Signature Art Imitating Life
by Eliana Evensong
There's probably not a gamer out there who doesn't remember the first
time they felt the magic-the magic of the game world. From Final Fantasy
to EverQuest, these worlds are bursting with color and enchantment. Our
avatars, too, are captivating. They never age; they look just like we
want them to look. They're prettier, more virtuous, nobler, and can leap
tall buildings in a single bound.
The magic and freedom of these virtual worlds are enchanting. We hate to
leave it all behind. And we don't, in fact, because many of us bring bits
and pieces of these fantasy worlds back into real life through game art.
Our computer desktops, our forum signatures, and even our teensy little
forum avatar icons show our enduring attachment to the characters we play
and the virtual worlds they inhabit.
The level of attachment gamers have to their gaming personas even outside
the game intrigues me. Signature and other game art, in particular, reflect
this abiding attachment gamers have to their avatars.
I've been creating gaming signatures ever since one of my
best gaming buddies (who also happens to be a family member) asked me
to help her design some EverQuest Live guild forum signatures (or "sigs,"
as we call them).
A former web designer, I had enough knowledge of the basic principles
involved that I thought I could learn how to create signature art. What
I lacked in knowledge and training, I was able to begin to learn from
artists like those at Norrath's
For instance, you can't tell by looking that over four hours of artwork
can go into one teensy little forum sig. For instance, before I even started
on Axxon's signature, Axxon sent me his character's history, a description
of his personality, and comments about the mood he wanted his signature
to communicate. He sent me a number of screenshots, but one of them seemed
to capture his avatar perfectly. He took the screenshot, showing me what
he meant to show me; I merely translated the message into 400 x 100 pixels.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
of my favorite signature artists is Pipa, at Inky
Mouse. She sometimes spends hours re-brushing, coloring, and otherwise
beautifying EverQuest 1 and 2 screenshots for players who request forum
signatures. By the time Pipa is finished with a portrait or signature,
she has produced an image that expresses a level of individualization
that no game can ever produce: one that says something about what the
player herself sees or feels while she's playing the game, something about
who she is.
are fond of differentiating between "real life" and the game,
begging off from raids or other guild requirements by pleading the inviolable
Gamer's Fifth Amendment, which is the right to have a real life. The fact
is that real people play games, and the line we imagine exists between
the game world and the real world is thinner than we think. So, though
that dashing avatar isn't really John Q. Public, he is a lot like the
guy John would be if he could re-create himself. He's stronger, nobler,
and more heroic; or he's meaner and more petty (eh, he's a dark elf at
heart). But he's more of something than John himself is, so his avatar
expresses something real about John. Maybe it's something John wishes
he could be; or something he is but doesn't have the luxury of expressing
very often in the "real world." At heart, he is a dragon-slayer,
but his day job is that of a copy machine repair guy. Regardless of what
he does, a part of his real self is revealed through his avatar, and through
the art he takes out of the game and offers on a forum as his signature,
underscoring his written thoughts and feelings.
Over at the official
Vanguard forums, we're currently limited to making text-based signatures
with variations only in font size, type, and color. The more in-game and
concept art that's released, the more impatient people seem to become
about developing their avatars, and the more likely they are to want to
begin to take that art off the Vanguard and related fan sites and into
the forums and web sites they frequent.
Until the Vanguard beta NDA is lifted (or until more in-game images are
released), those who are waiting to immerse themselves in a new world
through a new avatar will have to make do with what's available in the
here-and-now. Since we can't have Vanguard signatures, we'll have to content
ourselves with desktop images or the Ten
Ton Hammer Signature Mill.
I know that I, for one, can hardly wait to get my hands on some good
screenshots so I can start making those Vanguard: Saga of Heroes signatures