The Importance of Art

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sure, we all have heard the saying, but how often to we live by this idea? If I’m being completely honest, whenever I’m at a bookstore I usually pick up a book to see if it will be interesting by its cover. I don’t judge the book by this merit, I still read the first few pages before committing to a purchase, but the art is what gets my interest to begin with.

Games fall victim to this mentality to an even higher degree. The case art/steam splash screen art has to first grab my attention, and then the art style of the trailer and screenshots have to help seal the deal. Video games are a time investment, one where the user is agreeing to spend hours in the creators’ world. If they are going to give their time and money to look at something, then it needs to be pretty enough to look at. I’m not going to claim that the art is the only factor, or even that it is the most important, but it is a huge contributor to sales.

I bought Braid for its art style. Maybe that’s a stupid thing to admit, but it’s true. It looked amazing, and thankfully, buying into its charming, good looks paid off. The style of Samurai Gunn, not the art exactly, but the style, was a reason I bought it as well. I loved the fact that combat paused for half a second to highlight a kill in thrilling black bar format. Art and style, when done well, can eek out that advantage a game needs when going to market.

This applies to all games though. If you don’t think Borderlands gained attention because of cell-shading and epic character introductions, you’re dead wrong. When people pine over its personality they’re usually referring to the pitch perfect art direction.

Child of Light is on my wish list because of its awe inspiring art. Jazzpunk pretty much launched from it. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, games can kill themselves by relying on their previous successes. Do I want Hotline Miami 2? Absolutely. Am I as excited to get it as I was the first one? Nope.

Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War, and Battlefield are all dying slow deaths by being caught in a drench of much-of-the-sameness. Guitar Hero and Rock Band fell into this trap. Same game, different title. I understand the appeal of a sequel, but it does not mean that they cannot grow and their art styles mature. Honestly, what would be wrong with an Assassin’s Creed that glitches and takes place in a dream/nightmare? Gears of War could find a jungle every now and then.

It was a brilliant joke when Gearbox announced its artist discovered a new color they were calling “green”, but it was entirely deserved for the face of gaming as a whole at the time.

So what games have you bought for their art style? What new styles would you like to see? What about mashups of established games with imaginative art styles? Let us know in the comments.