Every year, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences works with the Electronic Software Association to host Into the Pixel, an art showcase highlighting inspiring and thought-provoking art pieces submitted by game studios around the world. During E3, I spoke with Claudio Tapia, Project Manager for Into the Pixel, to learn more about the exhibit and its history.

Josh: Thanks for your time! Let’s start with your name and position.

Claudio: My name is Claudio, I’m the Project Manager at the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS). Between the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Foundation and the Electronic Software Association Foundation we’re working together to celebrate the art of video games. This is our 15th year… this year we have 14 pieces. They range from indie games to triple-A titles, games that are out, games that are coming out, and it consists of concept art, marketing materials like the League of Legends piece behind you, and some in-game screenshots like Unravel‘s piece.

Unravel - Tire Swing
“Tire Swing.” Created by Martin Sahlin, Dick Adolfsson, Henrik Söder, Mikael Kainulainen, and Leif Holm for the game “Unravel.”

So, tell me a bit about the selection process. Obviously, there are a large variety of pieces of art from all sorts of different areas; how do they find their way into the Into the Pixel selection panel?

It’s open submissions: any company or person who owns the license to the work can submit art. It’s not open to fan art; it’s specifically open to art that was created in the process of making a video game or marketing a video game. The League of Legends piece was submitted by Riot, the Takkar Face from Far Cry Primal was submitted by Ubisoft. Each company will submit a number of artworks, it’s up to their discretion; we don’t select anything, they submit it to us for consideration. We have a panel of judges that then review the artwork, they then go through a voting process and discussion process to try to come up with the final collection. I can’t say there’s one set of criteria because each judge is different: some of them come from video games, and we also have individuals from photography and from the Getty Institute…everyone has their own criteria, their own likes and dislikes. They try to come up with a consensus for the collection.

Does Into the Pixel display at shows other than E3?

The two major places it will show are E3 and the D.I.C.E. Summit, which is the other event that the AIAS produces; it’s a speaker summit in February in Las Vegas. It’s also where we hold the auction for the second printings of the copies from this year. That’ll be the only place it goes for sale, there’s no mass printing or anything like that. That auction is for the ESA Foundation, the AIAS Foundation, and the scholarship series that we do. Once in a while, [Into the Pixel] will show up at South by Southwest or PAX; it really depends on where we are with budget.

The discussion of games as art is something that happens frequently, but I feel it’s probably not arguable in a situation like this where you can see this kind of art all around you. How do you feel that what’s been presented to Into the Pixel has changed over the years?

It’s certainly more digital than ever. If you go back to the early years of Into the Pixel you might see something that’s an illustration, something that was put on a piece of paper or canvas…we have a great Kirby piece that was originally was a painted piece of art. In general, I don’t know if there’s too much of a swing in types of artwork that’s submitted because it’s usually for the game. Every company’s trying to do a specific thing for their game, a specific [goal] for their concept artist or team to accomplish; I don’t know if there’s anything I could see continuing over the years or changing.

An colorful oil painted image featuring Kirby, a happy, pink, puffball-looking hero.
“Kirby-ful Color” Oil Painting. Created by Tomomi Minami and Tomoko Kitada for Kirby: Canvas Curse.

You mentioned the Kirby piece; what other pieces do you feel like have really stood out to you over time?

This year, the Takkar Face is very popular, the League of Legends piece…one of our most celebrated artists is Daniel Dociu; he has the Guild Wars (2) piece, it has a very impressionist style…abstract, very colorful, very beautiful. He’s been celebrated several times throughout our time at ITP. Personally, I like the Song of the Deep piece.

Yeah, that one’s pretty beautiful.

One of our judges is in love with the Dreadnought ship…I won’t say who it is, but one of our long-time judges just loves anything with, you know, battleships and spaceships…some people like certain things more than others, and that’s certainly true of our judges.

Something I didn’t know even though I’ve been doing this for years is that all of the images that have been part of Into the Pixel are also available as high-res on the website.

We have really high-res images that we use for printing, but you can get pretty large images on the website for every year that we’ve been around.

So, where’s the next place Into the Pixel will be? Will it be D.I.C.E. Summit?

Well, we usually plan right after E3; since we just revealed this is our focus right now. We have to re-evaluate if we’re going to South by Southwest or PAX, both PAX East and PAX West. It’s a year-by-year thing, we usually announce it on the website.

Well, I think that’s about all I’m looking for today. Thanks for your time.

Thank you.

It turns out that wasn’t all I was looking for…after the interview, Claudio and I talked a bit more and he commented on the idea of games as art. I asked him to repeat his statement for the interview.

So, tell me a bit more about what makes games considerable as art.

When we talk about other art, for example music or movies, they all have a lot of different parts that go in to their final product, and they’re also commercial: you pay for a ticket to go see a movie, you pay for an album to download music. You have producers that go into it, you have songwriters, singers… when you have movies [in involved] photographers, directors…all of that is individually art. Acting is art, directing is art, creating music is art…then you add game design, which is its own unique art form which no other form of entertainment has. That’s what makes games art, and it doesn’t have to be just because there’s a 2-D piece of art on a wall; the entire product is a piece of art.

Featured image is “Takkar Face,” created by Patrick Lambert for Far Cry Primal. You can see all of the images selected for Into the Pixel since 2005 at the Into the Pixel homepage.