Co-Founder, Executive Vice President and Art Director, Gearbox Software, Plano, TX
“Now is one of the best times to be an artist—especially if you are in the tech field. Whether you are doing special effects, modeling for gaming and movies, web art, design work, or illustration, every year it gets better and better. But when I look at an artist, I want to know how well their fundamental training is. Foundation is very important; you have to be able to convey your ideas to the people you are working with.”
Few executives have a video game console on their desk at work—much less make active use of it as a key part of their job. For Brian Martel '93, a founder of the 200-person strong Gearbox Software company, it’s all in a day’s work. He is also the principal art director for the company, which has worked with the franchises that have defined today’s gaming industry, such as Halo and James Bond, and has created the successful new franchises Brothers in Arms and Borderlands.
Like many of MICA’s most talented students, Martel was a transfer student to MICA, studying printmaking. He can trace the path of his success through MICA. In fact, his early exposure to the gaming industry came as a direct result of the network he built while at the College. Games were becoming much more elaborate and companies needed artists with strong backgrounds in painting and drawing to bring virtual worlds to life. A MICA alumnus in Hunt Valley, Maryland recruited several students as interns, including Martel.
His first job after college was working on a simulation game, but he soon found that he wanted more freedom to create expansive, immersive experiences. He helped found a company prior to Gearbox, it is worth noting, that was not a huge success, but Martel was secure enough in his ability not to fear failure. He later tapped into his MICA network to help him land the contract that helped launch Gearbox, and the rest is history.
Always the type of artist who likes to collaborate with people—bouncing ideas off of each other and pushing others to create their best work— Martel makes a point of realizing the value in every employee. It has helped him create a culture of teamwork at Gearbox where employees think outside the box to figure out the right way to do things.
The extraordinary attention paid to each detail , Martel says , can be traced to the artmaking process he learned at MICA.
Martel’s desire to always want to know more helps him stay ahead of the breakneck pace of technological evolution that defines the video game industry. Now a member of MICA’s Board of Trustees, he can also trace another success back to MICA—meeting future wife Meghan Martel ’95.