“That would be me.” These were the words I used to reply to a job posting, describing
the “perfect” candidate for making computerized paintings, called sprites. Though I
knew I was capable, I was still surprised and excited when offered the job of creating
unique sprites for a game called Monster Ranch.
At the time, I was 12 years old and lived and breathed Pokémon. A mobile application
developer posted a detailed description for a sprite designer on a Pokémon forum. A
new game was in development and it would feature Pokémon-like characters. A sprite is
a two-dimensional interpretation of a three-dimensional design, usually a character,
animal, or even a landscape. Pixel by pixel, a sprite is created using only color and can
be elaborate or simple, abstract or straightforward. Even though complicated designs
could take hours to finish, I was fascinated by the dynamic nature of this art.
After sending my four-word reply, my parents got involved. I had to submit an art
portfolio of my work, which the developer found very appealing. I accepted a contract to
create over 100 Monster Ranch sprites within two months, some of which were
described in detail (The “Professor” character wears a long coat, goggles, and has short
red hair) while other characters were described with only a few details as prompts so
that the developer would let me design characters too.
My 12th summer was spent meeting all my deadlines, making money, and doing work
that I would have been happy to do for free. Using Microsoft Paint was a challenge; I
was used to creating animals but the developer requested people too, making me
stretch outside of my comfort zone. I successfully completed the contract and was
thrilled to see Monster Ranch become a popular Facebook game, with my designs in
the first-generation of characters.