Friday 16 May 2014

GUEST BLOG: The War of Art

The belly. It was always the belly. Drawing Sonic the Hedgehog in my school book, trying my hardest to get it as accurate as possible, it was always the belly that was the trickiest. Too curvy and Sonic looked podgy, too slim and he looked like a 'hog with a drug problem.

Why the hell am I telling you about the fleshy tumpkins of fictional blue hedgehogs? Well, because that childhood memory of trying so hard to replicate my favourite character is burned into my brain and that speaks volumes about how much that group of blue and red pixels meant to me.

We've all got our favourite computer game characters and we especially hold on dearly to those plumbers, hedgehogs and monkeys... sorry, donkeys that formed our early years of playing with computers. The colours, the sound effects, the feeling of blowing on a Megadrive cartridge when Streets of Rage wouldn't load properly. All these connections stay with us because our tiny little brains are so eagerly soaking up all the stimuli we can get, especially the wonderful worlds being presented to us in pixel form and this is what I'm getting at (albeit in a waffling fashion), it's THAT connection that is our responsibility now.

Us wanky media types in the games industry are the magic makers now, it's OUR creations that will be recalled in a rose-tinted conversation in 20 years time, how incredible is that!? Just as I remember how exciting it was to plug a 2nd controller into a NES to control the ducks in Duck Hunt, someone in the future will be sharing their glee at having to pop their PS1 controller into port 2 to beat Psycho Mantis on Metal Gear Solid. These moments stick in peoples brains because their interactive art, they are narratives they feel a part of, stories they helped unlock.

Now it isn't just triple-A games that this nostalgic badge of honour is reserved for, for me it's the indie games right now that are creating lasting memories. Just as my MGS memory is imprinted on my grey matter, so is the first time I saw that bloody terrifying spider in Limbo or when I realised perspective isn't all that it seems in Monument Valley. These games, these interactive pieces of art not only satisfy my inner child for gameplay, their aesthetics are so strong and unique that the way they look will be remembered as much as the interactions in the games themselves.

So, what's your point I hear you ask!? Well, it's that now more than ever we are incredibly fortunate to be the ones making long lasting memories for people. The slew of stunning 'casual' games inspiring and entertaining folk who wouldn't call themselves gamers is rising all the time, from Badlands to Leo's Fortune, Journey to Flower.

There's never been a more exciting or more accessible time to get into making the game you want to make, and to share it with people who want something a little different. Looking at the amount of beautiful things on offer today, I just can't wait to see what happens next.
You never know, scribbled facsimiles of your creations could be adorning the school text books of the next generation...

This blog was written by Gav Strange from Aardman Studios. Gav will be talking about Super Sleep Fighter II in the Art track at Develop in Brighton on Wednesday 9 July.

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