Images: Ace Volkov Studio
People often think about the meaning of their online name, but they don’t often think of what it looks like visually. So one Kiwi gamer has spent the last few days doing that, creating illustrations from people’s gamer names.
Ace Volkov is a illustrator and designer based in Wellington, and over the last few days he’s been embarking on a different art project. It all started with this a gamer friend called Nightowl.
“Nightowl (my first post) and QuessoFiesta were good friends that I had insane adventures with [in Left 4 Dead 2] but lost touch due to life,” Volkov told me. “I really loved those guys but I never had the opportunity to meet them in real life.”
So to mark the importance of those online friendships, Volkov turned Nightowl into a picture:
Subject // 001 // NIghtowl Gamertag creature stories: One of my closest friends online was a gentleman I've never met, but knew so much of him and he did of me. I started this project in an effort to remember and tell stories of online friendships a relatively new phenomena. NIghtowl was a phenomenal L4D2 player. We were so good people, often accused us of hacking! Honestly, which is the best praise. Nightowl had a stutter and often people ended his sentences for him which made him even more quieter. When I first spoken to him in the phone, and realized that ending someone elses sentences is rude and very demeaning, I grew as a person. I wish I had some info on Nightowl!
Taking inspiration from that, Volkov turned to Reddit and asked people to reach out with names and stories of their own. Some people submitted just stories, while others went into a bit of detail. If there was no backstory Volkov made one up, which was handy for names like “savagejerkoff” and “nero_requiem”.
Which don’t look anything like you would expect.
I asked what the process was like for making illustrations out of the names, and Volkov gave this example for Yipples the Toaster:
Subject // 0 13 // Yipples The Toaster Gamertag creature stories: "He always loves to play heavy characters or not too viable characters, even if it means losing in the long run. He loved the gratification of wrecking the stuff with a character no one expects or isn't in the meta because above all, he loves having fun. The pals and I don't seem to mind it much since we can usually support all the dumb stuff he does that usually pays out in the end." Submitted by u/MrCreeper702 Support the project ✌️ https://www.patreon.com/acevolkov ✌️ . . . . . #game #gameillustration #gameart #gamedev #graphicdesign #lowbrow #creature #monster #poetry #concept #conceptart #illustration #digitalpaint #characterdesign #creaturedesign #creaturefeature #aliendesign #creaturesculpting #darkartists #darksurrealism #originalcharacter #creaturemodeling #graphicroozane #_artshow_ #AceVolkov #Gamertag #creature #Stories
The user told Volkov that they always played heavy characters, someone who didn’t take the world seriously and someone who liked characters that were considered “non-viable”. That formed the basis for a giant character designed around a toaster or box, which Volkov then coloured with punchy colours and a baby’s hand.
“As an artist, I enjoy illustrating things that have no visual reference/basis so that’s how their gamertag came into play,” Volkov explained, saying their longterm goal was to publish a book of the illustrations and the stories that people provided (or ones he made up). The time taken for each illustration depends on the context, with the longest one so far taking 115 minutes to draw.
“I honestly love working on all of them as cheeky as it may sound. People are sharing awesome stories about hacking servers with friends and going undercover to infiltrate EVE online … it’s incredible. At the end of the night, all these illustrations are me versus me.”
The New Zealand artist has started a Patreon page, although the Gamertag Creature project is free. There’s a backlog of more than 300 gamernames to work through, and when Volkov spoke to me over email he said he had been working on illustrations for three days straight, so there’s no lack of source material to draw from.
As it stands, Volkov sees it as a fun little side project that helps him continue to hone basic art concepts. More importantly, it’s also a chance to use his skills to help commemorate the value of online friendships – while surprising gamers with a fresh perspective on their identity.