How do we see video games in terms of art?


Is it the hyper-realistic art style of a thriller like Life Is Strange?

Or the bright lines and pastels in an indie, action-adventure like Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion?

Video games over time have taken on much newer interpretations, from story-driven games to games where you jump right into racing or fighting.

Often video game styles are tailored to a genre – from the scratchy graphics of Little Misfortune to the dark, saturated images of Five Nights At Freddy’s. An article by Jamin Warren on The Game Developer website reads, “She sold me on the idea that games are about interactions between players and systems. It’s so conversational that games have a way of encouraging certain types of behaviors.” When we look at a game like Life Is Strange, we see hyperrealism used as a lesson – not to induce fear, but rather tension. When we see people similar to us, they could be real people with real emotions. We relate to their story. We empathize less with characters in 2-D bodies being stabbed; but when we see a 3-D girl get shot, threatened, and cower for her life, we feel their pain, we rationalize that that could happen, and that is terrifying. But unlike horror, this tension doesn’t cause fear, but rather enhances the story. 

While Life Is Strange is a more fantasy-focused game, having powers in the main cast and an alternate world still allows us to relate to the characters.

One study done by the University Of Central Florida states, “For example, a realistic art style may not be best suited for a game that is predominantly cartoon-like in its gameplay, such as a game like Super Mario Bros.” Super Mario is captured in this style because using any other style would take away from the cartoonish power-ups and animations, leaving players with a game that feels playful and fun. We would much rather watch Mario stomp on a cartoon goomba than a realistic animal goomba.

This art style can adapt and change from game to game, but in creating a game, one needs to consider the genre and target audience. Life Is Strange has a different demographic than Mario does, and variations of Mario are a good example of how art styles and demographics differ. For example, Luigi’s haunted mansion appears darker with warm lighting. The game wants you to know – not only through words but when you first look – that something bad happened to Luigi. Even box art can influence who will buy the game.

In conclusion, “certain demographics may have become accustomed to a certain art style because of what they previously were exposed to. In that case, those demographics might not like it when a completely new art style is introduced to them in titles that they already know and love.” Video game arts influence depends on mood, demographic, and genre, causing its influence to be of the greatest importance for success.