Goof’s Guide… Art Attack

Artwork plays an important part in gaming. Sure, you can have a game which has little to no artwork and it can still be fun. But I find a lack of being drawn to it for the average gamer. I grew up enjoying games like poker and chess, but when I’m at the gaming table with my mates no one suggests it. And I genuinely believe artwork has a lot to do with it.

Games can get sold and made on their artwork alone (they shouldn’t but they can). Anyone who’s had an unfortunate crowdfunding experience can tell you this. I know I’ve been guilty of looking at the artwork on a game and becoming a lot more interested in it. The reason for this is pretty clear – when you’re in a games store or even scrolling through a webpage, games which stand out will attract more attention. I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want to look at awesome pictures of dragons, space ships, superheros, science fiction technologies, ninjas, magic spells, *hyperventilates* damn gaming is so cool.

All of this is making me feel like I’m being a bit shallow. But artwork does more than look good. Artwork can get you in the right mood. It can suck you into the world you’re playing in. Casting a spell like “Summon False Demon” from Ashes is a lot cooler when you can see the book you’re summoning from, and the dark shadowy creature you’ve summoned from the abyss. As a challenge, take a new game and cover all the artwork before you play it. Then give it a go. I honestly believe you won’t enjoy it as much as if you could see all the pictures (this doesn’t feel entirely scientific but I’m sure an empirical study could be done if we had the right funding).

If you’ve ever read TGR before, you’ve probably seen me write about the artwork on the backs of cards. It seems like such a small point until you think about how often you see the backs of cards in games. I mean seriously. Go through the process in your head of playing a game with cards in it. Cards are usually face down, or being hidden by your opponent… realistically you see the back of the cards more often than any other game piece. So making the back of the cards look good makes a huge difference. I’m not saying load it up with artwork or it should be better than what’s on the front of the card. But look at some of the games where I’ve talked about the backs of their cards positively compared to ones which I’ve ragged on.

Examples of excellent card backs

It’s fascinating to me to see how people respond to issues like artwork in games. Often before I write an article I use my fiancée Charlotte as a bit of a sounding board. I’ll mention a couple ideas for articles I have and what I’m intending to write them on. Yesterday in a car ride back from the local shopping centre I mentioned I was thinking about writing this article. Now, before I go any further, I want to mention Charlotte has only been playing tabletop games since we got together. She enjoys them but if we broke up she’d probably remain solely a video gamer.

“Make sure to mention inconsistencies in artwork. I mean Tachyon is a base character! It makes me so angry! There is absolutely no excuse for it!”

(The opinions of Charlotte sometimes reflect the opinions of The Goof Review)

And hey, Sentinels of the Multiverse is a game I have spent a stupid amount of time playing. It is my number one played game of all time at this stage. I think there is the occasional art piece in the stupid amount of cards I have which you’d consider to be inconsistent but not to the point of say… Heroes of Metro City *shudders*. But this sort of reaction highlights the importance of artwork for everyone and the emotions it can trigger in us.

I’ve had people at our local Boarding School events fall in love with Takenoko because of the artwork. I’ve had people fascinated by the artwork in Ghost Stories. I’ve seen players lost in the fascinating artwork in the cards they’re holding, put on voices of characters and then hold up the artwork saying “doesn’t this guy look like he’d sound like this?” or “I really don’t want my character to go over there… it looks way too creepy”. Artwork made games like Arkham Horror and Arkham Horror LCG invoke feelings of discomfort or macabre interest in me. One of my complaints about Quantum was these fascinating races which look so unique all start of playing the same. The feelings of isolation, survival, and struggle come through in Robinson Crusoe in no small part because of the artwork.

I was thinking of how to conclude this article when I started to think about possible ramifications. Do you ever get those feelings when you write or make something it’s going to come back and bite you one day? I reckon if I ever put out a game it better have pretty amazing artwork after this (with perfect card backs) or this one might hurt a little bit. I still get people tagging me in Monopoly memes.

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