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7:49 PM on 03.23.2008

Contemplation the Strengths of 2D

It may be like stating the obvious, but "2d" and "3d" are, of course, both 2d. The two of them appear on a flat surface. Again, stating the what we already know for the purpose of refection: the preferences people have between the two are mainly aesthetic.

Mainly, but not solely. Choices must be made about when to use 3d over 2d. Cost is one reason. 3d is becoming considerably cheaper to produce, with benefits such as reusing character models to create new animation, rather than new artwork being the needed for new animation in 2d. The ease of having a virtual camera to move freely around a seemingly 3d world makes First-Person Shooters profitable. Not to mention computer generated effects such as explosions having been studied to the point that they are practically "stock."

An almost humorously unfair comparison.

The problem is that most game companies are not taking advantage of the limitless possibilities of 3d. When a 2d character is created, it almost certainly will not be "realistic," because realism is too difficult to capture with a stylus or pencil. This is 2d's most powerful asset. Stylized characters like Mario and Sonic, even more realistic humans like those is Castlevania: SotN, are usually (keyword: usually) more appealing than the 3d dolls that are very human-like but not quite. There is something rather unsettling about a 3d model that looks human, but to our eyes, so keen to detecting human facial nuances, they are clearly foreign creatures. This contrasts to models that are quite clearly created with a unique style in mind, to tell our minds that this is fantasy. Clear examples of this are found in the Pixar film The Incredibles, or in our gaming world TF2. It is unfortunate for the gaming community as a whole that TF2 stands almost alone in this way.

Let us be fair here though. 2d can be guilty of the same awkwardness. Who remembers those old Disney classics such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty? Who admits to sitting with their little sister, watching Don Bluth's Thumbelina on home video? Or, sat bored to death through Titan A.E.? I won't even mention Polar Express. All of these films included either rotoscoping (an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement), or heavy use of live action reference to animate their 2d heroes and heroines. The result was a few characters looking eerily human, not wonderfully life-like. This seems like an oxymoron. To animate something humanly almost always results in the viewer rejecting the character's humanity. Whilst the humans who are characterized, without falling into archetypes are remembers as the most human.

2d had the luxury of being heavily populated by these stylized characters, both in design and movement. 3d on the other hand, has the curse of being almost entirely populated by anti-humans we subconsciously reject. Even great games like Gears of War almost failed in suspending senses of reality with its half-breed of the characterized and realistic models.

With all this said, if every game was stylized there would be a cry for the quasi-realistic, in all it's gracelessness. Many would probably prefer them to be a minority though, in the face of the overwhelmingly creative characters I hope are just around corner.   read

7:08 PM on 03.16.2008

On the Relevance of Video Games in the Art World, Part 1

"A video game is a game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device." This is the simplified definition of a "video game" given by

Video games first began to develop in the mid-1970s as arcade games as well as early home consoles such as the Magnavox Odyssey.

They were played in bars and restaurants, and expanded into their own areas inside malls and theaters. This new technology developed quickly, however it had to be builty from the ground up. They were perceived as new, and therefore did not stand on the shoulders of countless generations that came before. They were seen as neither updating, nor overthrowing earlier conventions within the same genre like in mediums such as painting and sculpture.

The capabilities of arcades and early home computers were so limited that game artists were scarcely used or needed. In-game graphics were simply created in code. Thus, from the very beginning, video games have been seen as archaic. Or as some fad, grossly overstaying its welcome. This odd development should not undervalued as evidence of why and how video games were, and still are, belittled.

With the rapid maturation of its technology, video games are now able to set players in convincing visual surrounding to heighten the level of involvement.

Yet, there was something there, always. Why is Pacman, an utterly simple character, so charming to so many. From the bleeps and bloops of Pong, the jubilant sound of grabbing a mushroom; these are sounds that never quite leave the mind. Who hasn't seen the Tetris blocks fall when they close their eyes, laying in bed after hours of playing? These seemingly archaic renderings left just enough to the imagination, through necessity, to create personal and permanent imaginings and memories of the experience.

Manifestations of this can be seen in the thousands of fanart images, compositions and costumes being created every day. The video game is an art form in its creation, implementation, experience and contemplation. Its business booms from the human being's need for new experience and challenge in a forever shrinking and policed world. And like all art, there are masterpieces, duds, perversions and wild experimentations.

Like no other art form, games have spontaneous spawned close-knit communities, which now rivals much older and highly praised art forms like cinema. Video Games' connection to technology bestows limitless imaginative possibility for experience immersion and offers more to contemplate for its play on alter-egos and wish fulfillment as well as challenge. While at the same time the gaming community holds video game's not-so-long-ago roots up to the light in the current "retro-fad".

Yet, video games are ridiculed, and gamers are ridiculed by extension. Video games are still demonized because they are still fresh, and yet this is the source of its virility. However, until games are no longer the scapegoat for violence, theft, poor students and so many other ills of society, it has little chance of being accepted as art, or for its artwork, both in-game and out, and by extension the beautiful fanart that follows.

Fortunately, each and every one of us knows this only a matter of time. Until that day though, gamers will just have to endure the bias. Just take a deep breath and remember, it's only a game. :)   read

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