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November 03, 2016

Student's art wins a place in popular mobile game

Student's art wins a place in popular mobile game

Miranda Pavelle's designs join 'War Dragons'

By Bradley J Wancour

Cleveland Institute of Art Animation major Miranda Pavelle is watching one of her favorite video games change before her eyes, thanks to her own artwork.

“The game is ‘War Dragons,’ it’s developed by an app company called Pocket Gems, and it has hundreds of thousands of players,” said Pavelle, a senior from Pittsburgh.

This summer, Pavelle — working with teammates in the virtual world of “War Dragons” — won a place in the game for images of her own.

The game operates on key principles of attack and defense. On attack, the player breeds, hatches and trains more than 100 types of dragons with varying abilities. On defense, players build, upgrade and arrange towers with weapons like cannons, archers, and even ones that fire lightning.

“I’ve been playing for a year and a half now, and I am on one of the more powerful teams,” said Pavelle. She doesn’t know her teammates in real life, but she considers them almost family.

“If one of us has trouble in real life, other members will do their best to help out,” she said. “One of the members had a hard day, so people wrote her cards and bought her flowers. Another one got his account stolen and deleted, so the more affluent members are sending him money so he can restart his account and build it back up quickly.”

They were all in it together this summer, when their competitive ranking gave them a chance to be more than mere players.

“The top 10 teams got to submit a design to Pocket Gems for a monument, which each of the different in-game islands have,” said Pavelle. “The team who won the popular vote would have their design selected for inclusion in the game.”

Pavelle was on vacation in July when her team became eligible for the contest, but started immediately thinking about designing a meaningful entry.

“We knew we wanted cancer awareness as a theme, because two of the people we knew who played the game had died of cancer,” she said.

Pavelle drew a woman sitting cross-legged, holding a large rainbow egg over her head in the arms of a serpentine dragon. The character is based on a teammate’s sister who died of cancer. Pavelle drew a purple cancer-awareness ribbon round her neck. Her team submitted the entry in August, and it “won by a landslide,” she said.

Pocket Gems turned her drawing into a three-dimensional monument made to look as if it was sculpted in stone and bronze.

For a second contest, open to all players, Pavelle answered an August open call to design an avatar for the game. This gave her chance to address what she sees as an ongoing symptom of sexism in parts of the gaming world.

“What I’m kind of irked at is the classic issue where the guys get these muscular, cool portraits with more interesting expressions and the girls get these kind of sexualized and pretty ones,” said Pavelle.

Pavelle’s muscular female character wears armor, carries a sword and clutches a glowing ball of blue electrical energy. She’s still waiting for it to be added to “War Dragons.” Pocket Gems has promised that the only major changes will be optimizing the color for mobile devices.

Pavelle would ultimately like a chance to work on improvements to “War Dragons.”

“I’ve noticed that there are faults in the 3D animation, especially in the still cycles of the dragons,” said Pavelle. “That’s more of a game design thing, but it’s still animation, and I still enjoy doing it.”

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