The Art of Video Games : From Pac Man to Mass Effect

The Art of Videogames: From Pac Man to Mass Effect, unsurprisingly explores the progression of videogame art and graphics from the inception of the industry to the modern age. This was created as a companion piece to compliment an art exhibition of the same name presented by the Smithsonian Institute in March 2012.

The title, which culminates in 216 pages is a fully realised coffee tabletop book that includes vibrant screenshots of games as well as interviews with the game designers and artists.

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This title is broad and ambitious and features beautiful two page spreads detailing particular games throughout specific eras. I enjoyed the sense of nostalgia which I experienced while flicking through the book and looking at games familiar to me. There’s also a nice surprise element included in the experience as I stumbled across games I had never heard of before.

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As mentioned, the games are sorted by eras, beginning with Atari’s first title Combat to Flower developed by thatgamecompany.  So the the entire title spans the years between 1977 to 2009.  Each game has a write-up of roughly three to four paragraphs on one page.  I feel that this is too brief to fully explain each title’s history, design concept, gameplay and technology.

Also included are interviews with the game designers, I would have liked to have seen some explanation of who they were.  If you didn’t recognise their names you wouldn’t know their roles or the companies they were famous for working for.  I also would have liked to have seen some games that were released on handheld consoles and some later arcade titles.

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Overall, despite it’s shortcomings, this is an attractive and interesting title.   I want to hand this book to every naysayer who sees games as nothing more than cheap, violent, meaningless entertainment. With its engaging pictures, rich interviews, and neatly bundled history lessons, The Art of Video Games makes a solid case not just for the validity of games as an art form, but for its rightful place as one of the defining storytelling mediums of our time.

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