A Blank Canvas

A Blank Canvas
The Definition of an Art Form

Russ Pitts | 17 Oct 2006 12:00
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"Also, besides being effective artistically, I like to see if the 'asset' simply fits into the confines of the technical requirements of the game. Since this is interactive entertainment and there are hard limits to the art compared to other mediums, I really appreciate seeing a great piece of beautiful artwork or [an] effect that was created in such small confines of a game system.

"An example would be when many of my co-workers and I first saw the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 2, with Snake sneaking onto the ship in the hard rain, first in the cut scenes, and then watching it switch seamlessly in real time. All of us really thought it was exceptionally well done and were trying to figure out how that effect was created."

The Game Cartoonist
art form: noun. An unconventional form or medium in which impulses regarded as artistic may be expressed. (Merriam-Webster Online.)

"I started doodling in the margins of my school work back in fifth grade," says Mike Krahulik, the artistic half of web comic duo Tycho and Gabe (he's Gabe) at Penny Arcade. "As time went on, I started paying more attention to the doodling than the work."

Penny Arcade, the comic strip first appeared in 1998 on another gaming site, but was re-launched the following year at Penny Arcade, the website. Krahulik and Jerry Holkins (Tycho), the writer of Penny Arcade, have since produced a new comic every few days for the past seven years; created an educational campaign for the ESRB, the videogame ratings board; founded PAX, an annual consumer-oriented game convention; and created Child's Play, a charity organization originally founded three years ago to equip the Seattle Children's Hospital with toys and games for sick kids to play with. It has since grown exponentially, funneling more than $600,000 in donations to over 20 hospitals in North America last year alone.

They have also become the game industry's most visible social critics holding developers, publishers and even fans to task through their satire for anti-consumer, anti-fun and anti-common sense tactics.

"DESIGN IS LAW!" Screams a Christ-like John Romero, in their second-ever comic strip, "John Romero - Artiste," to a nonplussed sidewalk hot dog vendor, who replies: "Nice try John. No game, no wiener."

As for who's getting it right, making games that are not only good, but look good being good, Krahulik suggests it's Final Fantasy creators Square Enix: "Square [Enix] never gets it wrong," he says. "Even if the game play doesn't knock me out, I never get tired of looking at a Square game.

"I [also] think the new look of Team Fortress is amazing. Valve took a big risk moving the game in that direction, but it works. I mean, it looks like a Pixar film!

"I'd love to see more developers forget about trying to make games photorealistic and instead focus on making them stylish. I'd rather look at a game like World of Warcraft than Vanguard."

The Developer
art form: noun. The more or less established structure, pattern, or scheme followed in shaping an artistic work. (Dictionary.com)

"I've been playing videogames since I was 5 years old," says Joseph Hatcher, of AGFRAG Entertainment Group. "When the movie Tron came out, that pretty much helped flip the switch in my head that made me want to make videogames growing up. I started designing my own videogames on paper as a kid (among other screwball inventions) and wanted to someday work for Nintendo, Sega, Electronic Arts or Atari."

Hatcher's career path followed an all-too-familiar trajectory: He holds a diploma in desktop publishing and design, but abandoned his post-graduate work, ultimately ending up with his long-sought career in gaming in 2004 as a tester for Electronic Arts.

He's also an artist.

"I've been drawing since I was 3 or 4," says Hatcher, "about the same time that I started reading. I did take a few art classes in grade school, but nothing major. I see or think of something, I draw it. I do want to learn how to draw human forms better. I can do it, but it takes me forever. The end result is more comic-bookish than real life. I'm self taught, highly determined and deeply passionate [about] accomplishing my goals. I love to learn. I apply what I learn to how I create."

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