Video Games as Art / Inspiration

I wrote this post last week as I was waiting patiently for my turn to play Fallout 4 one evening. I recently took part in a discussion among artists about video games, and it seemed that the general consensus was that they’re too big of a waste of time to play these days. If I were still playing World of Warcraft or Runescape like in my teenage years, I would have to agree, but video games have become much more than a mindless time-sink. I like devoting my spare time to video games these days, they open my mind to new creative possibilities. So here’s my little blog post to try and give them the respect they deserve.


Visuals:

Video games have become an art form. With recent advancements in graphics, video games have begun taking their look seriously. Talented artists craft rich worlds in unique styles, giving some games the feeling that you’re walking through a painting. Here are some games that heavily influenced my own artwork and my view of the world.

In my teens I discovered the video games that had amazing stories, inspiring visuals, and challenging controls. The first game to inspire me was Syberia, whose artistic style made me want to be concept artist. Syberia combines an emotional story with beautiful imagery and a heart wrenching soundtrack to create an experience that stays with you for years.

The first area of Syberia, "Valadilene".

The first area of Syberia, “Valadilene”.

Some video games have altered how I appreciate the world around me. It wasn’t until I played Red Dead Rememption that I saw the beauty in the prairie landscape that I live in. Riding through canyons, deserts and fields combined with its emotional soundtrack helped make me see the appeal of the “old west”, and the sometimes desolate landscape that is Alberta. Here is one of the most moving scenes from the game. Its the first time you ride into the beautiful Mexico, and this emotional song by Jose Gonzales greets you.

 

Another game that influenced how I appreciate the “ugly” sights around me is Grand Theft Auto V. This one might be hard to understand, as its a franchise known for its ruthless crime sprees and sexism. But GTA V is more complex than its predecessors, with its focus on friends and family relationships. But that’s beside the point. When I bought this game, we were living in a crappy apartment in downtown Calgary. I hated the place- the people were rude, there were no trees in sight, and it felt like an urban wasteland. When I picked up GTA V, all of a sudden I saw the beauty and excitement of city lights at night, I found the sound of cars driving in the rain meditative, I found character in the grey place I lived in. It made living in that place a lot more palatable.

Los Santos at sunset

Dragon Age: Inquisition had an amazing art style. The paintings used throughout the game made the well-crafted world that much more enticing to explore. With every new character unlocked, with every new region explored, I would get to see more of the tarot-style paintings created by the talented concept artists.

Portraits representing characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition


 

Storytelling:

Dragon Age: Inquisition was interesting for me. I didn’t really care for the style of exploration and combat (I become very overpowered very fast) but the characters drew me into the story. You play as “The Inquisitor” the head of an organization trying to protect your world from demons. You make friends along the way and can then socialize with them, even having romantic relationships. I  wish I had realized that this was a major part of the game earlier; once the game was finished, I felt a great sense of loss that my friends were leaving and I had barely gotten to know them. Characters matter now in gaming, people seem to be bored of the usual archetypes.

Some of the characters from DA: I

Some of the characters from DA: I.

Telltale Games, to me, have taken storytelling to a new level. These unique games use dialogue as the primary gameplay, where your characters decisions craft the outcome of the story. Its like watching a film, but I’m in the film as the main character, controlling my actions. The Walking Dead game is my favourite of theirs so far (I’ve also played the sequel and the Game of Thrones game), where I knew nothing of the “Walking Dead” world, but the story was so compelling that I became hooked instantly. Zombies were the least of my worries. The main problems I faced were the politics of the survivors I encountered and the happiness and well being of Clementine, the small girl travelling with us. These games really showed me what the medium can do. I highly recommend Telltale games to anyone who isnt interested in the combat style of usual video games.

How you speak to other characters shapes the story

How you speak to other characters shapes the story

Fallout 4 has also made me realize just how far storytelling has come in video games. While its predecessors had excellent main quests and interesting side stories, its really been perfected in this new game. Yes, it still has me battling mutated monsters in the apocalypse, but that’s not why I play. I make my way around the map travelling from building to building, peeking around every corner for interesting items or new stories. When I go into a building with computers, I have to check every computer for journal logs or employee notices that give me a bit of history about the place. I check every note I get, I talk to every non-playable-character (npc), I listen to every companion’s chatter as we walk the wasteland.

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Found in a raider base, even the bad guys have a sense of humour.

I want to talk about the depth of the visual storytelling in this game. No other game I’ve played puts as much care into crafting an environment. Every skeleton has a reason for being there – I found a bar where the patrons had been drinking, smoking and having a nice time when the bombs went off, their skeletons told the story. Every little cabin, every deserted bus, every hole in the ground, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has a story to tell. It gives the humanity back to these skeletons, they’re not just scenery, they represent the people trying to get by just like you. In some raider bases, you find teddy bears posed endearingly, making you realize that the raiders are people trying to survive too. If you stop and listen to their conversation, you find bits about their backstory, or how they hate their leader, or how they lost everything and they’re just doing their best. Every bad guy has a reason for being there, and I want to find out all of it. I dont know anyone who plays Fallout for the main quest line, everyone who loves the game seems to love it for the detailed world that you get to uncover.

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This scene is found in an office where the company was experiencing financial difficulties before the war. This scene must have taken place when the bombs dropped… Some scenes are more grim than others.


Video games will continue to help me grow as a storyteller, an artist and a person. To me, there is no other art form as immersive and exciting. Thanks for reading!

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Little Jack Frost

I haven’t updated this blog in a little while, but I’ll post a couple more updates with all of the exciting news and progress shots that I’ve accumulated. I’ve been working on a time consuming commission this past month, but I’ve started doing little paintings in my spare time. This is going to be a series of original paintings that illustrate fairy tales and myths, the paintings will be up for sale in a couple of weeks. This guy is “Little Jack Frost” and will act as my holiday card.

serena malyon illustration childrens book jack frost fairy tale winter christmas