Matt Sainsbury’s Game Art ($39.95) presents an excellent way for anyone whether they’re a gamer or not, to appreciate the assorted art styles used in different videogames. One of the big (but somewhat meaningless) debates that has been ongoing for ages is what constitutes “good” art when in actuality, learning to love the different looks games have from “retro” to realistic is the more appropriate manner of seeing things.
Game Art tackles this subject with a wide range of art styles and some great interviews with the people who’ve created the wondrous art in this 250 page tome.
While the art is uniformly lovely throughout, the more interesting things here are the interviews with assorted creators. A passion for the medium seems to be the uniting factor, but you’ll also see some games are made in response to world events, as a means of teaching history or even personal issues some artists have had in the past. Of course, there are a few tales of games made at the wishes of a corporation, but it’s also in these cases where the overall art style was left to the artists, which is always a good thing.
While the book has a number of recognizable mainstream titles from major publishers, Sainsbury is smart enough to add a bunch of PC/console indie games well worth checking out as well as a few niche games that generally only do well with a certain crowd (the Atelier series of games by Gust). It’s also of note that there’s a great interview about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that directly addresses the game’s revival from its initial failure to it’s rebirth as a far (FAR) better and more enjoyable game experience (with some truly lovely art).
One of the more amusing things personally learned from this collection is there are a handful of games here I didn’t care much at all for when I played them (Monster Monpiece, Hyperdimension Neptunia) that I now appreciate a bit more after reading the interviews. Sainsbury clearly has a deep respect for the works of Goichi Suda (Suda51) and Hidetaka Suehiro (SWERY65), as they get some nice coverage. Tale of Tales’ Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn have a nice set of images and a fine interview that’s a bit sad because since the book has come out, the company has stopped making commercial games thanks to the failure of SUNSET, their excellent and innovative adventure game that failed to capture a wide enough audience.
Overall, Game Art should make a more than excellent gift for anyone looking to gain insight into the pre-production and even the development process behind the scenes. Hell, you can even buy this one if you just want to look at the pictures and that’ll be all right because it’s part of enjoying a good or not so good game at the end of the day. Hopefully this one will get a follow up with even more creators as Sainsbury’s interviewing style of smarter than the average questions and allowing his subjects to have enough room to reply has made for quite the compelling read.