References and Mood Boards

OK, we’re making a game: it’s gonna be in the Arctic. It’s gonna have a polar bear. it’s gonna have desolation, adventure, and moments of fear, grief, and solitude. **flexible for option that’s easy to mock up

What does it look like?

[ images of many examples ]

Before we start, we’re stuck. We could try to use inspiration from one – but that’s stealing work from artist(s) who invented it. Even if we tried, what happened in the middle to get the game from a sketch to send?

To organize your own thoughts and not get everyone on your team working in different directions, collecting references and a mood board can communicate look and feel.


Finding references of similar art and what your game elements look like in the real world helps you spot shapes and likenesses.

Let’s start with the polar bear. It’s a white bear, right?

[ crappy drawing of bear ]

You’ll probably find examples of items and animals that aren’t the same color or size you remember – even your own pets or every day items. Keeping references organized on Pinterest, a shared folder or in a slide deck will save a lot of energy checking back and forth to figure out how everything looks.

[ image of thinking about polar bear size vs. actual size ]

Taking notes on styles of games you like – colors, shapes, sizing, layout, etc – will offer you more control on how to make your game look..

Mood Boards

Mood boards are like references for atmosphere, tone and feeling. They can be more abstract inspiration than notes to follow – like a single icicle, an image from an eerie horror movie, or an abandoned frozen backpack for our game idea – but anything that reminds you of how you want your project to feel is helpful.

[ mood board for polar game ]

Keeping these images on hand can stir up ideas for gameplay or scenes, and get a set of colors to use in [ link to color tools lesson ]. Similarities might also appear out of the combinations, and your group will be more prepared to discuss the feeling the game together.