Unexplored : bringing gaming art into the light

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Concept art is a key component in bringing any modern game to life. Long before anything is animated or a playable demo is created a host of painters and artists will work tirelessly to make the game designers vision a reality. Yet this concept art so regularly goes forgotten, mostly hidden away as collectible items or shown on the odd loading screen.

The debate as to whether games are actually art has been raging on for years, yet just as movies and comic books before it games are slowly being respected as art. In the past this has mainly been relegated to indie titles, when in fact whole reams of concept art is created for every video game release. The 2018/2019 V&A exhibition, Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, is helping to solidify the idea that games are indeed art and not merely functional 3D entities. The exhibition features painstaking drawings created for award-winning games like The Last of Us and No Man’s Sky, highlighting in vivid detail the incredible artistry that underpins these works.

Unexplored is aiming to bring gaming art in to the light. With artists Eva Kedves, David Tilton and Dominik Zdenković who have worked on some of the biggest entertainment properties in the world (Black Panther, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed to name a few). They have commissioned each artist to produce three to four sketches of fictional game worlds envisioned by Unexplored.

Unexplored is also an opportunity to spotlight places in the world that are typically neglected in videogames.   Instead of the standard American Cities, Post Apocalyptic townscapes and Soviet Era destinations it looks to bring to life far flung destinations like Ushuaia, Cape Town and Accra.

Below we have chosen a few of our favorite locations in Ushuaia, Chefchaouen and Reykjavik but if you want to explore more head to click here to check out the interactive map.

Artwork by David Tilton

Fictional game: The End of the World 

One-liner: The ocean, near the most southerly city in the world, gives rise to unearthly forces in 18th century Argentina.

Why Ushuaia? South America is typically portrayed as the domain of palm trees and beaches. Ushuaia, a cold and frostbitten stretch of land, neatly subverts that stereotype.

From the artist (David): “My approach for this image was to first gather references and read up on folklore/tales from the region. While doing this, I also created composition sketches. I wanted to have this scene take place by the ocean since that is a big part of the tribes’ cultures in Argentina. From there, I began painting the final image with a rough composition based on one of my sketches (although for this one I changed it a fair deal as I moved forward; that’s just part of the creative process).

“To clean up the rougher bits of the painting I used photo textures for accuracy. From there, I finished up by adjusting the colour with some curves and colour balance.”

Artwork by Dominik Zdenković

Fictional game: The Trials  

One-liner: A Cold War spy thriller set in the beautiful “blue city”.

Why Chefchaouen? With games continually striving for graphical excellence, it makes sense to recreate one of the most striking cities in the world.

From the artist (Dominik): “Having recently visited Chefchaouen, I had no problems with inspiration. One of the things I noticed when visiting the city was that the older generation typically wore traditional clothing. Given that The Trials focuses on spies, I figured that someone going undercover would want to blend in. This allowed me to move away from classic spy clothing.”

Artwork by Éva Kedves

Fictional game: Midnight Sun     

One-liner: In the midst of a never-ending sun, a private eye tries to crack her toughest case.

Why Reykjavik? Imagine picking your way through a fully-realised rendition of Reykjavik before exploring its rural outskirts, where undulating mountains look like the relics of a long-lost world. The never-ending summer sun, streaked red at night, would be a further element of complication, and could be weaved into the plot as the lone detective struggling to get enough sleep to complete her mission.

From the artist (Eva): “Once I worked out the composition, I put together a mood board with a rough sketch and some complementary pictures. From there, I moved on to painting and photobashing the final layout. To this, I added colours, and focused on establishing a yellow tone to emphasise the idea of an everlasting ‘midnight sun’.”  

As you can see these make for some stunning locations hopefully this will inspire future game designers to be a little bolder with their choice of locations because I for one can’t wait to explore them.

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