@EXPLORING_GAMEART – DA

Concept

My Digital Artefact can be found here.

When starting BCM215, I was excited to study, research and create a project based upon video games. In the first week I had multiple ideas that I wanted to research and write about, and since I had recently finished The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015), Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus (2017), most of these ideas revolved around these three games.

One thing these all shared in common was their use of art in-game, and therefore I decided the topic of my project would be:

“An exploration of concept art, how it is used to shape video games, and how it is used in other capacities in both the game itself and its surrounding paratexts. To do so I will include games such as the Witcher, Wolfenstein and Crash Bandicoot series as a basis for my research.”

Methodology

After deciding upon my topic, the time came to decide how I would present it. I had three available options, a YouTube channel, Instagram account or a Website. In my pitch, I stated that I would most likely use a YouTube channel, however, I decided upon an Instagram account due to its ease of access and be able to post easily from mobile or laptop.

My Digital Artefact began with an introductory post, and 5 posts where I showed the games I would be discussing. I then shared my first two proper posts, where I introduced The Witcher 3, and discussed Gwent’s use of Art. After researching this, I realised that what I was referring to as “Concept Art” was actually In-game art, concept art and promotional art, three very different things. I addressed this in my beta and updated my project statement to reflect this realisation:

“An exploration of video game art, how it is used in video game development, and how it is used in other capacities in the game and its surrounding paratexts. Using the Witcher, Wolfenstein and Crash Bandicoot series for my research.”

I also changed my Instagram name from @exploring_conceptart to @exploring_gameart, then continued with my series, and looked at both Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus.

Utility

During this project, I found that there was a very limited amount of research regarding video game art. Therefore, I hope to inform my audience on the type of art that is used both in the production of video games and in the final product, as well as open up conversation on the topic.

Feedback

Throughout the course of this project, feedback was mostly gained through the Pitch and Beta peer reviews and comments by other students. I also used Instagram stories to ask my audience questions to get to know them better.

One point of feedback that I managed to gain inspiration from was that I should take a look at the art of a game and compare it to the in-game models. I managed to mention this in my final post, however due to time constraints wasn’t able to fully explore it. I also asked my audience whether they prefer to read text in an image, or in the posts caption, to which 60% of people responded with the latter, and so in my subsequent posts I kept image text to a minimum, with only quotes in some posts.

Analytical Framework

When undertaking this assignment, the approach I used was a structuralist approach, as this involves analysing the underlying structure of a text and how this influences features like Gameplay. This approach was based upon three frames I used in this project, which were:

–  What influenced the art when being created?

–  What purpose the art serves?

–  How the player interacts with the art.

Limitations and Successes

When undertaking this project, the major limitation I had was time. Completing 3 other subjects and working at the same time meant I was unable to fully dedicate myself to this project. This lack of time meant I was also unable to take a look at two games – Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. When doing my research, there was also a distinct lack of conversation regarding concept art and video games. Therefore, I was unable to use a large range of academic sources and instead relied upon non-academic sources, such as interviews with game designers, for my project.

Despite this, I believe I was successful in what I achieved. During this project I was able to receive feedback and make changes to improve my digital artefact. I also believe my style of posting was effective, as I used the image portion of my posts to show the art I was talking about, with the caption containing the explanation of what I had learnt about each game. Though my project only achieved 21 followers, I was able to engage with them through stories and comments, which helped me know what was working and what wasn’t. I also learned a lot about video game art from this project, such as the three types of art used in video games, and therefore believe this was extremely beneficial and successful.

Thanks for sticking by me and seeing how my project developed!

BETA Self-Reflection

After posting our BCM215 BETA videos, we are once again required to give feedback to 3 people regarding their Digital Artefact and their Beta video. For the Beta, I have commented on the same people that I commented on in the pitch, as this means I can see the progress they have made and comment on how they have progressed since my last comments. The three blogs I have commented on are Seth Galvin, Elliot Boswell and Jett Townsend.

Seth Galvin – Super Smash Bros.

Seth’s Digital Artefact is an analysis of the Super Smash Bros. series, presented as blogs on his website. He has posted the first of his blogs recently, where he looks at the original game, Super Smash Bros. 64 (1999), the competitive history behind the game and his own personal experience playing the game as a child.

His blog was quite interesting to read, however as a newcomer to the game, I don’t feel I was able to connect as well as someone familiar with the game could have. To counter this, I did some research into the game, and came across this video. I linked this video in my blog and commented that it could be a good resource for him to incorporate into his blogs, as it would give people like myself a starting point for the series, as it discusses the terminology and moves that the series has.

Another suggestion I gave him was that he could make a blog post where he analyses each game’s characters, why they’re included and why some are removed or not included. Since Super Smash Bros. has a large roster of characters from other games it could be interesting to see why those particular characters are selected.

Elliot Boswell – Playing History

Boswell’s Digital Artefact is a collaborative YouTube channel with a friend, where they discuss the historical accuracy of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Boswell has posted one video so far, taking a look at Assassin’s Creed Origins, which is set in Egypt and features fictional portrayals of historical figures such as Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.

In his Beta, Boswell outlines how the videos are taking longer than expected to create, so in my comment I suggested that they combine two or more games together into one video, and proposed that he combine Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Flag and Rogue into one video, and Assassin’s Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations into another, since these games are linked more than the others.  

I also suggested that he try to reduce white noise and make the sound effects quieter, as it is hard to hear Boswell and his friend talking. By reducing the background sounds, it could make editing the videos easier, as he would be louder to hear.

Jett Townsend – Nostalgia/Crash Bandicoot

Jett is continuing his Digital Artefact around the topic of nostalgia in video games, especially in relation to Crash Bandicoot. Jett is conducting his Digital Artefact as a series of interviews posted to his blog, as well as on Tik Tok, where he posts gameplay of Crash Bandicoot. Each of Jett’s blog posts has him recounting his conversations with different people and discussing their history with the game.

In my comment on Jett’s beta I discussed the Tony Hawk Pro Skater game series (which he mentions in his beta), as in 2012, Activision released a remaster of the original THPS, as THPS: HD, and recently in September 2020, THPS 1 + 2 was released – another remaster of the original two games. I mentioned how it is interesting that Activision have released two remasters of the same game with two very different responses to each other. I then suggested he should look into this, and research whether any other games have been remastered more than once.

Reflection of Comments

Overall, I believe my comments will be helpful for Seth, Elliot and Jett, as I was able to relate to their topics and provide my own research and background knowledge. I believe the suggestions I gave will help in both their research as well as their presentation of their research. When reflecting back on my comments, the thing that needs the most improving is how I relate back to subject readings and materials, however I did manage to provide some helpful links for each topic which I believe may prove helpful for my peers.

Exploring Game Art: Beta

I have also received feedback from 3 peers in the BCM215 cohort which provided some great insights into my project which I hadn’t considered yet. One suggestion I was given was to research into which companies push for concept art to be integrated more and which prefer to keep it for behind the scenes use only. According to the student, Sony seems to like incorporating concept art into its games more than some other companies do, so this could be an interesting point to find out more about, especially since I’m already researching Crash Bandicoot.

A second point of feedback which I think could be extremely interesting, is comparing the concept art of locations, characters and items with their in-game equivalents. This will allow me to showcase how influential concept art is in a game’s development. It was also brought to my attention that the Witcher uses art in another form as at the end of each chapter in the story, art is used to depict the events that just occurred. This reviewer also suggested that I use YouTube for my project, however I instead decided upon Instagram.

Another piece of advice was for me to look at how art made by other sources separate of the game developers can have an impact on the game and its community. Fan Art is an extremely strong part of the gaming community and therefore could be another interesting topic to look at.

Though I have done copious amounts of research, there is still very little academic articles analysing video game art’s role in video game development. The majority of the sources available seem to be focused upon how much artists can earn in the industry.

Moving forward, there are three key frames I’d like to examine my topic from, which are:

  • Expressionism – What the role of emotions may have in game art and the feelings that are evoked when viewing art.
  • Artistic Licence of the Material – Whether artists are acknowledged or have any ownership over the art.
  • Narrative Design – How art can influence the player, the effect of the art on the game.

Self-Reflection #1

As part of my Digital Artefact for BCM215, I was required to comment on 3 other pitches, to provide feedback on the work they had done and to provide extra resources for them to use. For this, I commented on Seth Galvin, Elliot Boswell and Jett Townsend’s pitches.

Seth Galvin – Competitive Super Smash Bros.

For his digital artefact, Seth is exploring the competitive nature of Super Smash Bros. To do this, he will be playing 4 of the 5 Smash Bros. games then comparing the differences, such as the movesets of certain characters, what has been removed and what has been added to each game. I am interested in Seth’s topic as the competitive side of gaming isn’t something I have explored personally.

Seth also plans on engaging with the Reddit, Facebook and YouTube communities dedicated to the franchise, to gain perspectives and additional information from people who are knowledgeable on the topic.

My comment starts off by praising his pitch, as I believe his idea of reaching out to gaming communities is an excellent way to gain extra knowledge. I then stated that another point Seth could research is why Smash Bros. has remained popular for so long despite having so few titles, then gave a potential reason as to why this is.

I also linked Seth’s topic back to the week 7/week 8 subject reading and lecture content “Computer games as participatory media culture” by Joost Raessens (2005), and how people actively and passively participate in competitive gaming communities.

Finally, I suggested to Seth some potential platforms he could use for his DA, including Instagram and YouTube, to help give him some ideas for how to run the project.


Elliot Boswell – Playing History

Elliot’s Digital Artefact, Playing History, is a YouTube channel where he and a his partner will be analysing the Assassin’s Creed series and taking a look at their historical accuracy. In their videos, they plan to discuss the educational value that these games have in regards to students learning about history.

In my comment, I focused on the potential effects that using video games as an educational material may have. One of the effects I spoke about is that since these video games include characters created solely for the game, any interactions involving them cannot be historically accurate, since they never truly existed. Therefore using these games as a source of learning would need moderation to ensure student’s don’t mix up the game narrative with what actually happened.

I then spoke about the positive effects of video games, that they allow people to visualise what happened rather than just reading about it. I also linked a source that spoke about how this benefits people, as it provokes players to think about why events happened the way they did, therefore allowing them to learn from what they have witnessed.

I also linked some subreddits that could provide useful insights and information into the topics Elliot is researching, as these are large, friendly communities that are often extremely helpful in uncovering information.


Jett Townsend – Crash Bandicoot Nostalgia

The focus of Jett’s Digital Artefact is nostalgia in relation to the recently-remade Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy. Jett discusses the reasons why nostalgia is so influential in video games as well as what internal and external factors can trigger nostalgia in people.

I begin my comment by reminiscing on my childhood and my fond memories of playing the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy with my family. I then go on to discuss the reasoning behind remakes and remasters, particularly whether games are remade because people are asking for them or really want them, or if company’s make them because they are easy money-makers, due to requiring less work and already having a dedicated fanbase. A source I linked discusses how whilst remakes and remasters are good at times, they don’t pave the way for the future of the video game industry. Therefore, I suggested that Jett take a look at whether or not the Crash Bandicoot games necessary and asked for by fans.

I also suggested that Jett connect with r/crashbandicoot and r/gaming to get some extra opinions and further insights, as these communities are highly invested in the topic Jett is researching.

Reflection On Comments

Overall, I believe I was able to connect to the people I commented on and understand what their topic was and how they’re going to do it. My research into Seth’s, Elliot’s and Jett’s topics yielded helpful academic and non-academic articles that I was able to relate to their project, which I hope they can use when developing their digital artefact. The thing I feel needed improvement in my comments was how I relate the subject readings and topics to their project. I was able to do this with Seth but was unable to in the others. Therefore my focus for the Beta comments will be relating our subject content to their projects. Despite this, I feel my comments were largely helpful, as I also managed to link some online communities that I believe may be useful. I believe I have learnt from this experience, both about the topics of competitive gaming, historical accuracy and nostalgia, as well as about what parts of my own digital artefact and the feedback I give need improving.



References

Raessens, J. 2005, “Computer games as participatory media culture”, Handbook of Computer Games Studies, pp. 373-388, accessed 10/9/2020

r/assassinscreed, https://www.reddit.com/r/assassinscreed/ accessed 10/9/2020

r/gaming, https://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/ accessed 10/9/2020

r/history, reddit.com/r/history/ accessed 10/9/2020

r/crashbandicoot, https://www.reddit.com/r/crashbandicoot/ accessed 10/9/2020

r/supersmashbros, https://www.reddit.com/r/supersmashbros/ accessed 10/9/2020

Shaw, A. 2015, “The Tyranny of Realism: Historical accuracy and politics of representation in Assassin’s Creed III”, https://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/157, accessed 10/9/2020

ThermalTake, 2020, “Game Remakes and Remasters: Harmless nostalgia, or shameless cash grabs?”, https://blog.thermaltake.com.au/2020/05/game-remakes-and-remasters-harmless-nostalgia-or-shameless-cash-grabs/, accessed 10/9/2020,

Exploring Concept Art: Pitch

The games I aim to research for my project are:

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • Wolfenstein: The New Colossus
  • Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy
  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

I have chosen these games due to my familiarity and fondness for them. I believe studying these games will be more beneficial than games I am less familiar with as I am already knowledgeable about these and will be able to apply this knowledge.

As I will be analysing three separate video game series, my project will be split into three individual stages. In my first stage, I will be taking a look at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and how it uses its concept art in its in-game minigame, Gwent.

Secondly, I will be taking a look at both Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Both these games use Concept Art in different capacities, with The New Order having the art be unlocked at the end of each level, whereas The New Colossus makes it’s art in-game collectibles.

Thirdly and finally, I will be taking a look at how the Crash Bandicoot series, particularly Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. CTR:NF used its concept art in its end credits, and so far I have been unable to find anything regarding N-Sane Trilogy’s official concept art, however, I will continue to research this, as I am interested why they haven’t done anything with it.

When exploring the topic of Concept Art, I have noticed that there is not a large amount of  research regarding Concept Art in Video Games, as most discussion regarding the topic is simply about what it is and why they do it, rather than how else it is used. However, I have still been able to find both academic and non-academic articles discussing the topic and therefore feel I will have enough to talk about.

As well as researching my topic, I also plan on engaging with people via Twitter to find out what they think about concept art and if they know of any good examples of it being used in the games industry. By asking others for feedback and insights, I will be able to gain more perspectives on this topic other than my own.



References:

IGN, 2014, ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order – Concept Art’, IGN, accessed 3/9/2020, https://www.ign.com/wikis/wolfenstein-new-order/Concept_Art

Kutz, S, 2019, ‘Gaming Industry Explained: Concept Art for 3D Games’, Medium, accessed 3/9/2020, https://medium.com/imeshup/gaming-industry-explained-concept-art-for-3d-games-d88ad8492fb1

Smith, R, & Farrell J, 2014, ‘Concept Art Best Practices for the Video Game Industry and Classic Illustration Techniques’, accessed 3/9/2020 http://www.victoriarehfeldsmith.com

Gabriel, P. 2015, ‘The Witcher 3 Gwent Cards and Concept Art by Marek Madej’ , abdz., accessed 3/9/2020, https://abduzeedo.com/witcher-3-gwent-cards-and-concept-art-marek-madej

Concept Art World, 2015, ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Concept and Promo Art’, Concept Art World, accessed 3/9/2020, http://conceptartworld.com/news/the-witcher-3-wild-hunt-concept-art/