God in the Details: A Christian Perspective on 3D Environment ArtMay 24, 2023
When I first started on my journey as a junior 3D environment artist, I was captivated by the excitement of creating cool-looking worlds and props for the games I was working on. It was an exciting experience, I was young and fresh out of school and I enjoyed immersing myself in the intricacies of the game development pipeline
But as the years passed, something unexpected occurred; a profound transformation unfolded in my personal life. By the grace of God, I found myself drawn to Christianity, a spiritual path that brought healing to the scars of my past and instilled in me a newfound hopeful and fresh perspective on life.
Yet, during this transformation, a question always remained in my mind: Why had God guided me toward the path of video game environment art? What was it about environment art that intrigued me so deeply? Was there a deeper spiritual reason that I was on this path? Why did it resonate as a calling not just for me, but for many others, in a way that other 3D art disciplines didn't seem to do?
In this blog post, I dive into these questions, attempting to intertwine my understanding of God's creation with the art of 3D environment art for video games. Join me as I explore the fascinating intersection of faith and creativity, and what it means for us as artists and seekers.
Reflecting Divine Beauty in Digital Worlds
As the years passed and I advanced in my career, I began to realize that my work was more than just a technical endeavour. It was, in many ways, a spiritual journey. Each environment I created wasn't just a collection of polygons and textures; it was an opportunity to evoke feelings of wonder, reverence, and a deep appreciation for the intricate beauty of creation. The work of a Christian environment artist, as I came to understand it, is an attempt to emulate the breathtaking majesty of God's creation in a form that can be explored and admired by players within a digital space.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." - Psalm 19:1
Picture yourself standing at the edge of a cliff in a game, looking out over a sprawling digital landscape filled with towering mountains, deep valleys, and a river that flows through the landscape like a silver ribbon. You stop for a second just to admire it; you're moved by what you see, not just because it's visually stunning, but because it resonates with something deep within you. It stirs a sense of awe and wonder, a quiet acknowledgment of the grandeur of creation that reflects the Divine. This is the essence of what a Christian environment artist seeks to capture.
The Legend of Zelda - Breath Of The Wild
It's not just about the landscapes either. It's about the little things too—the way the light filters through the leaves of a tree, the intricate patterns on a butterfly's wings, the subtle ripples on a pond. Every detail is an opportunity to mirror the intricacy and grandeur of God's creation, prompting the player to pause, if only for a moment, to appreciate the beauty that surrounds them.
"Riverside Environment" - Maize (PC) - By Eddie Faria
There's also a deeper layer to this. By infusing our work with this sense of reverence for creation, we hope to inspire players to carry that appreciation into the real world. We want them to walk away from the screen with a renewed sense of wonder for the natural world, to look at a sunset or a forest or a starry night sky with fresh eyes.
In essence, our work as Christian environment artists is a form of digital ministry. It's a way to subtly share the Gospel message, not through words, but through the beauty of virtual creation. By showcasing the majesty and intricacy of God's creation within our digital worlds, we hope to inspire players to seek out the Creator behind the creation.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." - Ecclesiastes 3:11
But this journey is not without its challenges. There are complexities and considerations unique to our role as Christian environment artists. We must navigate the tension between the industry's demand for certain themes and our personal faith convictions. We must grapple with the question if what we are creating is responsible and respectful. But through it all, we are guided by our faith and our commitment to reflecting God's beauty in our work.
Navigating Ethical Challenges as a Christian Game Developer
Navigating a largely secular industry, as a Christian game artist, often feels lonely. The presence of faith in the bustling world of game development can seem like a stark contrast, a solitary beacon amidst a sea of secular ideals. You find yourself wrestling with the moral and ethical implications of the very projects you pour your heart and soul into.
Is it right to devote your energy and creativity to a game that may potentially harm the spiritual well-being of its players? Can you reconcile the use of extreme violence as a primary game mechanic, understanding its potential to desensitize or even glorify conflict? What about the representation of marginalized groups within the games we create? Are we perpetuating harmful stereotypes, inadvertently contributing to their further marginalization?
As Christian game developers, we are tasked with a delicate balancing act - upholding our spiritual and moral integrity while still contributing to an industry that often seems to operate on different principles. At times the only option that aligns with our conscience is to step away, to choose integrity over compromise.
Yet, in these moments of doubt and internal conflict, we must remember to turn to our most reliable counsel: God. In prayer and contemplation, we seek His guidance and wisdom, trusting in His divine plan for us. In examining our conscience and consulting with our Creator, we can navigate the complexities of our profession and continue to express our love for His creation through the art of 3D environment design.
Drawing Inspiration from JMW Turner: Reflecting God in Light and Landscape
Yet, amid uncertainties and internal conflicts, it's inspiring to look to accomplished artists who have navigated similar paths in their quest for divine inspiration.
One such artist is JMW Turner, a revered painter of the Romantic era. He left a mark on the world of art with his distinct depiction of his "portraits of God" in his paintings. Turner had a unique way of portraying divinity not through traditional figures but through the image of the sun shining upon various landscapes. He once eloquently remarked, "The sun is God," a statement that beautifully encapsulates his artistic philosophy.
JMW Turner – "Chichester Canal"
Turner's paintings were often dramatic, teeming with turbulent seas, fiery skies, and radiant light. The sun, as a symbol of God, was often at the center of his compositions, casting its divine light upon the earth. Turner's art was not just a depiction of landscapes; it was a testament to the divine presence in nature, the majesty of God's creation, and the sublime beauty that it holds.
Modern-day environment artists, particularly those who hold a Christian worldview, can draw much inspiration from Turner's approach. Like Turner, they can strive to depict God's presence in their digital landscapes, not through explicit religious symbols, but through the beauty and grandeur of nature itself.
J.M.W. Turner - Landscape Painting, Colour and Light
This approach to environment art resonates with Turner's philosophy of portraying God through the image of the sun. The use of light, in particular, can serve as a metaphor for God's presence, illuminating the world and revealing its inherent beauty.
"In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land." - Psalm 95:4-5
By capturing the divine beauty of nature, the subtlety of light, and the drama of landscapes, we can create virtual worlds that reflect God's creation and inspire a sense of reverence in players. Like Turner, we are tasked with the challenge and privilege of depicting God's presence in our work, carrying on his legacy in the digital age.
The Good, The Beautiful and the True: Responsibility of Artists
As artists, we have the freedom to choose what we create. We can create images and environments that show the truth, beauty, and goodness, or we can choose to show images of distortion, darkness, ugliness, and perversion. There's a well-known saying that sums this up: "Just because you can create it, doesn't mean that you should."
Hayao Miyazaki, a famous animation filmmaker, is a good example of someone who thinks deeply about this. Miyazaki is known all over the world for his beautiful animated films.
In one situation, Miyazaki was shown a demonstration of a grotesque creature animation that was made by AI. He didn't like it at all, saying it lacked the human touch and was unpleasant to look at; His reaction reminds us of the responsibility we have as artists when we create something.
"I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself" - Miyazaki
As artists, we need to think about what our work means and the messages we are sending through our creations. Art isn't just about showing off our skills or what we can do with the tools we have. It's a way for us to share our view of the world with others. It's about considering the messages we send, the ideas we propagate, and the world we contribute to shaping.
AI, the Metaverse and Beyond...
We're in a fascinating time where things are moving faster than ever before. New technologies are popping up every day, making it easier for us to turn our ideas into reality quickly and, interestingly, without needing to be artistically talented. But what does this mean for the Christian artist who creates environments?
As these technologies continue to grow and develop, the role of the environment artist is becoming even more crucial. We are being given powerful tools that can help us create, but it's essential that we use them wisely. We have to understand that we've been given the gift of artistic talent by God, and we should not let AI take over this creative process completely.
While we can use these tools to bring our ideas to life, we need to make sure that we are still putting our own touch into our creations. Our job as artists is to reflect the beauty of God's creation in our work. We need to ensure that we are using these new technologies to enhance our work, not replace it.
The metaverse, which promises to be a reflection of our reality, is a second universe that has the potential to become more detailed and exciting. But, as we delve deeper into this digital world, we might forget about the beauty of the natural world God made.
This is a crucial time for brave individuals to step forward. We need people who can use the power of the metaverse to share the message of the Gospel. We need artists and designers who can make digital worlds that remind us of our human nature given to us by God.
The Metaverse can be what we want it to be - let's make it a place where people can encounter God's goodness
These courageous people will create digital spaces that are not only fun but also inspiring. They'll remind us of our roots as we explore new digital frontiers. In this way, the metaverse won't threaten to disconnect us from reality. Instead, it will be a place where the goodness of God is clear for all to see.
"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." - Genesis 1:31
This is a time of great change, but also of great opportunity. We need to adapt and learn how to use these new tools while keeping our humanity and God-given talent at the center of our work. This will help us continue to create beautiful and meaningful art in this rapidly changing world.
Conclusion: Our Mission as Christian Environment Artists
In wrapping up, let us reflect on our unique role as Christian environment artists. God, the original creator of worlds and the ultimate environment artist, has bestowed the desire to create upon us. As His children, we too have the capacity to generate virtual landscapes filled with beauty and wonder, mirroring the marvel of the natural world He has formed.
Let's look at our task as environment artists not just as a career, but as a mission. A mission to demonstrate the grandeur of God's creation within the digital spaces we create. A mission to remind others of the divine beauty that lies in every detail of the natural world. A mission to inspire and provoke thought through our creations.
Yet, as we strive to fulfil this mission, we must also acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead. We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to our Christian values, and Christian persecution and marginalization are sadly becoming the norm. Our worldview is often at odds with mainstream perspectives, causing friction and even rejection.
We are bearers of divine light, tasked with reflecting God's splendour within our work. As we navigate through the complexities of our profession and the world at large, let's remember that we are not alone, We have each other...
Together, we have the strength and fortitude to face the challenges that come our way and continue creating spaces that resonate with God's beautiful design.
Let's use our talents fearlessly and let our art be our testament of faith to an ever-darkening world.
"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." - Romans 1:20
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