Thursday, June 2, 2011

Art in gaming products (as landmarks)

Today, I read a bunch of posts about art in gaming products. Stephan Poag often writes thoughtfully on the subject. As one might expect from an artist, he is firmly in the pro-art camp. James Maliszewski tolerates art in moderation. A minority actively dislike art as "a very superficial unthinking gloss for fantasies," but they are asses.

One thing about gaming art that I haven't seen mentioned—perhaps because it's so obvious—is its practical value as an aid to navigating texts. I tend to mentally index gaming books by their images, even when the content of the images doesn't directly illustrate nearby text. It's just a lot faster flipping through a book to recognize a picture than to recognize a block of text.

I suspect that's also why new editions with replaced or rearranged art are so jarring—they disrupt that pattern recognition.

This is not to say that I think of art as a merely a superficial unthinking gloss.


  1. This is an excellent point, particularly for works that have a high page count.

  2. Excellent point, and so obvious that it's easy to overlook and forget!

  3. A general opinion question: If pages were designed with visual cues for sections (bands of color or decorative bands/icons), would the visual navigation concern be accommodated?

    For myself, I'd rather have the 'buoys' of images within the page. I'm just curious.

  4. It would depend on the implementation and the nature of the book. A dictionary-style notched thumb index might be a nice feature for any thick alphabetical reference, like a monster collection.

    I'm a bit of a minimalist, however, so I would not favor WotC-style decorative full-bleed borders.


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