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Review: Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games and Interviews with Their Creators

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Words, Play, and Pictures

Video Game art books are often bound by a specific game, game developer, genre or era with rare exceptions being anthology collections. It is rarer still to see both Eastern and Western video game art contained within a single title due to their contrasting art styles and philosophies. Game Art bucks these traditions to assemble one of the most versatile collections of video game art to be published and dives into the mind's of their creators provided by thought-provoking interviews and commentary on their work.

Video Game art books are often bound by a specific game, game developer, genre or era with rare exceptions being anthology collections. It is rarer still to see both Eastern and Western video game art contained within a single title due to their contrasting art styles and philosophies. Game Art bucks these art book traditions to compile the most varied collections of video game art to be published and dives into the mind's of their creators provided by thought-provoking interviewers.

Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games and Interviews with Their Creators 
Published By: No Starch Press
Written By: Matt Sainsbury
Released: September 10, 2015
MSRP: $39.95
ISBN-13: 978-1593276652

Game Art is a compilation of video game artwork based on the thoughts and insights from the developers. There is a great variety of games on display from modern western hits; Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alice: The Madness Returns to Japan's contemporary contributions; Dead or Alive 5 and Hyperdimension Neptunia. This artbook even includes old indie titles like The Path and last generation horror classic Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly to round out the eclectic collection. I never got the impression that it was leaning towards a specific art style, gaming genre, or cultural developer, providing readers with something interesting upon each revisit. 

In terms of the type of art on display, Game Art runs the gambit of exhibiting a mixture of in-game screenshots, promotional box art, and concept art. Again there isn't a large focus on anything in particular as each character portraits, background art, or in-game assets serve to compliment the creator's interview. Every piece is a high-quality visual that helps set the tone of the game it is representing. There is a nice selection of double page spreads that, fortunately, avoids the pitfall of losing artwork in the spine thanks to intelligent curation. However, those looking for only video game artwork will be sorely mistaken. This book is driven by the creator interviews and therefore, dictates the pieces presented within. 

Game Art is not so much a book filled with video game art as it is a book talking about the "art" in video games. Art is presented in quotations as it describes the broader definition of the word rather than the layman term regarding a picture or visual. And this is also where the book shines. Matt Sainsbury has done a wonderful job collecting the thoughts and design philosophies of many different game creators allowing readers to delve deeper into the craftsmanship of the games they love.

The writing is simple, coherent, and concise with any jargon used being immediately explained making it easy for anyone with a passing interest to enjoy. Reading about the history behind a game, inspiration on a style or even the origins of a studio kept me interested long after the ecstasy from the visuals had subsided. Each interview can be read in a quick 5-minute burst, but since each creator comes off as extremely personable that I often found myself binging on chapters at a time. The commentary provided on each game is very satisfying giving readers insight into the games they love. 

The copy being reviewed is a hardback with a translucent sleeve that frames the protagonist from the game Contrast on the front cover. It's a nice cover and the pages have a clean layout playing it safe with black lettering on a white background for text and choosing full pictures rather than grouping together several smaller pieces onto one page. As a result, the book feels more educational in tone and more suited sitting next to The Art of Game Design on a wooden bookshelf rather than sharing space with Udon's Art of Capcom Franchise on your coffee table. Counting in at 272 pages there is a lot of content here to keep you reading through a long afternoon or for frequent pickups throughout the week. The hardback binding gives Game Art a good strong feel so you can really get into the pages without fearing for the spine. 

As the saying goes regarding books and their covers, Game Art cannot purely be defined as an artbook of video games. There isn't enough art here to satisfy the price tag for a customer wishing for a collection of video game art. I was in the same boat when approaching this title after reading through the whole thing I was pleasantly surprised. I came for the art but stayed for the writing. Game Art provides an insightful window into the mind's of the creators to help supplement the games the reader plays. Those with an interest for game design, visual presentation, or just a love of video games will have an incredibly hard time passing this title up.

[This review is based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.]

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (25 Sept. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1593276656
ISBN-13: 978-1593276652
(The copy being reviewed was provided by the publisher No Starch Press)
Game Art is a compilation of video game artwork with thoughts and insights from the people that had created them. There is a great variety of games on display from familiar modern hits; Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alice: The Madness Returns to Japan's contemporary contributions; Dead or Alive 5 and Hyperdimension Neptunia. This artbook even includes old indie titles like The Path and last generation horror classic Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly to round out its eclectic collection. I never got the impression that it was leaning towards a specific art style, gaming genre, or pattern, providing readers with something interesting after every opening.
In terms of art on display, Game Art runs the gambit of exhibiting a mixture of in-game screenshots, promotional box art, and concept art. Again there isn't a large focus on character portraits, background art, or in-game assets as each piece is complimenting the creator's interview. Every piece is a high-quality visual that helps set the tone of the game it is representing. There is a nice selection of double page spreads that, fortunately, avoids the pitfall of losing artwork in the spine thanks to intelligent curation. However, those looking for a purely eye candy tome will be sorely mistaken as this book is primarily driven by the creator interviews which also dictate the pieces presented within.
Game Art is not so much a book filled with video game art as it is a book talking about the "art" in video games. Art is presented in quotations as it describes the broader definition of the word rather than the layman term regarding a picture or visual. This is also where the book shines. Matt Sainsbury has done a wonderful job in collecting the thoughts and design philosophies of many different game creators allowing readers to delve deeper into the craftsmanship of the games they love. The writing is simple with any jargon being immediately explained making it easy for anyone with a passing interest to enjoy. Reading about the history behind a game, inspiration on a style or even the origins of a studio kept me interested long after the ecstasy from the visuals had subsided. Each interview is succinct enough for quick 5-minute reads, but since each creator is extremely personable that I often found myself binging chapters at a time. The commentary provided on each game is very satisfying to read as it gives readers another perspective on the games they love.
The copy being reviewed is a hardback with a translucent sleeve that frames the front cover featuring the protagonist from the game Contrast. It's a nice cover and the insides have a clean layout playing it safe with black lettering on a white background for text and choosing full pictures rather than grouping together several smaller pieces onto one page. The result makes the book feel more educational in tone and more suited sitting next to The Art of Game Design on a bookshelf rather than sandwiched in-between Udon's Capcom volumes and a manga artbook. Counting in at 260 pages there is a lot of content here to keep you reading through a long afternoon or for frequent pickups throughout the week.
Game Art cannot purely be defined as an artbook of video games despite its presentation. There isn't enough art in here to satisfy the price tag for a customer wishing for a collection of video game art. Game Art instead, provides a window into the mind's of the creators to help supplement the games the reader plays. Those with an interest for game design, visual presentation, and a love of video games will have an incredibly hard time passing this title up.
9/10


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Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games reviewed by Anthony Redgrave

9

SUPERB

A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Anthony Redgrave
Anthony RedgraveContributor   gamer profile

Born in the 90's, Anthony was raised on Anime and cultivated a strong passion for Japanese culture and paraphernalia. He has dabbled all manner of web shenanigans; from webcomics to game developm... more + disclosures


 



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