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GCG Feature: 'Artistic Concepts in Games'

Game designers and artists need to pay closer attention to artistic principles in games, says the latest Game Career Guide feature, adding that there’s much to lear
Game designers and artists need to pay closer attention to artistic principles in games, says the latest Game Career Guide feature, adding that there’s much to learn from Megaman and Zelda, if the industry lets go of ‘realism’ and pay more attention to what the eye actually sees. In this excerpt, game designer and independent developer Bret Wardle explains how artistic presentation was present in even the earliest computer games, and that it has only grown and evolved over time: “All early computer game objects were just blocks of color. If you look at them very closely, you usually can't tell what they are supposed to represent. But when we pull back, our eyes fill in the gaps and complete lines that might not be there, and we see a known object. This phenomenon is known as continuity. We use continuity, combined with our imagination, to turn little blips of color into something meaningful.” He later adds of the contributions brought by the introduction of 8, and later 16-bit console gaming: “From a visual standpoint, one of the greatest features that this generation capitalized on was painting world backdrops by repeating small graphics, or tiles. The original Legend of Zelda is an excellent example of this. The tiles are simple, and by repeating them, the developers don't use a huge amount of processing power. Although the world still didn't look realistic, it was enough to convey characters traits. As you walk around in Legend of Zelda, you learn what types of enemies you're going to encounter based on the surroundings, which creates a sense of anticipation and can help the players make connections on their own, without being distinctly told. Although the system allowed for a much broader range of colors, many of the most recognizable games did not need to use them. Instead, the processing power would be used to calculate game mechanics. Did this mean the artistic quality suffered? In some cases yes, but in others it definitely did not. Three of the most recognizable characters from this era -- Mario, Link, and Samus Aran of Metroid -- were composed of only three colors each. The simplicity of these characters in their early forms is amazing, yet they're still some of the most recognized characters not only in video games, but in popular culture.” You can now read the complete feature, which includes a more detailed analysis of artistic expression in video games, from Spacewar!'s randomly generated starfields to the more modern visual splendor of Final Fantasy and Psychonauts (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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