Art Direction at Gather2020 - 2023
In 2020, many creative theatrical productions moved online out due to necessity from the COVID-19 lockdowns. Some creatives made use of Zoom, and others shared smaller platorms that allowed some interesting creative liberties. Gather became a popular choice among friends of mine in the Immersive Theatre crowd. I was invited to Terrence LeClere’s birthday party on “Gather.town”. This was a lot of fun– it’s a small retro-rpg aesthetic proximity chat platform that ran in-browser. The Pokemon inpired avatars couldn’t be changed, but the background image for any 2D video chat could be anything. I made a few spaces, made some money using the platform creating themed event spaces for other users, and eventually found myself meeting the CEO, Phillip Wang, in a virtual coffee shop I had made and put the link out about on Twitter.
I kept the space open on my laptop while I was in my room, using it as if I were working from a coffee shop during the pandemic lockdown. I heard voices coming from my laptop one evening, and looked up to find Phillip serving people coffees from behind the counter, roleplaying as a barista. An article about Gather was written in WIRED magazine, and the author, Gretchen, was in the space too.
Some other spaces I made prior to my employment at Gather, for myself and for others’ online events.
Shortly after that evening, I applied to Gather. I showed all the spaces I had made, did an art test and a few interviews with the Art Director at the time, Mark Carpenter. Looking back and laughing, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “This platform is amazing, but their art could really use some help. I can help!” Years later, after some great projects, the growing of the team, a few promotions, the shrinking of the team, and a pivot from the company to focus on remote work as a use case for the platform to find profitability, I found myself in the position of Art Director myself.
Ultimately, after three years, Gather’s leadership decided to lay off the rest of the art team– myself included. Between when I started and when I left, I influenced and defined the evolution of the Gather art style to become something less referential to nostalgic video game assets, but which stayed constrained to pixelart. The result was a more professional and purely Gather style of identity-inclusive avatars and wearable features, objects, and world environments. I reshaped the color palette, set the bar for consistency and quality in the art the team produced, and set higher level goals for the art and maps departments as a whole.