Women in Games: Interview with Professional Games Illustrator Christina-Antoinette Neofotistou

Find out what it takes to get into the gaming industry

For my Women in Games series, I got the chance to interview professional games illustrator Christina-Antoinette Neofotistou about being an illustrator and her views on gender in the games industry. You can read the previous interview and introduction to the series here.

Please, introduce yourself.
My name is Christina-Antoinette Neofotistou, I’ve been a professional illustrator for 8 years and very recently my job has taken a definite turn towards game design. I am currently an art student at the prestigious Athens School of Fine Arts.

When did you begin playing video games?
As a child. My parents bought me one of the first C64 machines on the market. That was such a huge privilege. I haven’t stopped ever since.

What kinds of games are you into?
RPGs, RTS, FPS, platforms, puzzlers, god games, casual, everything really. Except sports games, unless there’s a twist that makes them interesting for me (such as Ballistix by psygnosis, or Bloodbowl). Games I’m really looking forward to? Mass Effect 3 and Owlboy, I’m pretty excited about.

Did you always know that you wanted to be an illustrator for games? I understand that you were once studying to be a doctor.
I was, I quit on my fifth year to pursue a career as an illustrator. An illustrator for games, though, that’s a dream I’ve had since I first pixelled away on the sprdef sprite editor on the C64 when I was 6. I never even knew it was an attainable dream, until recently.

I noticed in a previous interview you stated that you would like to work together with Tim Schafer or Peter Molyneux. What kind of game might you like to design with them?
Something fun, I bet! I’m sure they’re bursting with ideas, and I’m bursting with ideas, and I’d be glad to hold up my end of the creative vision. That being said, I don’t necessarily need to work with celebrities to get a sense of fulfillment. Indie games are really coming into their own.

How did you transfer into the games industry?
In 2010 I was asked to design and create art for a children’s online MMO game called Pandalife. I was given full creative control, and it looks so good on my portfolio that I’ve had no short supply of propositions since. I think creative coders and visual artists are always seeking one another out anyway. You just got to state you’re into game development, and people sort of just start coming up to you and asking if you’d like to work together on their project.

Gender-wise, have you ever had any difficulties in the industry? 
I find people come up to me and say things like “your work is so good, I can’t believe you’re a girl”. I think it’s a problem for all artists who are women, in fact. And there are those who will not hire me because they don’t trust women, and I will never know.

I do know about two instances, in my career as an illustrator, where art director friends confided in me that their bosses changed their minds about hiring this young artist, whose work they admired, just because they found out she was a woman. On one of those instances the artist was me, and it made me so furious. Then again, I live and work in Greece, and sexism is still endemic.

Do you believe that women bring a different view on games than men?
I don’t feel I’m entitled to respond for all women. I generally don’t like the gender binary, and don’t believe in it. There are women who would be kickass game developers and men who wouldn’t. And there are more than two genders anyway. I feel as if we’re being molded and confined by our ideas about gender, in present day society. That having been said, I do believe women haven’t been given an equal chance to show what they can produce yet. And to some extent, I think we’re all still bound to a male audience’s notions of what a game should be like.

A male audience, moreover, that is assumed to perform masculinity in one traditional manly way. Case in point: I loved Rhianna Pratchett’s writing on Overlord 2, but her script and dialogues weren’t devoid of sexism either. For me it’s not an issue of having to single out women in the industry and ask them to outperform men, or perform differently. I always keep hearing about women being more caring, nurturing, into motherhood, into casual games and sims. That is just bad marketing and bad sociology in my books, and has been refuted by almost all the feminisms.

What kinds of games are you working on right now?
A word puzzle game for Spryfox, a few casual mini-games for Pandalife, and a reverse-lemmings tower defense game with RPG elements and a fantasy setting.

What is your ultimate career goal? 
To have fun while making art for a living. I’m already there; I just need to sustain it.

Any advice for artists wanting to get into the games industry?
I really think talented coders are always on the lookout for talented artists. The demand is there, go for it!

Thank you for your time!