You can argue whether games end as art, but there's no debating how they start. Behind every shooter, every action title, every role-playing game is an artist's imagining, bits of art meant to inspire.
It's easy to forget the creativity involved in crafting something so involved and so immersive. Fortunately, a new book by one of the industry's most influential group of concept artists will be hitting in mid January to remind us that art is an integral part of video game development.
I just got my hands on an early copy of Massive Black Volume One. The 190-page art book is packed with oil paintings, 3D renderings, sketches and hand drawn concept art from the folks at Massive Black. The book will sell for US$60 to US$120, depending on whether you want it signed or to get a free piece of original art with it.
Inside my copy of the book I found art for a number of video games titles including Golden Axe : Beast Rider, Hellgate London, Dragon Age: Origins, Ironman, Maelstrom, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Ride to Hell, Dead Head Fred, Saboteur and Area 51. There are even a few bits of art from unreleased projects and some movie and graphic novel concept art.
But the art, as glorious and illuminated as it is, isn't the greatest thing about this book. What really makes this a must have is that it offers gamers a tantalising glimpse into the world of what could have been.
You see, concept art, no matter how good, doesn't guarantee a successful game. Developers may ignore the art, may take a different direction, or maybe they follow it to a T, but the game itself, because of poor mechanics or bad design or uninspired writing, plain out sucks.
This book offers you a chance to visit a place free of commercial concerns. You can look at that first piece of art found between the black covers of this book and see a world of talking Polar Bears, of a sisterhood of witches, a frozen land of religious battles, and not even realise that it must surely be art used for Activision's take on Golden Compass, a game that was eventually developed by Shiny and published by Sega.
This book delivers to readers the gift of dreaming, imagining the games that could have been had they only relied solely on the vision of artists and never were waylaid by bean counters and schedule keepers.