. We agreed that I would do the end-to-end visuals on the game.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on Sagrada?
I had visited La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona when I was living over in France, and it was an amazing and beautiful structure! When the game was picked to me, I got really excited about the setting. I had also been playing around with stained glass as a graphical element in a couple of games before Sagrada, Council of Blackthorn and Dark Frontier, so I had been honing my technique. Then, it was a matter of creating stained glass visual elements like they have in La Sagrada Familia, so no gothic super intricate windows with lots of figures in them, but something a bit more modern and abstract. The publisher also suggested creating a gradient across all four player windows, which was an awesome idea, so I just went from there and created thousands of panes of glass, but tried to recycle enough elements between windows where I didn’t have to do everything from scratch.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
As long as I’m not dealing with text or rulebooks, I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. I recently finished listening to The Wheel of Time series, and now am returning to reading the Dark Tower series, which I revisit every few years. Podcast wise (and alphabetically), I love listening to Board Games Insider, Breaking Into Board Games, Comedy Bang Bang, The Dice Tower, Fear the Boot, Ludology, MBMBaM, Planet Money, Spontaneanation, StartUp, Thrilling Adventure Hour, and 99% Invisible. I’ll also pepper in other podcasts, especially if they’re board game related, so I can stay on the pulse of the hobby game industry.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
Do it, but don’t quit your day job until you’ve got a few games under your belt. It’s also important to specialize and get paid what you’re worth. It’s not worth making slightly more than minimum wage unless you’re independently wealthy and are doing it ‘cause you love board games.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
There are a lot of games happening behind the scenes, but unless they’ve been talked about by a publisher, I can’t talk about what I’m working on since almost everything is under NDA. I will say that you should check out News@11, which I’m working on with Floodgate Games. It’s not out yet, and I’m still working on the visuals, but it’s super-duper fun.
Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
The best place to find my work is at: www.BoardGame.design. I don’t update it nearly as often as I should, but that’s my personal site.
(Images supplied by Peter Wocken)