This is starting to bug me – will the games art industry ever grow out its teenage years? And are the artists caught or complicit? Just a snapshot of links I came across this very morning.
I kiss the ground these artists walk on for their technical skills. I couldn’t create that. But that makes it double the shame that they use it on this kind of content.
What I see there are typical adolescent male fantasies and fears. Super hot girls, luring openly with their sexuality – but dangerous to come close to. Seriously, don’t dare!
And the male, strong prose. Protecting that poor female in the background, holding her back. Surely I’m not the only one noticing how shocked she looks at that immense shiny gun trusting into the foreground.
Or maybe it’s because I talk with a friend about metaphors a lot recently – these things are not just pretty images. They say something with the content. That’s what the artists of our industry have been completely ignoring. What is expressed here? Could we actually instead have a message – maybe even a positive one?
Just to be clear I’m not against sexy girls in art. There are sexy girls in our lives, right? But they don’t all dress with little metal plates on their breasts. They are not just victims waiting for protection. Nor are they gonna burn us with fire (not always anyways).
The symbols get in the way of creating believable art. The woman in the first image above would loose all clothing in a second. Sometimes some tiny strings might just be necessary – I don’t even think they would cover her up all that much. And is nipple-armor really sufficient for battle?
These questions have been already covered wonderfully – I’m not saying anything new here. It’s just that the industry is not moving.
Serving the adolescent male target group has become the only tactic. And while that is a valid group to create art for – even mirroring their fears and desires – it can’t be 90% of the market. Feminist Frequency had a great video about Lego, how they intentionally started targeting this group, and lost their general appeal. And how they’re now in a spiral that they can’t seem to get out of anymore.
You hurt your sales – and maybe you’re even hurting other possible groups?
Artists have to work for the industry – I am part of it and don’t exempt myself from any critique. Sometimes there is no choice and sometimes it’s just fine anyways. But many continue the same in their spare time, when they have a choice. If you do something all life long, maybe it becomes routine too much? Maybe one learns to do the technique better and better – while forgetting to evolve on the subject. You stop to think about the “why” – “why are you doing art”?
Just another example of today’s news – a game people have likeley spend millions of dollar and years of work on:
Star Wars 1313 is probably cancelled now – and it’s said to have been losing steam for a while. Maybe there is a reason. It seems empty in game mechanics (“duck, shoot, roll” for the millionth time). The characters are B-movie cliche’s that movies got rid off after the 80s.
The showing off of testosterone levels again hurts believability: why do the guys jump into space without even checking? Why should I care about it, when they don’t? And will their attitude appeal to a broader audience than hardcore gamers? It might hurt others groups and your appeal in the long run.
This 3D-art has the same syndrome: Detail, detail, detail – shows off super high skill! But no style and no heart.
Mindless entertainment is OK. But if it’s mindless, don’t expect people to miss it when it’s gone.
And if nobody will miss your art, why spend your lifetime creating it?
Im liking the blog and agreeing, but why not take it a step further! Game art is often fantasy art chewing and re-chewing upon itself. Genderstereotyping is only a part of this. I know that indie games are definitely an answer in going beyond and besides the eternal overstylized and mainly realist style of artwork, but I would love to see games becoming representations of truly new and exciting ways of sketching different, unknown spaces and worlds. In my dreams games are possibilities for discovering unknown, untraveled dimensions just as much as psychedelics can be so. Artwork would be a major factor and contribution to going wild while stepping through the looking glass.
P.S. It would add well to this blog to name some alternative game artwork that is taking the right evolutionary steps according to you.
True, there are alternatives. I just wanted to vent what I felt this morning, when all games news and illustrations I saw fell into this stereotype category. And sadly, all bigger project do too… just bores me to death.
Rez comes to mind by your description. That was really something different visually. Would be cool to go further – and still make it fun games to play.
As an artist I can tell you, it does not matter if it’s a large publisher or an indie, I’m asked to do the same imagery over and over. I have tried to deviate from the art briefs many times only to have the creator of the game have me ‘sex’ it up or make it typically cliche. So, in many regards this article is hitting the wrong people. The artists are taking their orders from the game company. Sure, you can say no….I’m sure the landlord will understand!
Many game makers well past their teens are mentally still there, so the prospect of a scantily clad vixen is exciting to them. Don’t believe me? Try going to a convention to see 40 year old adults act like they’ve just entered pubescence.
In defense of this imagery, it is what it is…FANTASY. Not a mirror of reality! Imagine how boring games would be if all they do was to mirror our own world and ideals. I mean isn’t that exactly why we play fantasy games? To escape the boredom around us and allow a little escapism and to not pile on all the baggage that builds up around us in our ‘real’ lives.
Hi Den. Thanks for the reaction.
I think one point I didn’t bring out as clear as I wanted to (or maybe it wasn’t as clear to me when I wrote it) is that artists don’t use their freedom even if they have it. For example I hear that Applibot (of one of the examples above) is a great client – leaving a lot of creative room.
And many do the same gratuitous poses and dresses after work. CGhub is filled with it. And I wonder if it’s conditioning: You get used to it, you get money for it, you get props for it… so you never do anything else. You never question yourself.
I don’t demand realism really – I think believability is another thing altogether. A magician doesn’t need armor, I buy that even though it’s not real.
Nor do I ask all games/art to be the same. It’s just that the adolescent-male fantasy totally won out. Does it really even reflect the gamers of today? Why can’t there be more diverse fantasy worlds? I imagine a huge field there for games that try to create a deep meaningful alternative world… maybe something that’s not just about a struggle about dominance.
One reason I blame the artists is that the people in game companies that make the decisions are likely artists too. The lead artists and art directors – so the more senior ones… sadly not the really adult. And I personally believe that it’s not positive business-wise.
But yeah, I guess I can’t argue against your 40year old juveniles argument :)