Video Game Character Animation

The Definitive Guide to Video Game Character Animation

Table of Contents

The history of Video game characters and how we have evolved with time. Essentials to becoming a game animator and the measures that should be taken to be a successful video game animator. 12 fundamental principles to keep in mind while animating a video game with added 5 principles feel, fluidity, Readability, Context, and elegance.

Examples of some successful video game characters animation are also discussed, like Princes of Persia (1989), Shadow of The Colossus (2005), Bayonetta (2009), and Ori and The Will of the Wisps (2020). Online and physical resources of Video game animation inspiration.

1. The History and Progression of Video Game Animation

If you compare video Game Animation with what we had in history with today’s video game animation or video game characters, you would realize that we have evolved entirely with time. We have grown and progressed with some games like Tomb Raider: Definite Edition. As time passed, it has improved our competencies from those days of visible pixels in games like 1993 Doom, with Self-motivated hair pretends in real-time.

Previously animation for video games was done by hand using technologies like rotoscoping as this was the only availability. If we talk about movies or games, the animation process is the same.

After the release of bigger and more robust console generations in 2010, video game animators got the chance to use more tools as the hardware they were using furnished them with various opportunities. At that time, companies like Adobe became famous and enriched video game animators with motion capture and facial capturing technologies. And now, if you talk about the characters in video games, this is the peak where facial recognition is much more vibrant and exciting. Facial expressions and 3D game animation have increased the demand in the market.

2. How to Become a Game Animator

There is an increased demand in the interest to become video game animators as it has become a creative passion of the youth these days. Numerous sites offer different courses for basics and specialization in 3D or 2D animation for games.

If you are interested in becoming an animator, you need to have elementary skills and knowledge of designing. You should be capable enough to take the initiative and have knowledge of media production and communication. Have excellent familiarity with fine arts and can use computer and 2D game animation software packages.

Video game animators built characters and objects to create game scenes. You need to learn to paint textures and create wireframes to produce real-looking models. Learn to draw, model, texture, and animate in different styles, whether working short-term or creating ground-breaking notions. You must learn shading and special effects and add textures to digital models. If you are efficient in the above-discussed skills, you can make a successful future in the video game animation industry.

3. The Essentials of Game Animation

There are many differences in animation for video games or film animation. Still, one of the most prominent is that, unlike usual animation video games, it does not follow all the 12 principles of animation in the same way. These 12 principles of animation are squash and stretch, anticipation, staging, straight-ahead action and pose-to-pose, follow through and overlapping action, slow in and slow out, arc, secondary action, timing, exaggeration, solid drawing, and appeal.

Game animation can not use all the above 12 principles similarly due to the interactivity factor. Nevertheless, it makes you impact the animation and advancement in the story at your own pace and in your command. Hence, animated video games require a different way of thinking than films. A well-known game animator Jonathan Cooper has mentioned in his book 5 additional fundamentals of game animation to complement the 12 principles of animation while animation for games.

These 5 basic video game animation principles feel fluidity, readability, context, and elegance. To create different and exclusive games, animators should use these 5 basic rules with the previous 12 principles. This combination will help them to animate amazing games, and the players will get priceless and captivating experiences.


The one significant difference between animation video games and film is interactivity. You are supposed to pass the control of characters in the video game to the player so he can enjoy the game to its fullest. Your audience will only feel engrossed in the game when they would be able to operate the characters in video games as they like. Cooper also said, “The time is taken between a player’s input and the desired reaction can make the difference between creating the illusion that the player is embodying the avatar or becoming just a passive viewer on the sidelines.

This shows the importance of interactivity in animation for video games. The control should be mesmerizing without any problem with the movement of the character so that the player can have an amazing experience in your game.

Create realistic characters as in today’s practical and extremely happening world, the demand of the audience has increased; they expect originality or something that should feel and look real. Keep your game’s context in mind when setting the character’s movement. Your video game characters should be as smooth as possible.


Sometimes video game animations stop, start, overlap, and move between each other because it has series, whereas films do not face these issues. It is the responsibility of the video game animator to make sure these things do not happen, and animations drift together to uphold the same fluidity in the individual animations themselves. You can fulfill this aim in many ways and should give your player the experience without even a slight acknowledgment of the start and end of the animations. In the end, essential fluidity matters a lot.

The better the fundamental fluidity of your animated video game would be, the more in demand your game will become. 3D game animation’s fluidity is easier than 2D animation for games. That’s because it’s easy to get fluidity through programmable maps in a 3D rig than using distinct sprite animation in a 2D game. New video game animators should opt to create 3D games over 2D games as the demand for high video game content is increasing rapidly.


Readability is when the actions of your animated video game characters are read on screen. However, this is not the case with films. If you talk about animation for video games, all the characters’ angles should look alluring, especially in 3D animation, as the camera moves autonomously. This explains that if you are working in video game animation, you have to be very vigilant about the angles of the characters.

Besides the front and side view, the video game animator should be particular about rotation and support the character’s motion from all angles. This is not it; the animators should make sure that the camera covers the characters from all angles to keep the character exciting amongst the audience.


The context of a video game animation is always demarcated by the scene where it takes place. Even the animator would not know before the time when the character will move. The whole control is in the player’s hand. Animation is used repeatedly in different settings and with changed characters during the game.

The vital context here is the usage of animation in the game. It is difficult to know exactly when a specific animation will occur in a game. To make the main character prominent, you would need to create more animations that correspond to different controls, making sure these animations are different from other characters in the video game animation.


The fundamental of elegance is how animation works when put together. It should come out blended efficiently. Video game animators should ensure the perfection of animations overlapping on one another and syndicate multiple actions in no time so that players would not know about the individuality of the action. It should give a flawless effect to get successful animated video games.

4. Examples of Amazing Video Game Character Animation

  • Prince Of Persia (1989)

Jordan Mechner designed prince of Persia in 1989. The first cinematic platform and a successful inspiration for many. Rotoscoping techniques were used with outstanding effects. It was a 2D animation that gained immediate love.

  • Shadow Of The Colossus (2005)

Shadow of the colossus used key-frame animation that replicated physics and inverse kinematics, something one experiences in robotics. The elementary movement of animations was hand-Drawn. Some liked Shadow of the colossus and some disliked it.

  • Bayonetta (2009)

Bayonetta was an action-adventure game that Hideki Kamiya directed. The game’s main character was Bayonetta, who has unbelievably larger-than-life attacks intermingled with dancing.

  • Ori And the Will of The Wisps (2020)

Ori and The Will of Wisps were released in the 21st century. It was a beautiful 2D animation. Squash and Stretch techniques were used to make sure the movement of the character’s body. This was a unique and most liked game.

5. Resources for Video Game Character Animation Inspiration

Resources for video game characters can be taken from anywhere. But a few suggestions for online and physical resources are mentioned here.

  • Online Resources

Online Resources include dribble, YouTube, and Blogs.

  • Physical Resources

Other than Online resources, books, memories, and other inspirations are recommended. Talking about books, Jonathan Cooper’s 2017 is one of the best options available. It shares the experience of around two decades.


2D game animation software or 3D game animation, the characters, and the animation series should be blended perfectly to achieve a successful video game animation.

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Adam is a copywriter and content strategist with years of experience covering the latest trends in technology and digital industry. Adam brings a fresh and creative approach to his writing. With his passion for writing as well as amazing research skills, he shares valuable knowledge on multiple trends.