Game Art for Gamers 101: Introduction at Takuchat.com
by our user DigitalWolf
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Hello, and welcome to Game Art for Gamers, a weekly series that will challenge you to see past the “graphics” and see the details.
One of the long-standing problems I see among gamers, news media, and the general public is a lack of understanding to what makes games so much of an art. In fact it seems the concept of games as art is very vague for people.
What makes good art, and how does that apply to games? What elements or principles do artists see and use everyday that applies to gaming and makes some games so much more compelling than others?
Because for many gamers “good graphics” are what make a game interesting, pretty, or unique; but no one is asking “Why”?
About Me / Purpose
I remember the article pointing out the meaning of Sora’s black hood and big yellow shoes.
So before I go further let me introduce myself; my name is Isiac DaGraca. I’m not in the game industry (yet), but I am an artist, and you can see some of my work at iadagraca.com. I aspire to be a game artist, and part of this project is re-learning art concepts, and learning about what makes some of the amazing work out there so amazing.
I’ve had an interest in games as art for a long time, but I didn’t realize how deep it went until the concepts were introduced to me. I don’t remember where I originally read it, but I had read an article that focused on colors on game characters. Not just what those colors mean, but how those choices seemed to affect the game, its sales, and peoples’ impressions of the character.
Reading that article helped me appreciate games so much more. Later as a Visual Art Major in high school, I learned that the same principles that make Visual Art what it is can be very close to what we see in gaming everyday.
I have no question about games as art.
And I believe ideas such as this need a broader reach, and that everyone can benefit from learning about what makes this medium tick. There’s so much more you could take away from every experience if you slow down, and look closely at the world these designers have created, and how they’ve presented it to you.
What I will be covering in this series
What is it about Kojima’s P.T. that despite the “Downgraded” graphics the game still makes an amazing impression?
Each week I will release a different subject starting with topics around the principles of art and design and how they relate to games, eventually working towards analysis of specific games, characters, and artists.
This will be a somewhat slow process, to start I want to build awareness that these ideas exist. Once I feel I’ve written enough to help you identify these concepts, we’ll go into more complex analysis of these ideas.
This series will focus primarily on visual aspects — not elements such as writing or cinematic techniques. Although writing and cinematography do play a major role in the overall presentation and surely contribute to the games as art, they are not aspects I’m studying thoroughly. I want to be able to express these ideas in a clear meaningful way, and I can only do that by understanding them thoroughly myself.
That said, this series isn’t going to go too far into technical aspects either. While I will eventually get into effects like SSAO, anti-aliasing, and other words that might seem new to you despite hearing it before. You don’t need to know how the technology works to understand why it’s there. Instead I’ll spend more time explaining what the effect means, and how it relates to the real world or your impression of it.
What you the reader should do
First off, I need you to understand that a lot of what I will say is opinion, and much of this series will be subjective by nature. I’ll outline examples and reasons for my opinions on a given game or whatnot, but it’s in the interest of promoting discussion.
Throughout this series I may have a negative/positive opinion of one thing or another, and I’ll make my case for that opinion. I’d love nothing more than to talk with other artists, gamers, and other readers about the implications of whatever subject I may have brought up in a meaningful manner.
So much of art is speculation, and appreciating how that impression affects a person. Characters might rub you the wrong way, colors might throw you off, something might look bland; But understanding why something is that way and explaining why is the discussion that gamers are missing.
So I want you as the reader to open your mind not just to other views, but to finding purpose in everything you see. To take the time to understand what you are seeing, and why you have such an impression. And most importantly, why the artist might have done things that way. The assessment of art in so many ways, is an act of empathy.
The 1up portion will challenge readers to discuss a particular or number subjects in the comments. Perhaps with a specific constraint. For example, I might ask that readers describe a character by their colors and the meaning of those colors, and ask other commenters to guess the character. Fun stuff like that (and I probably will do that but not in this post so please be patient).
The 1up for this week will be simple:
Tell me about a game that had the best visuals for you. And understand that great visuals aren’t just ‘Realistic’ and ‘Artistic’ but can do something special for the viewer to appreciate.
For me a game series that sits near and dear to my heart is the .Hack// series. It shines for me due to its phenomenal environment, enemy and character design. The enemies in particular often seem to tell a story, The worlds seem to be brimming with culture and history, and the characters not only match their personalities but their fates as well. .Hack// to me is an incredibly well designed game.
So tell me about yours in the comments and I’ll make an article this week including your picks.
Next week we’ll begin with the basics of the Elements of Art and how they apply to games before moving on to more advanced topics. The Elements of Art are the most basic way to describe an image or the creation of one, and will be central to understanding what we do in the future.