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Friday, December 25, 2015

Video Game Art

No, it's not a Jackson Pollock original, but a montage combining just a small
fraction of today's video gaming characters. How many can you recognize?
Very few generations have been privileged to see their world of art change as much as ours. Actually, in contemplating the changes that have occurred just in my own lifetime, I'm more accurately talking about two or three generations. But, be that as it may, the point is that, since I was born...since the end of World War II in 1945, we've gone from Jackson Pollock to Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, not to mention some guy calling himself Driedzone. Take a quick look at the image above. At first glance, one might mistake it for a "drip-dried" Pollock, but actually it's a digitally composed montage of a representative sample of the animated gaming characters alive and well, and entertaining children of all ages today.
How did get from Pac-man and Space Invaders to Superman Returns?
Few would argue that there has been a tremendous evolution in all the media and art forms of today during the past seventy years since the end of WW II. They, alone, are quite remarkable. But when we start talking about gaming art, and the broader category of digital art under which it falls, the changes have been so relatively rapid and extensive as to constitute not evolution but revolution. Back about 1980, I bought one of the first home video games. It was called Pong, made by Magnavox. It plugged into the back of any TV set. So far as I know, it still works. As for it's gaming artwork...well, a WW II radar screen had more going for it in that regard. As the name suggests, it was electronic ping pong. Shortly thereafter computer games all migrated to the crude conventions of home computers or the stand-alone video game consoles of shopping mall arcades. The "art" of Pac-Man and Space Invaders (above), such as it was, rose barely beyond that of cave painting.

The art of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell (top) and Driedzone (bottom)
Gaming art has a deep and long
fascination with the nude and erotic.
During the 1990s, as computing power doubled and redoubled in accordance with Moore's Law (Intel founder, Gordon Moore, that is), much to some parents' surprise, the world did not end. The earth kept revolving and the world of digital graphics did likewise. The revolution grew more flabbergasting with every new generation of Intel chips and each new version of Windows. Gaming split into dozens of different compartments from the erotic to the horrific (above), to the sophomoric, the juvenile, even to include the pre-school Speak and Spell. In each case gaming artists rose to the occasion, restrained only by the limits of available memory and processing speed. Today, gaming art reflects the fact that both of those concerns are of little concern. Game designers innovate, while gaming artists illustrate, each inspiring the other in a revolving spiral of digital creativity that theoretically knows no bounds. Virtual reality is now, or soon will be a...virtual reality.

Superman Returns (top) to find Gotham City can also soar skyward.
Despite the technical differences and the totally different tools involved, gaming art has a surprising amount in common with all other art content areas. We find awe inspiring urban art (above) and poignant, even dismal wilderness art (below). Both serve to underline the fact that gaming art has been gradually changing our concepts of beauty.

Art from the games Lost (top) and Resident Evil (bottom).
It would be rather passé to note that virtually every type of art from the past has a digital equivalent today as seen in the White Tiger (below) and the automotive art (below that). What is far more remarkable is that just about every possible era and content area from the past also has a gaming equivalent today. Keep in mind, all the images in this post come not from online digital art galleries but from actual video games. They may appear here as "stills," but believe me, there is nothing static about them. They are all blockbusting animated entities. Even my own contribution (bottom) was created using the simulation video games, Sims 3. I seldom actually play the game, but I do enjoy it's features allowing the creation of 3-D architectural environments which permit me to, not only design and landscape the exterior but to also furnish and decorate the interior, then take a virtual video "camera" inside each house and look around. It feels almost like living there.

From the video game, The White Tiger.
From the video game, Split Second
Copyright, Jim Lane
Cantilevered Beach House, Jim Lane,
Created using the video simulation game, Sims 3.


Animation created using Maschina software:

                                                               The sleigh must be computer driven.
                                                                  Merry Christmas


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