AI = Artificial Imagination

The Art Classroom would like to introduce it’s first ever guest blogger, the amazing Ross B, an ex-pupil of mine from Gleniffer High School and the mastermind behind ‘The Joypad’, the video gaming blog.

Guest Blogger Ross B from The Joypad

Gaming is the fastest growing industry in the world today, far younger than its brothers film, music, and art. But gaming is something more than just a medium, it is the best (and worst) of every other medium with its own stamp layered finely on top. And just like movies, there is no reason why gaming can’t be considered art (Duke Nukem is the exception, obviously). So today I thought I’d take a look at design and art in popular mainstream videogames. Take it away, myself.

Bioshock

Bioshock is a first-person shooter set in the underwater ‘paradise’ of rapture, a place which was supposed to be a better place, safe from the rest of the world, but was torn apart by its own arrogance and hubris. The game is rendered in a lovely art deco style, unusual enough for videogames, but it’s the message communicated throughout the game, about a philosophy gone wrong, and a clever meta-commentary on the illusion of choice in games like this.

Half-Life 2

The original Half-Life was considered one of the best games ever, changing the gaming landscape when it was released. It took Valve five years to make the sequel, and by god was it worth it. The game has a brilliant, realistic style to the environments. They felt like places you could actually visit, explore. The game’s eponymous City 17 was created much like a real-world Eastern European city, with the merchantile houses of the 19th Century mixed in with 20th Century architecture and finally stamped on top with the metallic, alien stuctures of the now-ruling Combine threat.

Assassin’s Creed 2

Venice is a beautiful city. The buildings of the Renaissance are astounding to see in pictures and movies. So when a fully-realised Renaissance Italy was revealed as the setting for Assassin’s Creed 2 I was thrilled. Being able to make your own way through Venice over the rooftops, climbing your way to the top of the highest building you could find and just staring at the ridiculously pretty urban sprawl below is an amazingly evocative gaming moment.

Crysis 2

Crysis was praised for its amazing graphics technology when released in 2007, and three years later the technology is even better. The action has shifted from a lush jungle to the concrete jungle of New York City, and by god the views are astounding. Crysis 2 is one of the most realistic-looking games I’ve seen, and its amazing panoramas and views should look even better in motion.

Fallout 3

Fallout is set in a world where everything is gone. The world has been nuked and you are one of the few survivors. The visual themes of the game are brilliant, taking cues from such sources as Mad Max and the oh-so-optimistic world of 1950s America. Everything is made to look like the 50s vision of the future, so all the high-tech weapons have a suitably retro-sci-fi look to them and all normal weapons look very antiquated. The story design in Fallout is excellent though, because it’s your story, your world. You can do whatever you wish and have to live with the consequences. Combine this with the haunting setting and lonely treks through the wilderness and you’ll be immersed like never before.

Halo

The Halo series has three distinct races: the humans, the Covenant, and the Forerunners. All three use different styles to their environments: the humans tend to use clunky-looking designs with their vehicles and weapons and the Covenant have a very sleek otherworldly feel to their designs. But the Forerunners environments are amazing. they have the right level of futuristic looks to keep them looking inhuman but also the right level of antiquations to keep them looking rather normal. These vast, cavernous buildings are full of glowing lights, mysterious technology, holograms and a rather monastic feel to the spaces, rendering the Forerunner environments and absolute joy to explore thater than the drab human environments and the eerie strangeness of the Covenant levels.

Team Fortress 2

Considered a bonus game for those who bought The Orange Box, TF2 is now possibly the largest competitive shooter out there. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, with comedy caricatures for characters instead of ugly realistic people. Characters include the brick outhouse Heavy, a massive Russian who walks about with a mingun; the Sniper, a cold Australian with a sweet hat; the Spy, a French master of disguises who can cloak and pretend to be a member of the other team (so he can stab them in the back) and the Pyro, a gas mask-wearing maniac who can only say “MMMMF!” because of his mask. The entire game is rendered in nice cartoony 3D, making it very easy to look at. The style is similar to 50’s-style advertising, full of relentless cheer even while mauling someone with a sentry gun. The environments are clean, well-designed, and the game as a whole is one of the funniest, best-looking games out there. I’ll leave you with a link to this video called Meet The Sniper, just to show you exactly what I mean:

With that little excursion into the styles and meanings behind art in videogames, I bid you adieu, with this final thought. We see so many games right now that are set in grey future cities, brown destroyed modern cities, or brown and green fantasy worlds. These are the games that frequently get criticised for being generic. I’m not saying that all games should have a style of their own, because that would ridiculous, but sometimes it’s alright. I know how much of an uproar there would be if the next Call Of Duty or Gears Of War were to come out looking like Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker. Style adds variety, and variety is the spice of life: it’s just not the main ingredient.

God, I feel like the Jerry Springer of videogames now.

If you would like to read my post on the Joypad site: A Games Room With A View

For further games reading please check out: The Joypad

3 thoughts on “AI = Artificial Imagination”

  1. I should just come right out at the start and admit to having just played 3 hours of Guardian on Gears 2, it’s a serious addiction. But you are 100% correct – the porridge coloured games have got to go.

    Thankfully Epic seemed to have listened to feedback and all the footage of Gears 3, released so far, indicates a much brighter and colourful world in which to chainsaw your opponent. Thankfully Gears 2 has the Rolls Royce of gameplay to counter its limited colour pallette.

    Also, playing Red Dead Redemption at the moment and it is like the happy anti-Fallout 3. It is absolutely gorgeous to play and to just watch and definitely deserves a mention.

  2. I completely agree with you, and Epic’s other game in development, Bulletstorm, has a lot more variety to the landscape than the Gears series. Epic do seem to be paying a lot more attention to feedback than before with Gears 3.

    For example, the female characters are a new addition after criticisms that the game was too manly for some people. The aforementioned shifting of the environment to a jungle setting, and they’re also offering the fans the chance to decide whether one of the character lives or dies.

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