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Video Game Art Turtleback – January 28, 2006
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"In the new book Video Game Art, author Nic Kelman argues that games have made the leap from entertainment to art the same way cinema has -- with intricate plots, highly developed fictional worlds and complex characters."
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Even though Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, Defender, Asteroids, Missile Command, Frogger, etc. are mentioned briefly there are no images of these classic games for us to (a) review and recognize, and (b) learn from. If this is supposed to be a sort of retrospective of the graphic art of game design (this is not about studies of techniques for rendering) then why not show some of these all-time classics as well as the 'new-time' classics? The latter are better represented but some of the choices and omissions are rather questionable. The brief smattering of 'classics' that are shown tend to represent more human and figurative character styles in games rather than 'iconic' which to me lacks in breadth of representation.
Beyond this, much of the work - but not all - feels and looks rather 'same-y' to me. Lots of brooding dark scenes and characters inspired by countless horror/goth/fantasy masters. When there is mention of games that are actually considered contemporary-art on display at world-famous museums, such as "Rez," -- we are not shown ANY images of these because space was taken up by two nearly identical renderings of Lara Croft in the same spread. At this point one has to ask oneself: what was the author/picture editor thinking?
For all the long-winded talk in the intro there is little to show us where the industry came from versus where we are now. And from what I can tell, there is absolutely no mention of the explosion of games and unique designs being done in FLASH - arguably one of the largest and least expensive environments for making accessible games and game 'art'. Furthermore, all the games covered and discussed (that I can tell) are from large corporations and studios. What of independent developers?
My biggest problem with this book was the editing - particularly with regard to choices of art. Far too many examples if things that look similar versus examples of unique design concepts and forms. Very nice printing, some nice layouts, and even some interesting topics are raised with relation to character concept, versus form, versus environment - but I would not recommend this for critical graphic design, "art" analysis, or a balanced representation.
I must confess I am biased as I am one of those artists toiling in the game development business. One of my images and a substantial quote of mine is used in the text of the book. Sadly however, credit is not given to me or any of the nameless, faceless artists whose work is so lovingly showcased. As a game artist, I would love to know who created this work both for my personal edification as well as for reference for future hiring potential. Obviously, some images represent the work of many artists and programmers, however, a large amount of the work included in this book was created by individuals who deserve credit. What crediting there is, is given only to the marketing executives and companies who delivered the work to the author. For all of its effort to showcase the artistic merit of video games, this book fails to recognize those who create the art, only crediting the corporate entities who paid for it.
Still, a worth while buy.