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Animator (Games)

Personality type:
Animation dept


The lowdown

  • Being responsible for the portrayal of movement and behaviour within a game, making best use of the game engine’s technology, within the platform’s limitations

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • have knowledge of traditional and computer 2D and 3D animation techniques
  • be creative and imaginative
  • have knowledge of full motion video (FMV)
  • be able to work as part a team and also on your own initiative
  • be able to take responsibility for organising your work within the production schedule, managing files and meeting deadlines
  • understand the production process
  • be able to communicate effectively with other teams and disciplines is essential
  • have some knowledge of programming, ideally
  • be able to reveal attitude, emotions and mood through a character’s movement and behaviour
  • understand the timing and appearance of human and animal movement and facial expressions, and be able to lip sync
  • be able to create memorable characters that will appeal to players
  • have spatial awareness and a feel for movement over time
  • have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

What does an Animator (Games) do?

Animators in the games industry are responsible for the portrayal of movement and behaviour.

Most often this is applied to give life to game characters and creatures, but sometimes animations are also applied to other elements such as objects, scenery, vegetation and environmental effects.

Specialist software packages are used to create the animations, which are used for both automated or in game behaviours and predefined sequences or cut scenes.

Animators must portray movement and behaviour in an efficient and effective way which makes best use of the game engine’s technology, within the platform’s limitations. It is often necessary to restrict the number of key frames used or the number of characters that can appear on the screen at a time. Animators work closely with Programmers and Artists to create the best balance between smooth seamless movement and optimised performance on the target platform.

Game production is collaborative and Animators work as part of the art department team. Using the objects, models, and most importantly, characters created by 3D Artists, Animators define their movements and behaviours and apply them using the animation tools and techniques provided by the selected 3D animation software package.

Game animation can be a complex combination of many different types of movements, so the Animators must make extensive libraries of reusable animations for each character.

They are also usually responsible for the technical processes of rigging and skinning of the characters, which involves creating an underlying structure rather like the bones of a skeleton and attaching appropriate body parts to each bone. This makes the animation process itself a lot more efficient.

Will I need a qualification?

You will usually need an animation-related degree, including games animation. If you are considering taking a games course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the games industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a games career:

Games courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

You will need to demonstrate your work through a portfolio and/or showreel. Reels should last about 2-3 minutes and detail the specific contribution you made to the work. Recruiters will look for a variety of genres and styles; walk and run cycles, as well as more fully developed sequences; and, perhaps most important, an ability to portray a character’s personality through movement and behaviour.

What’s the best route in?

Ideally, you will already have gained strong skills in a computer animation package when you take your first steps into the industry, either during a degree course or elsewhere - such as 3D Studio Max or Maya. As well as this, you will need a background in practical art, with life drawing skills being particularly useful.

You can move into the game industry from other sectors such as film and television. However, you will need to have a thorough grasp of the technical aspects of game animation, particularly the limitations associated with real-time rendering which game engines depend on.

You will need to understand the interactive nature of games and also have an overall grasp of all aspects of your discipline, including character modelling, rigging, skinning, kinematics and basic cinematography.

You could apply to be a Games Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more...


  • 3DWorld - the magazine for SFX, TV production and game development artists 
  • BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
  • Develop - the monthly magazine for European developers 
  • e-Skills UK - the Sector Skills Council for IT, Telecoms and Contact Centres
  • Edge - the UK's self-styled bible for UK gamers
  • Eurogamer - European-focused consumer website
  • Gamasutra - website founded in 1997 that focuses on all aspects of video game development
  • GameDev.net - online community for game developers of all levels
  • GamesIndustry.biz - covering breaking news from the game's business
  • IGDA - the International Game Developers Association, a global network of collaborative projects and communities comprising individuals from all fields of game development
  • IGN - internet media and services provider focused on the video game, entertainment men’s lifestyle markets
  • MCV - the weekly trade magazine of the UK games industry, 
  • TIGA - the Independent Games Developers Trade Association - non-profit trade association representing the UK's games industry
  • Ukie - the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment - champions the interests, needs and positive image of the video games and interactive entertainment industry whose companies make up its membership


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