Art Essay Research – Art Deco & Bioshock (Part 1)

As part of our assessment for concept art we have been tasked with writing a short essay, linking a famous art movement in history with it’s use within game and film. The example given to us was Art Deco and it’s use within Bioshock.

Art Deco was a huge movement in the 1920s and 30s which saw use throughout architecture, fashion, furniture, jewelry etc. The style was seen as an amalgamation of Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus and Cubism. Decorative influences were from American Indian, Egyptian, and early classical sources as well as from nature. Other notable trends in the style are clean streamlined shapes and admiration for the design qualities of machine made objects (simplicity, planarity, symmetry, and unvaried repetition of elements). There was a sense of luxury and wealth to the whole movement, it is then no surprise that the great depression was the first nail in the coffin of the movement.

I knew before this exercise where Bioshock drew its inspirations but further research really re-enforces how heavily the style was used to give the game its setting and atmosphere. The grandeur of Deco paired with the ruin of the city of Rapture beautifully demonstrates how far the city has fallen before the player character arrives at the city.

Comparing the photos (above) and the screenshots from Bioshock (below) you can immediately see the comparisons. This is especially apparent in the posters above and the poster for Rapture below, the blocky use of colour, heavy use of silhouettes and even down the skyscraper designs juxtaposed against the light beams, all directly inspired.  Other similarities are ornate door and wall panel designs, checkered flooring, supporting columns (some of which built into the shape of the walls) and ornate skyscraper exteriors. The best example of this in real life would be the Chrysler building.

All combined this made Bioshock a beautiful experience and will be remembered for many years to come. As this was just the demonstration pairing of art style meets game I’ll be looking for another pairing to write about. I’ll post about this when I decide what the pair will be.


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