Game Design Readings: Understanding Comics

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So I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but throughout my career I’ve been asked to chime in on a great many artistic issues. It’s a collaborative process but also an intimidating one to non-artists like myself. Clearly there is a minimum standard of artistic knowledge that should be held by anyone in game design, and clearly it needs to be presented in a clear, easy to absorb form.

 

Luckily for us, one artist/author has created just such a resource, albeit for a different industry. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a phenomenal resource for any game developer. McCloud does it by the simple expedient of writing an ever evolving comic starring himself, then constantly changing the art style and presentation to match whatever artistic concept he’s talking about. It’s a brilliant concept and goes through a stunning amount of content in a short space of time.

It’s of course centered on the art of comics but it’s done with such skill that it applies to any related artistic field, including of course games. In reading this book you learn the basics of comic grammar, but also types of transitions, iconography, how time works in presentation, how line influences communication, interplay of words, images and colour, and even the artistic process that leads to artistic creation. It’s also a delight to read, the best textbook you were never given.

Part of the work even dedicates itself to the “Are comics art?” debate and nicely enough, the arguments mirror exactly the struggle we in the game industry face when our detractors ask us to explain ourselves and prove our worth. It is, as Scott McCloud himself puts it, “A really stupid question.”

In short it’s a simple but powerful book that any game developer, comic fan or not, should take time to read. It’s a detailed look at the history, purpose and art of comics but also an important resource for any non-artist seeking to educate themselves.


Chris Mitchell teaches Pre-Production, Game Theory and Project Design at VFS