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How the art direction of a video game affects its emotional impact

Art is a creation that addresses the audience’s senses while the artist is going through a cathartic experience themselves. No two creations have the same theme or attack the same emotions because the artists are always feeling different emotions and making separate points about what their piece means. It’s hard to hear a drawing, but through video games, you can immerse yourself into the drawing, walking around and hearing the music and surroundings all at once. Through video games, the audience comes in contact with more of their senses, feeling the intended meanings and personal interpretations of what the creator was trying to impart. Some games can critique society or simply provide a place for people to go and release emotions after a long day.

With more rigorous and violent games, the player can feel more powerful or even scared of what is happening on the screen. More cute style games are less intense and often are more relaxing to play than ones with a more realistic style. Sharp imagery is the style of very prominent details that have a bigger contrast between the colors, giving the image a crisper aesthetic. Soft imagery, on the other hand, blends the details, making the subject more diluted and blended with the background. These styles are seen throughout most art pieces, enhancing the message they’re trying to encompass visually. I wanted to immerse myself in these art styles myself to get an idea of what video game art really means and how it affects the players.

Rocket League

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I started with Rocket League, a sports game, which has many styles blended. Although having a sharp concept, the game also has a more cute style with neon lights combined with intense techno music. At first glance, I loved the concept of little go-karts in a field competing at soccer. Once I started playing, the combo of intense music and neon lights around the field got me exhilarated and determined to get the ball into the goal, building a sense of chaotic fun. My mind was focused, but my heart was racing. It was the kind of experience were you block everything else out while you are competing against the other players.

Broforce

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Up next I tried Broforce, which was an extremely violent pixel art style game. I actually hated how much I kept wanting to play. With the excessive explosions and pixelated blood bursting out from every shot, I could tell it was a very masculine-hyping game. The soldiers were out on missions shouting and screaming in these guttural voices hyping up manly players.I felt trapped in it all, falling into a deep pit trying to finish all the missions, hoping for a way out of all the madness. I was annoyed with the explosions and how tense I felt trying to save the forever changing character I was controlling. It was the worst exhilaration I’ve felt in a long time; hoping for a way out and only falling deeper into the chaos that I had got myself into. I appreciated the art and story of it all and how it seemed to keep the player tied into the overtly and comically masculine theme.

Overwatch

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After that I tried Overwatch, which already has my heart. I love the choice of characters available, the variety it brings and mysterious storyline behind it all. This game also brings a mix of cutesy style, interwoven with violence and suspense. Each character is intricately designed into the persona they express, through their clothing, mannerisms, and weapons. I also love the team aspect of Overwatch, expressing how things get done more efficiently and quickly together. The stage transports to a new location after each match, to places all over the globe, building suspense to where it will be next. While playing, the music is hyper suspenseful and ties into whichever location you’re in. I felt extremely exhilarated and focused on supporting my team, working my hardest to contribute to the objective. Overwatch also makes an evaluation on society, drawing attention to intersectionality; the idea that all social categorizations should be treated equally including race, gender, and class. The game does this by including not only having a near equal ratio of male to female characters, but providing a wide range of classes and cultures in the character selection. There’s nothing better than a game that critiques society, while still being suspenseful, team-based, and very pleasing to the eye.

Journey

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The last one was Journey, which I quickly became impatient with. The art in this game is absolutely beautiful, and together with the serene music, creates a very relaxing vibe. The setting in the game is very far from civilization and peaceful, with muted colors, photographic framing, and soft lines. The characters in the game are very quiet, the architecture is Middle Eastern inspired with very puzzling attributes. The music builds this mood of serenity and keeps the player calm while they are venturing out in an unknown place. The overall game is very elongated and makes me feel lost and alone with no support or structure, mostly because I was all alone when I played and had no clear background on the game or an idea of what to do. I was beginning to feel anxious and scared of the surroundings, but once I took a break I saw that the character just sits down waiting for the next instructions I would give them and it warmed my heart to see that it was just as lost as I am, only much more patient.

My final thoughts on this gaming experience is that as long as you enter a new situation with an open mind, you will learn more than what you were expecting. I used to think that there were only three types of gaming; violent, adventure/puzzle, and competition style. What I learned is that games are created with a thought in mind, and are all created to make a fun experience for the gamer. I have always been closed off to more violent games, but now that I have a better understanding of the art behind games, I am more open to trying more styles of gaming.

In this experience, I built a better appreciation for video game art and all the aspects behind creating games. Each game brings a new feeling and new perspective to life. Harder imagery brings more intense feeling while softer imagery brings lighter emotions and perspectives. Finding your ideal game and style is very difficult and takes a great deal of discovery and patience. Don’t lose hope, your game is waiting for you somewhere.

Written by Elisa Wright

Elisa is starting her life out trying new things like writing and gaming. Her goal will be finished when people finally treat each other equally despite gender, race, sexuality, etc. Eating, watching videos, listening to spotify and screaming, "Support the arts!" is what she does best.

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