Video Game Art Could Do With A Little More Respect

Video Game Art Could Do With A Little More Respect

In case you're asleep by the time it's posted, almost every night on Kotaku I run a feature called Fine Art. It's a showcase of the work of artists working in (or dabbling in) the video game business. I do this post for a number of reasons. It's fun, it's rad art, there's a degree of closure in it since it's a career path I once nearly went down myself. Another reason, though, is that these guys and girls deserve more credit than they get.

I know video games are usually the product of teams of dozens, if not hundreds of people. And every single person involved is making key contributions, whether they're designing a level or programming some AI. So in many ways, it's unfair to highlight the contributions of some and not others.

But in other ways, I think many artists working in video games deserve the recognition. Or at least some recognition. Video game publishers always go to great lengths to highlight the involvement of writers, composers and voice actors in their titles, and rightly so, because their efforts can be key to what we take out of a game (imagine Halo without Marty O'Donnell's theme, for instance), and their contributions as artists can be clearly singled out.

Video Game Art Could Do With A Little More Respect

So why can't they do the same for illustrators and concept artists? I've always found it curious, and more than a little sad, that some of the people most directly involved in what draws us to a game as fans - and keeps us invested long after we've first fired a game up - are often working in the shadows, unknown to most.

Those action figures on your shelf, that outfit you're cosplaying in, that poster on your wall, that boss design you can't get out of your head... those characters were probably designed (at least at first) by either a single person or a small team. Ditto some of video games' most iconic locations, from Rapture to City 17. The idea of them may have been conjured by a director, or writer, but the aesthetic - the thing that defines a place more than anything else - was the work of an artist or small team of artists.

I was motivated to write this when, last week, a few pieces of new Mass Effect art showed up, which may or may not end up being part of what ends up being the next Mass Effect game. They were beautiful, but they were also issued without crediting the people who drew them. It's the same story almost every time you see art released; with the exception of a few studios who do the right thing and give little shout-outs on things like blogs and Facebook posts (Ubisoft and Eidos are better than most), art is treated as meat for the marketing grinder, the product of a publisher instead of the work of an artist.

Video Game Art Could Do With A Little More Respect

Can you imagine a video game publisher releasing an excerpt of the script without mentioning the writer? Or putting a song from a soundtrack on YouTube without crediting the composer? Of course not. But art, whether it's the work of an internal team, a contract studio in Singapore or a freelancer, is rarely afforded the same courtesy.

Some artists are happy about this, and that's cool! Not everyone needs their name and face in the spotlight, and some artists (or entire studios) prefer to stay under everyone's radar. But this isn't a case of individual preference. No matter the artist and no matter the publisher, video game art is not given the same respect fields like music and writing are (and hey, let's not forget, this is a relative comparison, as those are fields that could probably do with a bit more respect themselves).

I'm not saying every piece of artwork everywhere needs to be watermarked, or that we need to go putting these folks up on pedestals above the contributions of other developers and artists involved in the creation of video games.

But at the end of the day artists play a very big role in defining how we receive a video game, and how that game's image is cherished and remembered. It couldn't hurt to at least give a little more credit where credit's due.

Video Game Art Could Do With A Little More Respect


    Video games could do with a little more respect. Period. There's too many people complaining nowadays. Instead of appreciating how amazing the gaming medium is and what wonderful experiences they get out of it, they only see the negatives.

    For instance, check out this article from Destructoid. It took Caroline Miousse 2 years to build the Notre Dame.

    Sadly most people just run past it or bitch about the frame rate.

      FYI I was waving my cane and kicking some kids off my lawn while writing that.

      Seriously though. Call me old, but I look at games and think "Fuck, this is amazing, I can't believe I'm experiencing this." We've come so far from the days of playing games where characters were literally comprised of 5 blocks. I could count the number of colors games had on one hand.

      Now we can experience what it's like to shoot aliens on the moon, drive our favourite supercar or visit Paris during the 1700s.

      All of that is fucking amazing.

      Last edited 17/11/14 3:21 pm

        Continue waving, these youngsters have no idea what it was like to walk ten years in the snow across the Simpson Dessert to pick up Pong only to realise it didn't work and have to make the trip again for a refund!

        But why can't we shoot moon aliens out of the window of our favourite supercar while driving down the streets of 1700s Paris? I want that.

        Actually that sounds like the plot to the next Saints Row game...

          they do have access to time travel after all

      Look at what game companies are bring out though, huge amount of bugs, not optimized very well and just pushed out way to early. They tend to spend almost as much on marketing as the game cost to create. if they spent that money on the game and stopped trying to cater for everyone it would be a whole lot better.

        There's lots of things to fix, that's for sure. But it's super hard to create the games that we play nowadays. It takes hundreds of people to get many of the AAA titles.

        And sadly to pay them, games have to now be treated like any other business. And that comes with crap timelines, BS marketing and all that other jazz.

        But I don't want us to forget the heroes behind those games that have slaved away for years to give us those games.

    Hear, hear. Excuse my ignorance, but I didnt you are a drawings person Luke! Got links? Also, I for one would love every pic being watermarked in some way, to make it easier to track down the artist no matter the source of the pic.

      a weblink down the bottom corner would be great.


    Video games should stop trying to be art and simply be games. Let the art stuff fall on them later.

      I find that people who usually say stuff like that don't really know what 'art' is. Videogames can be art, but it depends on a lot of factors.

      Any medium has the potential to be used to create art.

        I'm not saying that video games can't be art, just that they should stop trying to be art. be a game first, then people can debate whether it's art or not.

        You can define art now?

        I feel art is in the eye of the beholder.
        Some may consider pornography art and psychopaths may consider their victims art.

        Each to their own, within reason.

        Anyway, my point is, @thatteemo does know what art is, and it's what he likes and holds above other things he doesn't consider art.

        The idea that you could make a list of art and not art is preposterous unless of course you were listing what is art to you personally.

        I don't think Pisschrist is art, yet it was exhibited in a gallery.

      Bioshock 1 and Infinite are great examples. The games were so focused on the 'art' rather than making a solid gaming experience. And for this, once the novelty wears off, the games are shallow boring FPS's.

    I was just thinking about this the other day as a huge appreciator of art in video games. Interestingly i find that kickstarter projects almost always have a much higher appreciation of their artists. this is probably as that visual hook can get people over the line and donating. This project I found in particular emphasising and appreciating the full gamut of contributors (Art predominately but also the composers and coders/writers).

    Good to see that focus in action.

    I think a lot of the problem lies in NDAs and the timelines of projects. Concept art is among some of the first ever stuff created when a game is being developed, so by the time the finished thing gets on shelves the artists have already been working on another game for a few months/years and it is old news to them and the industry. Add to that the fact that they have to wait soooo long before they can tell the world what they're actually working on, stuff just gets buried under new stuff and the cycle continues.

    There isn't much recognition for individuals as well, a lot of the credit goes to 'studio X' or whoever is working on it, probably because there's usually art directors/creative directors involved dictating or guiding the process so the credit for an image could go to any number of people.

      This is why we need to see more art collections full of concept stuff when a game hits shelves. It happens sometimes, but not nearly enough.

      The age of something really shouldn't factor in to it's perceived quality.

        My most prised possession is the Art of Mass Effect. Love it to bits.

          Prised? Pages stuck together?

          "OOoooh, Wrex"

    The major hindrance is that people working in a development environment are told what to generate. None of them are there to make their own unique 'art', they have been employed to flesh out ideas related to a largely visual product, mostly using legally protected ideas and images.

    I'm not saying these people aren't talented, and I'm not saying artists are talented. It's all dependant on who is viewing said 'art' and what they think of it.

    As the human race adds more generations I have no doubt these opinions will shift. For now I am in the "It's not art, but it looks fucking cool" court. It's like trying to call a Tarantino movie art. It's 'arty', but it's not 'art', and Quentin is no 'artist'.

    Bring on the hate.

    I'll be studying concept art for the film/gaming industry next year [30 year old student yay!], so I completely agree with more respect to artists in general in these sorts of industries. I always love seeing other peoples work.

    I dont care what other people think, if I like it, it's good.

    I tend to find the more recognition something gets, the more complaints I hear. I kinda preferred the days before every critic and his dog was telling me what I should and shouldnt like.

    And yeah, I know, its my own fault, its not like those critics are forcing me to read their work.

    While I think of it, MUSIC! Game musicians dont often get much praise, sure you hear about your Nobuo Uematsu's and your Akira Yamaoka's all the time (they seem to get a tad more recognition in Japan?).

    But where's my Inon Zur and Gustavo Santaolallas? (Bad examples? These guys have been promoted a bit).

    Overall, you get to hear about people at the top of AAA game projects but less so about all the other guys working on all the other individual poeces of art that make up a game.

    I mean who was the guy who decided on the cursor noise in Final Fantasys? Was it even a guy at all?

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