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“I’m not only interested in analog fashion, but also in digital fashion”

Portrait of Marie Isacsson

Portrait of Marie Isacsson

#WeMakeGames interview series:

Marie Isacsson

What is your background?

“My background is in fashion design. I took my bachelor’s degree in fashion design at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm in 2018, and my master’s at The Royal College of Art in London in 2020. While waiting for my employment at Massive Entertainment – A Ubisoft Studio to start, I was freelancing as a fashion designer, and working as a guest tutor at Beckmans College of Design.”

  • Name: Marie Isacsson
  • Age: 33
  • From: “Originally from Kristianstad, Sweden, but I live in Malmö since a year back. In between, I have been living abroad as well as other various places in Sweden.”
  • Interests: “I love good fashion and design, watching movies and go to the cinema, spending time with family and friends, traveling, and to have a lie-in.”
  • Profession: Concept Artist at Massive Entertainment – A Ubisoft Studio

Why did you start working in the game industry? 

Shortly after my master’s degree, I received a six months work scholarship from Massive Entertainment. The scholarship was/is a collaboration between Massive Entertainment and Young Swedish Design, which is an annual design award in Sweden, and I was the first one to receive the scholarship.

Young Swedish Design published an article about the scholarship with Massive Entertainment, and I got so thrilled when reading about it since I saw my chance to work and understand the game industry. Before reading the article I had no intentions of applying for Young Swedish Design since most of my graduation work was stuck in school in London and, due to lockdown, I had escaped to Stockholm. However, with some help from a friend in London, I managed to get my work to Stockholm and send in the application before the deadline. I was really determined to get the scholarship since I was convinced it was a great fit.

As a fashion designer, I’m not only interested in analog fashion, but also in digital fashion and how to express identity beyond physical boundaries. I’m also very intrigued by the relationship between reality and fiction. My interest and curiosity for fashion and video games started a few years ago, in 2018, when I did my BA graduation project called funYArd_. I became very fascinated by the social aspects as well as the identity perspective within video games and the link between physical and digital identities.

It was my excitement and my strong beliefs (+ great timing) that got me to start working in the game industry.

I believe that fashion design will play a big role in video games in the future since fashion brings its sense of expression and aesthetic of apparel in games and helps create more diverse identities in-game. Showing individuality is not only part of the physical world but also a big part of the virtual spaces. Likewise, in many aspects, video games will play a big role in fashion. Bridging the industries just makes total sense.

Massive Entertainment’s studio in central Malmö.

“As a fashion designer, I’m not only interested in analog fashion, but also in digital fashion and how to express identity beyond physical boundaries.”

Marie Isacsson

How has working in the industry been for you?

It has been great and I really enjoy it! My first year has been a steep learning curve since the game industry is a completely new industry for me to adapt to, though, that’s also what makes it very exciting. It has provided me with new contexts, new knowledge, new skills, and the ability to transfer my design knowledge to the virtual worlds. The challenges have been to stretch my design thinking for it to make sense in a gaming context, and to go from creating both physical and digital design to full-on screen-based.

The biggest difference between in-game apparel and real-life fashion is the tactile and non-tactile experience. Virtual apparel is purely visual and technical and comes with many technical barriers and constraints you need to keep in mind when designing. For example, keep the bounding boxes in mind while working on concepts. Bounding boxes are the limitations, for example how long a jacket can be or how high up a collar can go, and so on.

The highlights so far have been to grow into the role of a Concept Artist. Massive Entertainment is a very creative and inspiring studio to work at, and right now I’m doing what I think is the most fun in a design process – which is to work on and come up with ideas. My background has also helped me to bring in other perspectives, diversity, and knowledge to the art.

Character from The Division 2

”This concept was released in the street activation apparel event for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. For the outfit I was looking at streetwear and street art such as tags in graffiti, a signature done quickly and the most basic form of graffiti – this applied in a playful way as placement prints on the garments”, Marie Isacsson says about her design.

What is a day in your work life like?

As a Concept Artist, you work with concepts and develop ideas for what the style and appearance of the content in a game should look like. Concept Artists are the first to sketch out environments, game characters, props, or in my case outfits and apparel for the game characters.

At work, when I do concepts, I follow briefs that have been given by the Art Director. Some days it goes faster to design and come up with concepts and some days it requires a bit more time, it all depends on what you’re making and what the theme is. 

I produce the concepts by working mainly in Photoshop on my Cintiq, but also by 3D modeling in Marvelous Designer and texturing in Substance Painter. When a concept has been approved after the feedback I make a brief of the concept and send it to a Character Artist who will 3D model it and give textures to the concept.

I work closely with my small and amazing team and during our breaks, we play a lot of pool and ping-pong. My ping-pong and pool skills have really improved since I joined Massive Entertainment, and I love to win!

“In the long run, what motivates me is to bring more diverse identities in the customization in video games.”

Marie Isacsson

What’s best with your job?

The best with my job is that it’s fun and it never gets boring! I get to work with a variety of ideas for apparel, which is what I love. Exploring new contexts in which design plays a big role and, where you get to work without any material waste, also feels good.

In the long run, what motivates me is to bring more diverse identities in the customization in video games. Diverse representation of gender identity, ethnicity, body types, disabilities, and types of clothing is important!

How would you advise others that want a job like yours to pursue it?

For those who come from a design background, like myself, and wants to pursue a career as a Concept Artist in a game studio, I would advise them to gain more knowledge in how a game studio is working in general. Look up other Concept Artists’ work – what techniques are they using and how do they present their work? Also contact someone working in a studio and ask if they can share their knowledge.

The #WeMakeGames interview series allow individuals in the game industry to tell their story, about their current work, how they got to where they are and why they believe the games industry is such an enjoyable industry to work in. We move beyond programmers and level designers, to showcase the wide range of roles making up the studios creating some of the world’s best games – right here in south Sweden!

The #WeMakeGames interview series is part of the EU funded project Game Accelerate South Sweden (GASS). Read more about the GASS project here.

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