Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Discussion: How Important Is Art?

Haven't done one of these in a little while, so I figured I'd bring one up. The question for today is, how important is the art to you in a gaming book or supplement? Now, for this I am not talking about a cover, as the cover having good art can attract the eye, and otherwise draw attention to something you otherwise might not look twice at, but once you are inside the book how important is the art?

Do you like having it? Look to it for clues and other inspirations for the game? Do you use the to judge what kind of things the book is trying to let you do? Or are they just niceties to have, but not something essential to your experience in buying a book? If a book was offered at a lower price, but because it didn't have art inside, would you give it a shot?

I won't hide that I am also interested in these answers for personal reasons, but people's view towards the art in their books interests me. I know it matters to enough people for me to actually cover it in the reviews that I do. So, what is your view of it? How do you use it? Why do you like, or dislike it? Do you like it all to be a consistent style? Or prefer when multiple artists get their work, in a variety of styles, in one book?

Let us all know!


  1. My response may be subjective because I am a visual person (I'm a graphic designer/art director by trade). But art has always been a very important part of a game for me. The cover is, of course, the most important bit of it from a sales point. But to me, interior art is very much a part of the experience- especially if it is art that can be shared with the players of the module- art that illustrates particular scenes or equipment. It becomes much more than 'eye candy' in that case- it becomes an important tool for the GM to use to help immerse the players and convey important aspects of the game.

    That being said, I don't feel such art is essential- just preferable- at least in an adventure supplement (like a module). In a rulebook for a setting, however, artwork helps convey the 'mood' of whatever the setting is. Some of the strongest memories I have of the games I have ran or played are of the artwork, not the rules themselves.

    But as I said, that's all just me.

  2. I tend to like Art wherever I find it, but I don't find it necessary in my gaming supplements. I never thought I would say that, but since I have started buying PDF's which don't have much interior Art, to make printing easier, I find that if the information in the supplement is good, it doesn't need Artwork.

    That being said, I'd probably miss it if were gone from my dead tree supplements. One of the reasons I like Paizo is their great (IMO) Artwork. So I don't know where I might fit in your survey. "Like it but don't *need* it"?


  3. Sorry for the second post, but I also thought I'd ad:

    Bad art is NOT worse than no art at all. Just as I have great memories of some games because of the art, I have horrible impressions of others due to what I consider crappy art.

    Unfortunately, with personal taste playing so much into art, 'good and bad' are hard to define. Ahhhh, such is art.

  4. Err, I mean bad art IS worse than no art at all. Yeesh. Stupid vacation has me wonked.

  5. Good responses, and no worries Rolo, I understood what you meant.

    Actually, one of your comments brought up a memory of one of my favorite bits of art from a game book. In the original Hunter, there was a full page picture of a person in tac-gear with a fully-automatic weapon wedged between two walls and looking down below them. I really liked the idea and feel that the picture gave me. of course, it also disappointed me when Hunter became a game of powered people hunting monsters, instead of normal people.

  6. Two points...

    Recycled art is a real turnoff to me. It always gives me the impression they didn't think the book was worthy of new art, or that they are giving us weak material as cheaply as possible.

    I do think cover art is important. I was interested in Mutant City Blues but the cover art turned me off so I didn't buy it when I saw it in a store. Since then I've heard a lot of good things about the book so I've ordered it online, but it took a lot more convincing for me to get it because the cover art made the whole book look shabby.

  7. Visual attractiveness is a heavy component in many things, though not the sole reason for an object's purpose. Buildings, cars, motorcycles, clothing, wedding cakes, computer games, RPGs, etc, etc., etc., all benefit from visual attractiveness. Regardless of the quality of an object, less attention is given to that object if it doesn't look good.

    How attractive you make your RPG product using art definitely affects how successful it is. It's not the only factor, of course, but it's a big factor (in my opinion). Make your product as visually appealing as you can afford, because even if you have the highest quality content, you'll lose so many customers who don't take the time to look past the cover and interior art.

  8. Sorry for the late comment. I think Art is a quick way to digest a lot of information. In my RPG, (The Artifact) I would try and describe something in written words to playtesters and they would still have a really hard time understanding. I'd draw a picture or a map and all of a sudden it was crystal clear and everyone is on the same page. Because we are dealing with imaginary worlds, whenever something is out of the usual realm of experience, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words.

  9. No need to apologize at all, and a good point. Visual references can be very handy, and very powerful tools to have. They can also be very inspiring.

    From the general responses here, on a 1-10 scale, it seems like art is around a 7.5 to 8.5. It may not be a deal breaker, but it is still very important and CAN be a deal maker.