Conventions in Gaming – Aesthetics

In this we life the vast majority of us are blessed to have five senses with which to experience the world around it. If we were to remove Man’s inhumanity to Man then I don’t think that anyone can defy that it is glorious and beautiful, whether you’re a believer in a world created through the cosmic forces of the Big Bang or have a more faith oriented view of things this world is a marvel. The sheer variety and beauty of this Earth is something that I think we all can appreciate, no matter your beliefs it is a gift that we should all treasure.

One of the senses that receives the greatest amount of input during a regular day is, of course, our eyes. We are a visual species, we like to look at things and to see things, we use our eyes for the vast majority of things that we do from day-to-day. However, while we use our eyes for a lot of things we do not see everything in the same way, especially when it comes to aesthetics. When light enters the eyes it passes through all kinds of layers of cells before eventually being sent as a signal to the brain that interprets these images and yet it is interesting that two people can be looking at exactly the same thing and one can love it and one can hate it. Such is the province of our own individual taste.

This is a miniatures wargaming blog primarily and therefore the principle of art and aesthetics is one that is intimately familiar to us, but it is an abstract thing. Quantifying what is and what is not a good model are the subjective of much personal preference and prejudice. Sometimes this can be in the form of not liking an entire companies line of models, whereas in other cases you like some of their stuff and not others. The latter of those two is how I feel about Reaper, they have some gorgeous models that are great for Warhammer characters or for use in D&D, however, some of their stuff is horrid. For me this is about whether the character looks appropriately scaled, does their body shape match something approaching normal, but there are also model lines that take an artistic style and apply that across a range. The greatest proponent of this philosophy that I can think of used to be Rackham. They produced some of the most incredible looking models I have ever seen, despite the fact that they were clearly not done in a style based on reality and I really liked that, the kind of thin almost ethereal way their humanoids were was great and this was offset by characterising the other races too. The Dwarves of Tir-Na-Bor were really squat and solid which showed of their stoic sensibilities, Elves were cast in graceful poses with soft, sweeping lines, it was a really great range.

I know this will be purely subjective but let’s put together what I consider to be a good model against what I consider to be a bad model;

Probably believes the stars in the sky are burning balls of gas too
Much, much better

Now, you can probably guess where I lie on this one. The Pumbaagor is widely regarded by, not just myself, but many people as one of the ugliest models GW has ever produced. In fact there isn’t a lot of love all round for the Beastmen line as a whole. Now, the Rackham Elf on the other hand is a thing of beauty. I still have her sealed in a blister ready for the time I get to sit down and lay on a paint job that I can rightfully be proud of. Both models actually fit with the background of the characters they portray and yet for some reason one is really an awful lump of metal while the other is a masterpiece of the sculptor’s art. It’s not like GW are incapable of producing good models, I mean, take a look at this;

I think this is a fantastic model, again that may just be my opinion, there may be others who hate it. In general I think people are of the opinion that in recent years GW has stepped up their production values, gone are static models and in their place we have flow and movement. Whether this was a natural progression of the sculptors getting better or the increase in competition within their market I do not know. However, if we get better models in larger quantities than I think that this can only be a good thing, just not for my wallet.

It is these kinds of models that challenge us to do our best with them, if the art is as much a part of the hobby as the gaming I think we find a stirring in our hearts to really make the most of the models we get our hands on. I think there are few feelings as good as the satisfaction that comes from really pulling off a decent paintjob on a model that you love. People come into this hobby for different reasons and I know that the art isn’t a consideration for some but I don’t think any of us can turn our noses up at someone who has done a cracking job of painting a model, especially when it fits into a grander army. While many of us never actually achieve that fully painted army those who do are rewarded for their efforts and I am looking forward to having my War of the Ring stuff finished.

So then Internet, what stirs your soul in terms of models? Is there a particular manufacturer that really gets you going, or do you find certain sculptors are only capable of dropping turds?

2 thoughts on “Conventions in Gaming – Aesthetics”

  1. Very interesting thoughts!

    I think for my it’s flow, dose the miniature flow, is there natural softness to the lines even fantasy miniatures or mythological creatures there is a natural flow, movement, composition, balance and proportion to the piece. Take the examples you pointed out above, the Elf has everything I mentioned but the GW miniature has none of these. It’s off balance, proportions look wrong, there is a lack of natural flow and movement in the piece, well it’s pants! IMHO.

    I am not that keen on the Assassin but it dose have flow and energy, but lacks in proportion and balance, my main problem is with the poison drops, I would file them off, then for me it would be a much better miniature. The blades are just silly size and the cloak a little overdone length wise, but much better than that other thing 🙂

    Perhaps we have all started to look for more display pieces and are now leaving behind the old static poses of the past. Every piece need to be a mini-diorama in it’s own right, I am sure that’s how I am looking at them now. Perhaps also this is why I have become more interested in skirmish games over mass battles of uniformed single pose games like Napoleonic’s. Maybe that is why there is a insurgence of interest in this period due to Perry’s releasing new miniatures which meet more of my criteria…

    Who knows were we will go in the future? But I am certainly looking forward to it and the exciting new miniatures and ranges that seem to be popping up everywhere.

  2. I’m weird, in that I’d rather make my *own* miniatures, and I’m equipped to do so. I’d definitely lean to something more dynamic and interesting, though.

    Nice article! I’m enjoying this “Conventions in Gaming” series. 🙂

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