The Benefits of Competitions (Even the Little Ones)

Mini Challenges Archive from GameArtisans

Competitions and contests are a wonderful way to show off your skills and gain publicity and prizes if you’re exceptionally talented. If your skills aren’t quite ready to trounce other competitors, though, the rewards of a contest are a little less well-stated; but, in my opinion, they’re much better than the ones that are shown on the splash page.

Contests and challenges are great for learning in a lot of ways- they give you a clear goal and deadline to help stop you from getting overwhelmed (as well as often providing reference or themes that help provide some good limits as well), there are usually specs and limitations that can help you get a feel for what’s expected for certain styles/platforms/etc., and since there’s a deadline, if you’re posting your work to a forum (please be posting your work to a forum), others are often much more likely to give feedback since there’s a clear end time and they don’t feel as “locked in” to the thread (or at least that’s my guess).

  • CGTalk has so many that they have two such forums, one for (generally larger) CG Challenges and one for the Mini Challenges, a whole series of (generally) monthly and weekly challenges running a whole range of digital art themes including speed modeling, lighting, animation, and vfx.
  • GameArtisans hosts a number of large and small contests in their Art Challenges forum and (and excellent archive), including monthly themed “3D Mini” and 2D challenges.
  • Polycount also has an entire Contests and Challenges forum; it’s a great place to find information on various (generally 3D) contests and Polycount will often announce their major contests on the front page as well.
  • SatteliteSoda hosts yearly DailyDraw challenges in February (this probably would have been more useful had I posted at the beginning of February instead of the end) as well as occasional themed challenges.
  • has a small Challenges forum. It’s just starting out, but it could turn into something really cool.
  • 11SecondClub is a monthly animation contest which supplies a short audio clip to animate a character speaking to.
  • Blizzard has a yearly student contest for environment and character art mentorships (and even if you aren’t a student who says you can’t make an “entry”?).
  • ArenaNet hosts an annual internship competition that provides clear specs and a piece of concept art to work from (they can be a little wishy-washy about keeping deadlines, keeping all positions open until the end and such things, but it’s a cool and well-laid-out project even if you aren’t participating in the actual competition).
  • GameCareerGuide hosts a weekly themed Game Design Challenge.
  • (GameArtisans has also hosted a lot of bigger annual challenges in the past, such as Dominance War, Unearthly Challenge and the ComicCon Challenge. None of these are run anymore, but supposedly some new ones are in the works so they’re always worth keeping an eye on.)

So if you’re looking for a quick way to find some inspiration, a clear goal and a lot of feedback, a contest can be a great way to do it. Have fun! (I’m sure there are plenty I’ve missed– if you know of any good ones leave a comment or e-mail me and I’ll give you all the credit.:))