Monday, 11 October 2010

Ancient History!

Compared to other types, gaming is a relatively young form of media. The concept of gaming was created by Ralph Baer, an engineer who, when asked to build the best television set in the world in 1951, thought that a good television should allow you to play games. Although his boss refused the suggestion, Ralph continued his idea and started building the first video game prototypes around 1966.

The roots of games lie back in the 1950s, and the first game created was by Alexander S. Douglas in 1952. Douglas made Tic Tac Toe game that used both AI and a graphics interface, where the player went up against AI making logical decisions based on a set of algorithms to win whenever possible, although it was not available to the general public.  Later, in 1958, William Higinbotham created ‘Tennis for Two’ while working at Brookhaven National Laboratories. Tennis for Two was a basic game using an oscilloscope in which two players would bat a ball back and forth over a “net”.
Paving the way for one of the best N64 games of all time
The first game that was closer to the idea of what a game is by today’s standards was Spacewar! which was created in 1972 at MIT. The game ran on a computer about the size of a car, and the graphics were pretty simple, as was the premise- two players each control a spaceship circling a sun, and try to hit the other player by shooting at them, before they got hit themselves. 11 years after Spacewar! Atari release the first commercial arcade video game, Pong, and around 1974, video game systems in the home started to gain in popularity.

Thinking about the divide you find in gaming between “hardcore” and “casual games” is a bit bizarre really, when you look back at how games started. The very first games were pretty much the definition of what a casual game is; they’re easy, simple to play and appeal to a wide audience. It’s strange to see how complex the definition of a traditional video game has become and the mania over what a “real game” is in gaming culture, when its origin was so simple.

In a way, I’ve always been around games. Although I didn’t realise it until recently, I've been enjoying video/computer games since I was very small. When I was a kid, I loved playing the original Sims, and the Catz and Dogz games released in the early 90s, as well as Mario on the SNES, and various games on the PS1. When I wasn’t playing games, I loved watching my sister play (although it drove her nuts), and even now I’m as happy watching someone game as I am playing the damn game myself. I guess it never really felt like I got into gaming properly until a few years ago, because gaming was more of a hobby than a passion, and I didn’t really feel a part of the gaming community.

I’d say the first game that really got me into gaming would be Final Fantasy XII. It gets a lot of crap (and some rightfully so, I mean just look at some of the ridiculous character designs), but I think it was the first game to make me go “Wow” and really appreciate the art and beauty you can find in games. I could travel across the world killing these gorgeous monsters, getting rich and strong, and go from one beautiful place to another doing whatever I felt like. There was something about the colour and diversity in the game, being able to run through these snowy mountains or exploring creepy jungles, or flying around in massive airships that really spoke to me, and I think the game had a lot of soul and imagination put into it. I loved it so much, I ended up buying an Xbox in preparation for FFXIII (which ended up being a huge let down, as it turned out to be pretty stale and soulless), but Final Fantasy was led me into the gaming world.
Wow. Let's hope they don't aim for your abs dude.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Hi! My name is Ellen Imlah, though I’m mostly known as Red. I come from Guildford which has quite a few big game studios, like Lionhead and Media Molecule, which made Little Big Planet, and a few little ones too. The reason I chose Game Art Design is because I love gaming, whether it’s “casual” or “hardcore” games, and I love making art, and combining two of my favourite things is something I find really exciting. Originally I started off with an interest in animation, but I found myself more and more interested in the process of making games and the hard work behind the final product. I was pretty excited to find a Game Art course, because I thought I would have to take Illustration and try to break my way in from there.

This year, I’d love gain at least a basic grasp of 3DS Max, and be able to make good models. Right now it’s pretty intimidating because I’ve never touched 3D software before, but I’m going to improve my skills there, as well as improving my landscape drawing, and digital painting. All I want to do in the next three years is improve. I want to work hard and put the hours in and be able to look back and feel proud of my work, and feel like I’ve achieved something. In the future I want to have professional level skills and get into the industry; I don’t care about fame or glory or being well known, as long as I can help make games and contribute whatever I can, and maybe even occasionally make art for myself (also, getting paid) I’d be happy, even I’m virtually a nobody working at a company nobody has ever heard of.

Apart from games, I love reading, and will tear through books pretty quickly, and like everyone else, I really enjoy watching movies, my favourites being stuff by Studio Ghibli and Guillermo Del Toro.  As a Game Art student, I love looking at the art behind the game, as well as the art of Pixar and Ghibli films. I come from a pretty traditional 2D art background, so I’m mostly into expressionist and fauve artists, as well as more modern game artists.

I guess right now, my dream job would be doing more 2D art, although I don’t want to restrict myself, as over the next three years I’ll improve a lot in 3D modelling and might even grow to prefer doing 3D. My dream job would be helping to make games for people who don’t tend to feel very welcome in current gaming culture (e.g. anyone who isn’t a white straight dude), but I’ll take pretty much anything I’m given.

To work in Concept art, or 3D Modelling and Texture Art, according to job vacancies, I would have to be getting my skills up to professional level in traditional art as well as modelling and Photoshop. I need to be quick and precise with my work, and have a very good grasp of drawing and modelling pretty much everything and being able to handle composition and colour. Not only is it important to know the basics, but being able to replicate different styles (say, for the next Spongebob Squarepants game) is really important. Right now I know I am nowhere near the level I need to be and I need to work really hard over the next few years to improve on all fronts, and  though I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of life drawing, though there’s always room for improvement. I know that the next few years are going to be a hard slog, and there’s going to be a lot of crap that I don’t enjoy, but I’m ready to really apply myself and work as hard as I can.