How to Thrive Professionally as an Aspiring Game Artist | Peet Cooper | #9

Funsmith Fireside Chats Episode #9

Guest: Peet Cooper

As a 20+ year video game art veteran, Peet Cooper has had the privilege of working with some great IPs including Star Wars, Call of Duty, Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, 007, League of Legends and more.

He has worked on every sub-discipline under the umbrella of “game art” which includes, but not limited to concept art, animation, illustration, level design, 2D/3D environment art & character art, art direction, and game art leadership.

In addition to starting his own game studio, Peet’s current primary focus is helping people become stronger artists, game devs, and collaborators by providing education and mentorship.

Listen to The Full Episode


#9: Peet Cooper: How to Thrive as a Junior Video Game Artist Professionally

Podcast Platforms:

gds podcast listen apple podcasts min

gds podcast listen spotify min

gds podcast listen overcast min

Referenced Links & Resources

Connect with Peet Cooper:


Connect with Alex:


Connect with Ari:

Instagram | TikTok

Mentioned Resources:

Gamers for Good (Peet’s non-profit charity)

Creature Cauldron (Peet’s indie studio)


Riot Games

Free Game Design Learning Resource:

What Does a Video Game Artist Do?

What is Video Game Mechanics (Beginner’s Guide)

How to Become a Video Game Designer

How to Write Game Design Document with Examples

Game Design Portfolio, with Examples (Guide)

Audio Episode Chapters (with Timestamp)

0:00 – Introduction

4:19 – What is Gamers for Good

7:15 – Transitioning from Maker to Manager, when starting your own studio

16:29 – Speed of execution is key in game dev

19:40 – Shipping LoL Ruined King Howling Abyss Aram map update within a weekend

24:05 – Thunderdome, Riot’s successful team cultural practice

29:06 – Build a playable demo of a mini game within 48 hours without pre-production

32:36 – Take risks to stand up for the ideas you believe in.

35:49 – Balancing family as a career-driven game developer

43:51 – Generalist vs Specialist, which one is right?

45:26 – Practical advice for aspiring game artist

48:05 – Should you worry about legal repercussions of game IP

51:57 – Why fan art is one of the best ways to get into the industry

54:03 – Importance of doing mainstream fan art

56:11 – Why being “Unique” is self-sabotaging for Jr. game artist

1:00:13 – How to cultivate amazing collaboration with game designers & artists

1:06:36 – What’s the point of a game designer’s job

More Guest Quotes From This Episode

“I recommend specializing. I do a lot of portfolio reviews, talk to a lot of students, and do mentoring. A piece of advice I would have for artists is make sure you are working from the best assets, modeling work or the best concept art you can find. There’s this weird perception that you have to make your own art, and that’s horrible and dangerous.” — Peet Cooper

“Do the job that you want. If you work at a big studio, you’re going to be handed a concept, a great model, or a game design. You’re going to be working within their constraints. Don’t try to do all the things, just do the job you want.” — Peet Cooper

“Everyone I’ve ever talked to is not only fine with people using their concepts to make things from, but also honored. They think it’s very cool, they’re humbled by it. That’s wonderful as long as you give credits. If anyone uses anybody’s stuff for portfolio work, it’s not an issue.” — Peet Cooper

“Nowadays, fan art is actually one of the best things you can possibly do, simply because if you’re showing that you like someone’s artwork, that means you know you’re into it, you’re passionate about it, and the likelihood that they see your art is way higher.” — Peet Cooper

“If your game or art fits into halo, or mass effect, or destiny, it’s going to fit into thousand other people who are trying to copy that. You instantly become infinitely more hireable, so keep things super mainstream.”  — Peet Cooper

“In the real world of production, what we need is someone who fits in the game we’re making. If you want a job fitting in and just making really high quality stuff, is how you can become part of a team.” — Peet Cooper

“One of my favorite parts of making games is the fun challenges of cross-disciplinary teamwork. We all need each other to make great stuff, so one thing I have found over many years of failing and learning how to do this is understanding what everyone’s motivations are. Because when you start talking to people, think about people as people, and what are the things that you are passionate about or what motivates you. What are you trying to achieve?”— Peet Cooper

“Make sure as a designer, you don’t just give artists tasks because they’re just going to, then just do the work exactly what you want, and it’s going to likely be bare minimum. If you make sure you’re asking them what it is that they care about what they do, what they can bring to the table, or like what they really like on the project, getting that investment from people is going to make people just want to work with you so much more.” — Peet Cooper

“A designer’s job isn’t to come up with all the ideas. It’s to gather the ideas from the team and parse them into something that is great, and that general idea has always really resonated with me.” — Jake Stones

“An art director’s job isn’t to dictate what art is, it’s to gather the strengths of the team, and coalesce into something wonderful.” — Peet Cooper

“Make sure you’re working with people and the more you collaborate, the better time you’re gonna have throughout your whole career.” — Pete Cooper

If you have any questions or thoughts for Peet, please share in the comments below.

By the way, whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways to help you start or level-up your game design career:

1. First Principles of Game Design: Skill Development Program: Join game devs who got hired or promoted across 51 AAA and Indie game studios including Riot, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and etc.

Improve player retention and word of mouth by learning to accurately diagnose why the players are losing interest in any game and how to adjust accordingly – one of the main skills studios hire for.

2. Game Design Mentorship – Get access to live weekly video calls and chat feedback support directly from veteran game designer with 25 years of industry experience (see example sessions).

3. Game Design Career Goal Strategy Workshop: A live workshop to help you figure out exact action steps to reach your goal, whether you aim to

  • Break into the video game industry
  • Get promoted (or pivot) from your current position
  • Ship a successful Indie game

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All tactics. No fluff . Pro advice only. Unsubscribe any time


[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan