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The Interactive Canvas is a book that champions the idea that games have artistic merit, and interviews the people that make them

Video Games Are Art

What happens when you bring the creators of The Witcher, Alice: Madness Returns, Deadly Premonition, Braid, Dear Esther and Europa Universalis IV together to discuss their games and their creative inspiration? You get some truly great insights into the artistry of game development.

And that's exactly what we've done! The Digitally Downloaded team has an idea for a deluxe hardcover book about games as art, and we've got some of the greatest game artists working in the industry keen to participate in it, including;

  • American McGee, Spicy Horse; American McGee's Alice, Alice Returns
  • Jonathan Blow; Braid, The Witness
  • Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, CD Projekt Red; The Witcher series
  • Hidetaka Suehiro (aka SWERY65), ACCESS Games; Deadly Premonition
  • Ed Key; Proteus
  • Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey, Tale Of Tales; The Path, Luxuria Superbia
  • Dan Pinchbeck, The Chinese Room; Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
  • Guillaume ProvostCompulsion Games; Contrast
  • Thomas Johansson, Henrik Fåhraeus, and Johan AnderssonParadox Development Studio; Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV
  • Nic Watt, Nnooo; escapeVektor
  • Tamara Schembri and Peter Budziszewski, ToyBox Studios; Flowmo
  • Neil Rennison, Tin Man Games; Gamebook Adventures, Fighting Fantasy gamebooks on iOS and Android
  • Mike Bithell; Thomas Was Alone
The book cover concept (Art from Tale of Tales, by Auriea Harvey)
The book cover concept (Art from Tale of Tales, by Auriea Harvey)

"Video games can be art" is a statement that those of us who love games almost take for granted. In the last few years it's proven especially true; for every Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Hollywood-style blockbuster there is a game from a small or independent game studio that could easily form part of an interactive art exhibition.  

While we accept that games can be art, we don't often treat them as such. In the media we focus on new features that are being worked into a new game, or getting insight into the technical side of game development from the game creators. Many reviews focus exclusively on how entertaining a game is, with little thought to its deeper meanings. The industry, in general, still does not treat game developers as an equivalent to film directors or writers. Filmmakers are seen as highly creative individuals and thinkers about their work, while game makers tend to be lauded instead as technically-proficient creators of entertainment.

That's where our project idea has come from! Interactive Canvas: Gaming Artists will be a deluxe hardcover, annual, coffee table-style publication that will give some of the most creative and artistic game developers an outlet to discuss the inspiration behind their games and the themes that they look to draw out of their work. 

American McGee's Alice; Remaking a classic children's narrative
American McGee's Alice; Remaking a classic children's narrative

Who Are We

Digitally Downloaded (www.digitallydownloaded.net) has been an independent games publication since 2010. From the outset we've been focused on the artistry and creativity of the games industry, and we've looked to engage with games as something more than simple entertainment. A major part of what we do is to interview the most prominent and creative game developers working in the industry. In 2013, for example, we ran interviews with David Cage, Yosuke Hayashi, Suehiro Hidetaka, and Ted Price.

Games matter to us. It's great when a game is fun to play, but as an emerging and commercially-important entertainment industry, the games industry has the potential to become as culturally important as film, literature, dance and theatre. For that to happen, it's important that there are high quality publications that look at the deeper themes within games. 

Guillaume Provost (Compulsion Games) on the book:

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What We Are Looking To Do

We're looking to Kickstarter to finance the first issue of The Interactive Canvas. It will be launched in July 2014 as a 200+ page glossy, full-colour, premium quality book filled with detailed interviews and features about games, art, and the development of the games industry; far beyond the scope of what is typically possible when running a day-to-day website.

A key part of the book will be in-depth, multi-page interviews with a diverse range of game developers from around the world. And we've had a great response from everyone that we've approached to participate in the project among the developer community, as it will give them a unique opportunity to talk about a different and more personal side of game development. 

You can see the current list of developers keen to participate in the book above, but we have many more interviews to announce! As the project continues we will announce more interviews from both independent studios and large developers around the world - once completed we will have 25-30 interviews forming the core of the book. While we can't announce names at this stage, we have a long list of Japanese game developers that are especially interested in participating in the book should the Kickstarter campaign succeed.

In addition we will have a special interview with Ian Livingstone, Lifetime President of Eidos Interactive, publisher of the recent Tomb Raider reboot. He has a long history with the games industry - both video games and traditional tabletop games, and is also responsible for the Fighting Fantasy franchise of gamebooks and the Games Workshop business, the company behind the popular Warhammer tabletop wargame.

The Path; Tale of Tale's PC arthouse hit (Art by Stacey Diana Clark)
The Path; Tale of Tale's PC arthouse hit (Art by Stacey Diana Clark)

For each of these interviews we will sit down with the developer for a couple of hours to get an exhaustive insight into their approach to game design. Of course, because this is a coffee table-style book, there will also be plenty of imagery to accompany the interviews, from concept sketches to in-development screenshots and discarded ideas that will visually represent the side of games that we don't often see; the development of ideas and the creative process.

In addition to the interviews, the book will involve a series of in-depth features on a range of different topics. One of them, for instance, will be on the topic of music in video games and feature interviews with some of the industry's most exceptional composers, including:

  • Inon Zur (Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, Dragon Age, Prince of Persia)
  • Jesper Kyd (Assassin's Creed, Borderlands, Hitman, State of Decay)
  • Olivier Deriviere (Remember Me, Of Orcs and Men, Assassin's Creed IV Freedom Cry)
  • Mark Morgan (Wasteland 2, Planescape: Torment, Fallout 1&2)
  • Peter McConnell (Broken Age, Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time)
Finally, a number of guest writers will pen features to round out an in-depth discussion about games as an art form. For instance, Brendan Keogh, well-respected game academic and author of the brilliant deconstruction of Spec Ops: The Line, Killing Is Harmless, will pen an article for the book.

An early shot of Proteus, a brilliant example of the interactivity between music and gameplay
An early shot of Proteus, a brilliant example of the interactivity between music and gameplay

Why Kickstarter?

We feel strongly that the only way we can do justice to the idea is to produce a hardcover, high-quality coffee table-style book, the kind that you'd find in the gift section of a book store. We want it to be a really high quality production that gaming and art fans alike would have on their bookshelves for years to come as both a reference source, and a collector's piece around their favourite hobby.

But making a high-quality, full-colour hardcover book costs a lot of money for a small publisher such as ourselves, so we've turned to Kickstarter in the hope that we can find enough similarly-minded people to make our dream a reality and start something that will chart the development of this vibrant and exciting creative outlet.

Our costings, built into the funding goal of $60,000, can be broken down as such:

  • The retainer to recruit a freelance designer for a couple of months (~$10,000) 
  • The production, editing, and printing of the book itself (~$15,000), 
  • The cost of sending it to all the backers (at over 1 kilogram in weight, shipping for this book is, amusingly enough, the most expensive part of the project, and will cost us ~$22,000).
  • Kickstarter fees account for around 8% of the total amount of pledges 
  • A small kitty for incidental expenses - the usual unexpected costs that come up with a project of this scale.
Any additional revenue we make, should we exceed the Kickstarter goal, will be invested towards producing the 2015 book.

Contrast; a game of distorted perceptions
Contrast; a game of distorted perceptions

Next Steps

We're only going to be able to produce the book if we meet our Kickstarter goal, so for the next few weeks we're going to be working our backsides off to hit that target! 

Once (we hope) we've achieved that milestone we will then conduct all the interviews with the developers and lock ourselves into a dark room and type away for a couple of weeks. We'll only see the light of day to deliver the words to our designers. Then we'll get the completed book sent off to the printers, and from there we'll package up our the gorgeous books and ship them to our backers around the world. 

There's no guarantee that we'll be able to do a second print run, so the best way to secure yourself a copy of this book is to support the Kickstarter! The digital edition will be available to buy off the Digitally Downloaded website once the physical books have been shipped off to our backers.

We would like to thank all of our supporters in advance. This project means a lot to us and we hope it's of interest to you!

- Matt Sainsbury and the DDNet team

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

If we hit our funding target then the book will be printed; we have been meticulous to ensure that we've costed the project properly. Of course there is always the potential that production deadlines will be pushed out in this industry, and the July delivery will become August or September, but the book will happen.

Our only concern would be that a game developer that has said that he/ she is happy to participate in the project is no longer available due to looming production deadlines or the like, but we have mitigated this concern by allowing for a three month window with which to complete interviews.

FAQ

  • Great question! There is no guarantee that we will be able to do a second print run of the physical book; it's something of a soft stretch goal, but we'd need to exceed the Kickstarter by $20,000 or more in order to justify a second print run.

    If that happens, the book would cost $65, to reflect the additional cost of warehousing and distribution that we won't have from the first run.

    The digital version of the book will remain at $30; a premium price for a premium digital book :-)

    Last updated:
  • Absolutely. In fact, our goal is to get as many copies of the book into as many hands around the world as possible. As such we're subsidising the international shipping costs to just $10 AUS over the pledge amount (so the book will be $60 + $10 for $70 Aus).

    This book is heavy at over 1 K.G in weight, but of course we want to do the right thing by our supporters. :-)

    Last updated:
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