This month instead of highlighting and interviewing an artist I want to take a step back and look at what the importance of boardgame art is. To me, there are three things that art does that will help the staying power and success of games.
Before You Play
When people walk into a store, or are browsing online, what is the first thing that will attract someone to a game? Art, plain a simple. Now I am not talking about when you go in with a goal of buying a specific game, I’m talking about when someone is browsing the shelves. Sure, publishers try to encourage their game coming off of the shelf by putting it in a way oversized box, but that will only bring someone’s attention to the box, what they see next can determine whether they pick up the box to investigate more. The art on the cover can make a break someone’s initial interest in the game, hence the recently successful Abyss. I don’t care who you are, when you saw the different covers for Abyss, you wanted to know more. If your box art is not the best or doesn’t do anything to grab people’s attention then you might be leaving money on the table…pun intended.
During the Play
Art can also have a major influence on a person during play. When someone plays a game that looks beautiful, they want to look at the art more, they want to join in on the story, and sometimes they just want to look at and appreciate the art. A great example of this are two games currently on Kickstarter; Salvation Road and Heldentaufe.
Looking at the art of these games you can see why people can get immersed into the stories. They look amazing, but they also tell a bit of a story without saying anything. I mean check out that pet from Dungeon Petz. Maybe going into the game you weren’t quite sure that you could act like you cared about crazy monster pets, but once you see this cute pet, who couldn’t get into that theme! Dead of Winter was full of beautiful art and the zombie standees did a good job of instilling a little of the fear into the players. They genuinely look frightening and as realistic as zombies could possibly look. They also provide just a bit more to the overall theme that would have been lost without the quality art.
After the Play
You have to have something to remember. Components can do that, gameplay can do that, but art is another way to get the game to stick in your head. Beyond fun, the goal of every game is probably to leave a lasting effect on the players. Why does this matter? Well, the more plays, the more talk, the more sales, the more…you get the point. If a game can keep coming back to your thoughts, whether because of gameplay, art or theme, you will strive to play it more. A game that does this well without going overboard on the art is Lanterns. The art is simple, it isn’t extravagant and it doesn’t overwhelm the players, but the patterns you make with the lanterns are sure to stick in your head.
Of course, if the game is good it can overcome poor art, but if it had better art, it just might get more play time.
Who are your favorite board game artists?
What games integrate art, theme and gameplay the best?