#MeetIronGalaxy – Ernie Perez
Before the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight one more voice from our developer community. Today, we sit down with an artist who has touched numerous games - some we can talk about, some we can’t. Members of our Art department have a wide array of specialties that help make every aspect of our games look special, from the launch screen to the credits. Meet one of those artists, Ernie, a representative from Unidos @ IGS, our Hispanic and Latin employee resource group.
Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here at Iron Galaxy?
Ernie Perez: My name is Ernie Perez and I am a Lead UI Artist here at Iron Galaxy.
My background is in Graphic Design and Illustration. Before working in video games, I worked in editorial design, web design, and as a club DJ. As a UI artist, I primarily work on the visuals that make up the User Interface of a game. This could be the heads-up display, scoreboard, menus, icons, and even the motion graphics that appear in the UI.
IG: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
EP: I’d say that working in different art styles can be the most challenging part of my job. Some games can be more minimalist, comprised mostly of shapes, lines and type, while others can be fully rendered or realistic with a lot of decoration. This means that as an artist I need to be able to work in those different styles.
IG: Working in all these different styles must encourage you to practice different art muscles often! What’s the one skill you learned growing up that you use the most in your role?
EP: Drawing. Since as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to draw. Whether it was trying to render the Colonial Vipers from Battlestar Galactica or tracing over some of my X-Factor comics, I’ve tried to find my style by pouring over the works of my favorite artists. Even when I was working in graphic design, I would make it a point to sketch out my ideas before starting to implement them.
IG: Sounds like you’re still finding your style. A true artist’s journey. What has been your proudest moment as a member of the Iron Galaxy team?
EP: Helping to grow the UI Art team at Iron Galaxy is something I am most proud of. When I first got here a couple of years ago, we already had talented people on the team, but due to having more work than we could handle, we needed to recruit more artists. I’m proud that I was able to contribute to bringing on another two very talented people to the group.
IG: Thanks for being a contributor to Iron Galaxy’s growth! How is your specific job unique when compared to other roles at our company?
EP: UI Art is unique in that it’s a convergence of different disciplines such as graphic design, interaction design, typography, illustration, and motion graphics. Depending on the game, UI can be its own separate layer or can be fully integrated in the game world.
IG: If you could give someone who wanted to follow in your career’s footsteps one piece of advice, what would it be?
EP: Carry a sketchbook with you and jot down your ideas whenever and wherever they come to you. Learning to take notes visually can not only help you to remember things but can also help you work through them and let you see them in a different way. This is similar to being blocked with an idea and then talking about it to someone else, then seeing a solution. When we use different parts of our brains, we can come to new solutions.
IG: Thoughtful advice that can be applied to multiple areas of life. What’s the best thing about working at a video game development company?
EP: I’d say it’s the culture, which has a lot to do with the people here. While no two companies are the same, video game development in general has a different vibe than other industries. Having worked in more corporate environments, it’s easy to see how more relaxed things are when it comes to things like dress code and work hours.
IG: What’s your favorite perk associated with your job?
EP: Getting to play games that the rest of the world hasn’t seen yet.
IG: That’s indeed a special one. How collaborative are you with different teams across Iron Galaxy?
EP: It depends a lot on things like how much say we have in developing the UI, how integrated it is with the rest of the game, and how big the team is. When we’re working on a UI from scratch, then we’re collaborating with the game designers, UX designers, technical designers, technical artists, producers, engineers, and quality assurance. If the project is limited to only updating the game with new content, we may only be working with engineers and producers.
IG: These different scenarios must provoke you to think in new ways depending on what resources are available. Which has got to me exciting and a little nerve inducing depending on the project. What’s the most rewarding aspect of creating things that other people experience?
EP: Knowing that what you created has the ability to make someone have a positive experience. Also, bringing people together. Sharing not just your work, but your team’s vision to others can feel really good.
IG: What video games would you recommended with Latin/Hispanic characters?
EP: I really like how Valorant does its homework in terms of adding culturally specific details to its characters. Also, the Miles Morales Spider-Man movies do a great job in their depictions of Hispanic culture as well as what it’s like to live in a multi-cultural family, so the video game version is a good recommendation.
IG: Reyna fans rejoice! Kimu also mentioned Miles Morales for this question. Miles represents Puerto Ricans well across each medium. What’s it like being a part of Unidos @ IGS?
EP: It’s great to share with others who have similar experiences, but at the same time come from different backgrounds. Our group has multigenerational members who were either born elsewhere and came to the US or born here. This affords us many opportunities to see our work, our industry, and our world through many lenses.
IG: A unique takeaway from being a part of an employee resource group. We’re fortunate to have them. How do you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
EP: My wife and I were both born in Mexico, so you could say that we celebrate our heritage all year long, taking any opportunity to educate our kids on not only where we came from but other Hispanic cultures. One thing we like to do during Hispanic Heritage Month is to stay up and watch the Grito de Dolores from the Zocalo in Mexico City on the evening of September 15th.
IG: We hope that was a special night and that future September 15ths continue to stay within your family’s tradition. Where were you born in Mexico?
EP: I was born in Mexico City but raised here in Chicago.
IG: Aside from playing video games, what is a favorite hobby of yours?
EP: I spin 80s and 90s dance music (mostly on vinyl) and dabble in music production.
IG: We need to setup a booth inside Iron Galaxy Chicago for you to spin sometime! What’s something you feel everyone must do once in their life?
EP: Travel abroad. It may sound cliché, but seeing other countries and cultures broadens one’s perspective, and also gives you a sense of being part of something larger.
IG: Maybe cliché, but a recommendation almost everyone can agree with. What is something you have always wanted to create?
EP: I have played on and contributed to friends’ music but have never released my own record. This is something I have been working on for many years and hope to eventually release.
IG: Your friendly peers at IG are ready for the launch party invite! Keep at it. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
EP: It’s a tough choice between tacos and pizza.
IG: What is your favorite travel destination that you have visited?
EP: In ’97 I visited my best friend who was teaching English in Japan. We went to Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, then flew to Hong Kong and from there went to Macau and Guanzhou. Hands down my favorite trip so far.
IG: Wow, that must’ve been quite the memorable trip. What is one place that you hope to see one day?
EP: Europe, especially the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.
IG: What is one genre of games that you think is underrated?
EP: I think all genres have their fans, but if I had to choose, I’d say casual puzzle and strategy games. A few years ago, a friend suggested I check out Rymdkapsel on my phone and I was hooked immediately. The gameplay was addictive and the overall visual and audio aesthetic really drew me in.
IG: What is your favorite book or series?
EP: The 2001 books by Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two in particular. I have read that book at least ten times.
IG: What was the last concert you saw?
EP: Suede (or London Suede as they’re known here) with the Manic Street Preachers. My wife is a huge fan of Suede and after watching them play live, I understood why.
IG: What is the one song most likely to earn you a speeding ticket?
EP: “Messij” by Cold Storage off the WipEout soundtrack. This is the game that inspired me to pursue a career in video games.
IG: Leave it to a racing classic for some inspiration. If you could pick a song to play every time you entered the room, what would it be?
EP: “Java” by Bert Kaempfert. I used to play this in the mornings to wake my kids up.
IG: It’s certainly a distinct song that could signal it’s time to wake up! What game have you spent the most time playing?
EP: Destiny 2.
IG: What movie have you seen the most times?
EP: Although Blade Runner is my favorite movie of all time, it is not the one I have seen the most. That honor goes to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which I watched every day during one summer because my sister was infatuated with Matthew Broderick.
IG: What has been your favorite series to binge?
EP: Better Call Saul. Aside from the interesting story and characters, the cinematography has been the best I have seen in any series.
IG: What is the one superpower that you would like to have?
EP: Time travel. If traveling to other countries is a great source of inspiration, imagine what traveling to other time periods would be like!
IG: I think we’ve discovered a human’s best power. Traveling. If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?
EP: World peace. I figure that would solve a lot of other problems, too.
IG: With Time Travel in your grip, which historical period would you like to experience first-hand?
EP: The Aztec Empire. I feel like historians and archeologists have only scratched the surface of what that time period was like, and I’d love to know more about it.
IG: What fictional universe would you choose over our own? What if there was no coming back?
EP: The Star Wars universe in both cases.
IG: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you invite?
EP: Paul White of Me Company, one of the first graphic designers whose work inspired me to pursue it as a career.
IG: It’s after dinner. You’ve said goodbye to Paul and get to select a historical figure to hangout with. Who would you want to show the modern world? What do you think they’d say?
EP: Leonardo da Vinci. I think he would be amazed at how far we’ve come, but I also think he’d say “Yeah, this all makes sense.” He was already ahead of his time.
And just like that, Hispanic Heritage Month nears its end for 2023. As you alluded to earlier, Ernie, celebration and engagement with any culture can happen at any time. Thanks for reminding us of that. We hope the rest of the month treats you well and appreciate you taking the time to share your history with us. Our ears are looking forward to your record debut.
For the past 30 or so days, we’ve showcased voices from Unidos @ IGS. Pick around the News section of our site and find representation of these group members that can be found littered throughout the year. We’ll continue to fuel these voices as they represent what Iron Galaxy cares about. Interested in learning more about our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts? Visit our DEIA page now.