Art Techniques That Would Make Great Games

Art is one of the greatest forms of expression we have as humans. It gives our creations so much individuality, cultural identities around the world and makes the world so much bigger. The idea that games are art is a deadened discussion. Instead, it’s better to discuss what art techniques will push them even further instead.

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Games can emerge from the simplest of ideas, but often tend towards hyper-realism, which can get a bit boring when it comes to what our daily lives look like. Games like Okami and Borderlands are so iconic for their unique looks and how they use them mechanically and visually. It’s a huge playground waiting to be explored.


7/7 Illuminated manuscript

In case the term is unfamiliar, illuminated manuscripts are those ancient medieval tomes filled with detailed calligraphy and vast illustrations, usually of a religious nature. They were made primarily out of religious devotion, although they often only detailed the history and culture of the world.

Along with Obsidian’s Pentiment, it’s one of the few games that actually shows what a game animated in that style could look like. However, these games do not have to be medieval. So many art styles could be implemented in a book of this style. The gameplay could stretch across the pages, or you could even design this great manuscript yourself.

6/7 wooden blocks

The woodcut was a form of printing from East Asia that predated the printing press but was used not only for the rapid reproduction of literature but also for the creation of distinct works of art. The process consisted of carving a design into a block of wood and coating it with ink before pressing it onto one side.

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Okami’s art style, ukiyo-e, is an art form that evolved from woodblock printing, although it would be remiss to consider it the sole application of the style. The technique could be used not only for art style but also as a gameplay tool. For example, carve your own blocks for customization or use the depth of the wooden block as a play environment.

5/7 stained glass

Stained glass is another technique with a deep religious history, used almost exclusively in the windows of places of worship. The actual creation process is intense, forming the section of clear glass and then melting it down to mix in colors and shape them into their final shapes before assembling them into their final structure.

In gameplay, much of Zelda’s art has been depicted in stained glass, although few games ever use this technique as their entire premise. The potential of puzzles in such a game, where the refraction of light itself is colored, is incredible. Characters could be designed as glass that could be colored and also broken and transformed into different structures.

4/7 rock art

Rock art (sometimes called parietal art) is a much broader spectrum of art and includes much of prehistoric art. These are rock carvings, geoglyphs (the huge carvings spread across fields that can only be seen from above) and of course cave paintings. It is often viewed as a primitive expression that ignores many of its unique properties.

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It’s not something that games outside of caving or exploring local history often touch on. Many cave paintings, for example, were actually painted in such a way that the light cast shadows of shapes like films as you moved deeper. There are many ways to expand such a concept. Or imagine embracing geoglyphs on such a massive scale while you are a tiny figure confined to the earth.

3/7 watercolor

Watercolor is one of the most recognizable forms of painting, both modern and historical. By suspending ink in water-based solutions, it offered much greater versatility, and the wide variation in composition and technique can be seen across cultures around the world.

Watercolor is actually a style that many games have used, albeit purely visually. There are great games rendered in this style, although very few actually use the medium in a mechanical way. How the watery ink stains the page, how characters might lose their colors, and how the environment they are in can affect their texture and substance. There are many ways to expand that would make it look like and feel well.

2/7 loam formation

Claymation has a long history in visual media, going hand-in-hand with stop motion to create beautiful stories and visually stunning works. There are many wonderful examples in film, from Wallace and Gromit to Coraline, though they’ve declined dramatically in gaming since their peak in the ’90s.

Funnily enough, there were a few decent stop-motion claymation games in the ’90s, most notably The Neverhood, although the scene has been barren ever since. It is an impressive technique artistically, but it could also be applied mechanically. Shape features of the world around you, real-time deformation and so on. For now, Harold Halibut is the shining light that can help bring Claymation back into the limelight.

1/7 graffiti

Everyone knows graffiti as a form of expression. It’s one of the more interesting art forms that relies less on rigid technique and more on raw individuality. It emerged in more modern times as a form of anti-establishment art, bringing vibrancy to the mellow gray of monotonous cityscapes.

The thing is that many games contain graffiti! From Jet Set Radio to Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, graffiti has been used extensively in gaming, but rarely has a match ever taken place inside art. Graffiti carries so many emotions of the creator in a way that is unique to other art forms. It could be used almost like psychonauts, using the graffiti as a means to visually represent characters in their own unique way.

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