Mori, M., 1970. 2012.“The Uncanny Valley.” Translated by KF MacDorman and N. Kageki. IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, 19(2), pp.98-100.
This proposes that ‘familiarity” towards a robot is positively correlated with it’s ‘human-likeness’, up to a peak, at which point it decreases sharply into what is known as the ‘uncanny valley’ and the observer reacts with disgust. The peak of the graph is a recommendation for designers, as familiarity is highest before prompting disgust.
Although written in 1970 about robots, this is especially relevant today. The level of graphical fidelity and realism achievable today makes it easy to create characters that fall into the valley, so it is important for myself when designing for a positive gaming experience that the player emphasizes with my creations.
Jansz, J. and Martis, R.G., 2007. The Lara phenomenon: Powerful female characters in video games. Sex roles, 56(3-4), pp.141-148.
This study looks at the impact of the so called ‘Lara-phenomenon’ (after the Tomb Raider franchise), and lookes at the appearance of “competent female characters dominant positions”. They find that although female characters in the games have a tendency to be hypersexualised (large breasts/buttocks/thin build), there was an increasing trend showing them in a dominant or equal position to male counterparts. Although their study is limited in scope (examining 12 games).
As a content creator it is important to be able to identify the ‘catalysts’ of these cultural shifts and this paper argues that the Tomb Raider franchise is one of the big ones in changing female roles in video games.
Williams, D., Martins, N., Consalvo, M. and Ivory, J.D., 2009. The virtual census: Representations of gender, race and age in video games. New Media & Society, 11(5), pp.815-834.
A content analysis, comparing the actual US population dispersion of age, race & gender against the characters appearing in 150 of the most popular games. Weighting via sales establishes a connection of content (the games) to the practices of players (purchasing games) and finds that there is an under-representation for all groups outside of Caucasian male.
As a white male concept artist specialising in character design this is of relevance to me as it is important that I am able to design rich characters with varied backgrounds – maintaining an awareness of the bias that I may have, and any tendencies to stick with what is personally more familiar with.
Martins, N., Williams, D.C., Harrison, K. and Ratan, R.A., 2009. A content analysis of female body imagery in video games. Sex roles, 61(11-12), pp.824-836.
A content analysis of the 150 top selling games looking at the bodies of female characters. It finds that (compared to representative data from real American women) more photo-real female characters are “systematically thinner”, and more stylised characters are “systematically larger”.
This is a useful source for me as it highlights that games are mirroring an already prevalent problem that has existed in mass media for decades. It’s interesting that stylised characters seem to be more resilient to this – possibly because the player knows that it is not an accurate depiction of reality, and thus the potentially harmful effects are lessened, as it is ‘just a cartoon’.
Downs, E. and Smith, S.L., 2010. Keeping abreast of hypersexuality: A video game character content analysis. Sex Roles, 62(11-12), pp.721-733
This source looks again at the disproportionate gender representation in video games (skewed towards males), and looks more at the way in which the characters are presented to the audience via clothing. It finds that in comparison to male characters, females were significantly more likely to be depicted wearing “sexually revealing clothing”.
It is important for me to consider when designing a character, not just how bodily proportions are presented, but how appropriately clothed a character is, something that should be dependent on the context of the game and the environment that they are in.
Martins, N., Williams, D.C., Ratan, R.A. and Harrison, K., 2011. Virtual muscularity: A content analysis of male video game characters. Body Image, 8(1), pp.43-51.
The study looks at the proportions of male charactes in games and fiinds that those at a higher level of photorealism have proportions that are ‘realistic’ and naturally attainable (~5′ 10”, 40” chest, 36” waist), and do “not mirror the V-shaped ideal found in mainstream media”. More stylised characters had very unrealistic proportions, but this is attributed to being a stylistic choice (cartoonish characters).
A lot of studies about media and body imagery tend to reflect on female body dismorphia, whereas this study looks at male issues. It’s important to be aware of the repesentation of both genders are presented in games.
Mou, Y. and Peng, W., 2008. Gender and racial stereotypes in popular video games. Handbook of research on effective electronic gaming in education, pp.922-937.
This discusses existing studies on gender-roles and racial stereotypes in games, noting a variety of tropes (black men protrayed as criminals, asian men ‘culturally ignorant’, asian women ‘submissive’) as well as a content-analyis on marketing media for games (trailers, cover artwork). On racial representation it found that the majority were white – other races were under-representated. Examination of gender-roles were consistent with other studies and found most females were portrayed wearing revealing clothing and unrealistic propotions.
This is a more focussed look on racial stereotypes prevelant in the industry, and it highlights the importance for content creators to think in a more diverse way when designing characters for games.
Murai, A., Hong, Q.Y., Yamane, K. and Hodgins, J.K., 2016. Dynamic skin deformation simulation using musculoskeletal model and soft tissue dynamics. Computational Visual Media, pp.1-12.
This technical article discusses the development of a skin deformation system that reacts with underlying muscules and soft tissue based on a motion capture and notes it’s applications in creating lifelike animations.
Although this is not currently practical within a gaming pipeline, it is only a matter of time before the technology catches up and more computationally intensive tasks can be handled in real time. I believe that it is important for me to know practices used across all media, as a concept artist there is no limitation to just the gaming industry, and I could one day be working in a film pipeline as there is a lot of crossover with skills and workflow.
Summers, A. and Miller, M.K., 2014. From damsels in distress to sexy superheroes: how the portrayal of sexism in video game magazines has changed in the last twenty years. Feminist Media Studies, 14(6), pp.1028-1040.
A look at how gender-roles have changed over time through video games. It presents the contrasting examples of Princess Peach (who is rescued by ‘knight in shining armour’ Mario) and the strikingly competent and aggressive Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider franchise. The study looks at female characters from game magazines (1988-2007) and examines their shifting portray. Over time there is a decrease in attributes ‘helpless’ and ‘innocent’, whereas an increase in ‘sexy’ and ‘revealing’.
Understanding shifting attitudes and their presentation in mass media is vitally important to being able to present work that is both relevant and culturally aware, which is why this is a relevant source.
Geijtenbeek, T., van de Panne, M. and van der Stappen, A.F., 2013. Flexible muscle-based locomotion for bipedal creatures. ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG), 32(6), p.206.
This discusses the development of a physics-based bipedal character animation, based on a hierarchy of rigid bodies articulated using a dynamic muscle model. The paper outlines an optimisation system that creates ‘generations’ of walk animations that are progressively more efficient. As this is a dynamic system, other obstacles can be introduced for the creatures to tackle – an increase in walking speed, change in direction, uneven terrain and external perturbations (pushes in random directions).
As the system can be adapted to different body shapes it is very interesting to think about applications to creature design in concept art, especially when generating animated concept models within a tight production pipeline.
Aldas-Manzano, J., Martí-Parreño, J., Ruiz-Mafe, C. and Scribner, L., 2015. The Role of Attitudes and Ethicality on Branded Video Games (Advergames) Acceptance. Athens Journal of Business and Economics, 1(1).
This discusses “advergames” – a video game used to place brands and products with commercial purposes. It puts together a conceptual model on users attitudes relating advertising (amongst other factors) and intention to use advergames. The hypothesises is tested in a questionnaire that found a positive correlation between positive attitudes towards these factors and a consumers’ intentions to use advergames.
As an artist I must make ethical considerations about the use of my work and whether or not I am comfortable with it being used in such a persuasively commercial setting to promote a product or a brand that I may not be happy with.