Art has developed considerably in just the last 40 years. The twin influences of technology and video games have advanced the process of developing and distributing art to levels never before seen in either culture or commerce. Some could credibly argue there has never been a better time in human history to be an artist.
But what do these advancements mean from a commercial standpoint? Is art more valuable now? Can art adapt and be utilized in ways that weren’t possible before? Does art create commercial opportunities for itself and other products?
The answers to these questions will demonstrate the extent to which graphic art, illustration, animation, three-dimensional modeling and even video have both blended with and enhanced other media. The chief beneficiary of all these advancements, however, are video games themselves. The game industry gave art the power to simply skip over the industrial revolution and become part of the information economy without losing a single pixel.
Art as Technology
The watershed marriage of computers and graphics took place in the early 1990s with the widespread popularity of a PC game called Doom. iD Software was the company that turned art itself into a technology, and in the process, created one of the first, if not the first, viral animation. At the time, the art iD had created was not placed on a canvas or solely on a screen. It required a microprocessor. The tradeoff was it moved, and not just as a series of pre-drawn animation frames, but as a living world that responded to the viewer.
This was essentially the moment when computers became not only a medium, but a cooperative force in bringing art to an audience. It was also a time when a future where audiences would step into the artist’s vision instead of simply viewing it from a distance.
Art as World
It wasn’t long before artists were less interested in preparing an image of their vision and more interested in building a context for it. With the advent of video game characters and the worlds they were expected to inhabit, the artist was no longer tasked with simply drawing a picture. “If what I have produced is truly worth a thousand words,” they said, “then my ambition is no longer to create a mere glimpse of a world, but to rise to the level of the novelist and build the whole thing.”
Since video games made it possible for the audiences of those new worlds to experience them instead of simply observing them, artists were given an opportunity to collaborate on something never before seen in culture or corporation. The results changed the nature of art itself and enhanced the works of the past. No longer would someone look at a drawing or painting and be limited to what was on the canvas or page. Their imagination would inevitably carry them to the unseen portions beyond the margins and ascribe to an artist beauty they shared often without even knowing it.
Art as Experience
After decades of influence by the world-building, technologically-enhanced video game business, art could not help but evolve into what it is today. No longer must art simply hang in a gallery or sit quietly on an easel. Now it is expressed in multi-acre exhibits at theme parks and in hundred-million-dollar features at the local theater.
The patrons of the arts are those who wish to encounter art as it is now intended: An experience more than just an expression of a single artist’s emotion or idea. There are millions and some might argue billions of such people. They appreciate art for what it was and also appreciate it for what it will become in the context of the games they play. It is now part of a shared expression, where perhaps dozens of creative professionals collaborate on works with such impact they simply cannot be expressed in any other way but by taking advantage of technology, the business of video games and their fictional universes.
Games are the point at which technology and world merge. They are a creative act amplified by the power of light-speed computational capacity to not only portray what floats on a magical ocean, but to inspire visions of what may lie beyond the horizon as well. This kind of art is the practical manifestation of literary imagery, which is in itself a transformative act.
What’s the Future Hold?
It should be noted that despite its lofty ambitions, art still retains its simplicity and cultural value, as it should Ultimately, creative expression is one man with a vision and the means by which to communicate that vision to others. Whether the canvas is large or small, the creative act is the same.
Even if the beauty on the screen serves to establish the boundaries of competition, it can make an emotional connection with an audience and inspire them in exactly the same ways as that which came before.