Book Review: Game Art

GameArt

Video games are art. Period. End of story. Game Art, curated by Matt Sainsbury and published by No Starch Press, does not try to argue against those cranky naysayers who somehow are still convinced that video games are not art, it just accepts it as pure fact.

So yes, Game Art is an art book. It contains 260 pages sandwiched between two hardcovers (plus a really slick clouded dust jacket with a circular cutout simulating the effect of a spotlight on the underneath cover art). Those pages are packed with no shortage of lovely pieces of artwork and screenshots from more than 40 games across all genre spectrums, arranged into different categories such as Supernatural and Surreal, Fantasy Worlds, Culture and History, Childhood Influences, and Microbudget.

Those categories cover independent games like Tengami, Never Alone, Sunset, and Contrast; big budget blockbusters like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn; oddball Japanese games like Fairy Fencer F, Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God, and the Atelier series; and various others in between, from Lollipop Chainsaw and Alice: Madness Returns to Child of Light and Fatal Frame II.

AAA or indie, Japanese or Western, this book has it. The only art style that doesn’t get any representation is pixel art, which is a bit disappointing since there are a lot of developers out there doing amazing work with pixel art that takes the medium so far beyond a straight “hey, this looks just like an NES game!” nostalgia play.

While you’ll come for the beautiful and diverse artwork, you’ll stay for the insightful interviews. Whether it’s household names like American McGee from Spicy Horse, Goichi Suda from Grasshopper Manufacture, and Mike Laidlaw from Bioware, or indies you may not know a whole lot about like Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn from Tale of Tales, Neil Rennison from Tin Man Games, and Alex Norton from Visual Outbreak, author Matt Sainsbury’s questioning drove the creators to offer thoughtful responses about their work while also getting the chance to speak about their personal stories, their influences and inspirations.

This is an art book that digs beneath the face value beauty of visual imagery and showcases the artistic expression behind all facets of game design and storytelling, highlights some of the cultural and philosophical differences between Eastern and Western art sensibilities, tackles social topics like overt, exploitative sexuality and violence in games, and explores the struggle many developers have in trying to create new ideas and push boundaries versus sacrificing creativity and creative control to produce something that will grab an audience.

Game Art is a fantastic art book, but labeling it as just an art book is almost doing it a disservice because it really is so much more than the usual bound collection of printed artwork with light commentary and captions. Reading this book will make you ponder the message behind the games you play on a deeper level, giving you an even greater appreciation for games you already love while also potentially opening your eyes to titles you previously wouldn’t have paid any mind to. If you are an aspiring artist or at all interested in peeking into the creative minds behind the games you play, Game Art is mandatory reading (and viewing) material.

Game Art is now available from Amazon and No Starch Press at an MSRP of $39.95.

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Disclosure: A copy of Game Art was provided to VGBlogger.com for review by No Starch Press.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!