From Michelangelo to Mario Kart

Would Leonardo da Vinci be a game designer if he were alive today? Cutting-edge scholars and gaming experts discuss the arts in video games.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


September 21, 2012 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

The success of the video game industry is undeniable: The Supreme Court has ruled that video games are an art form. Sales are increasing. Games employ state-of-the-art graphical renderings of images. And there’s a multiplicity of ways to interact with the games.

But how did we get there? Who’s responsible for this success, and where do they get their inspiration and techniques?

In his new book, Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classic to Cutting-Edge Art Techniques for Winning Video Game Design, Chris Solarski explores how the teachings of the Old Masters from classical art are used in the process of game design. From Michelangelo to the video game Journey, Chris Solarski analyzes everything from the details of drawing a foot to the wider view of environmental design to bring together 2,000 years of art and creation. He proves that games are shaped by the wider world and visual vocabulary honed over centuries by artists past and present.

“This book supports my own 30-year crusade to demonstrate that games are an art form that undeniably rivals traditional arts. It gives detailed explanations of game art techniques and their importance while also highlighting their dependence on artistic aspects of game design and programming.”
— John Romero, co-founder of id Software and CEO of Loot Drop, Inc.

“From Michelangelo to Mario Cart” is part of our gaming series and brings together Chris Solarski, game designer Robin Hunicke, and Stanford University lecturer Henry Lowood to talk about how video games and art intersect and feed each other. Eddo Stern, a game designer himself, as well as the director of the UCLA Game Lab, will moderate the discussion.

After the panel, our friends from the William Stout Bookstore, a well-known bookseller in the swissnex neighborhood, will sell Chris Solarski’s book. Come and get your copy signed by the author himself.


6:30 pm  doors open
7:00 pm  presentations and audience Q&A
8:30 pm  reception, networking, book signing, and video game demonstration (Journey)
10:00 pm  doors close


Chris Solarski

Chris Solarski received a bachelor of arts in computer animation and began working as a 3D character and environment artist for Sony Computer Entertainment in London. Eventually, Solarski enrolled in art classes at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. During that time, he discovered the exciting connection between classical art techniques and video game design. Chris currently develops his own video games at Solarski Studio. He also works as creative director for the Swiss-based social-gaming startup Gbanga and lectures at SAE/QANTM Institute in Zurich.


Robin Hunicke

Robin is a game designer, producer, and passionate advocate of experimental game play. Her titles include the bestselling downloadable PlayStation Network title Journey, as well as family-friendly franchises including the Sims 2, MySims, and Steven Spielberg’s BOOM BLOX. An artist and computer scientist by training, Robin’s goal is to bring positive, new, and unexpected gaming experiences to the public. Through her public speaking, volunteer work, and academic studies, she evangelizes fresh, broadly accessible ideas, sustainable work practices, and increased diversity in the gaming industry.


Henry Lowood

Henry Lowood is Curator for History of Science and Technology collections and for film and media collections at Stanford University. He is also a lecturer in the Introduction to the Humanities Program, the Science and Technology Studies Program, and the History and Philosophy of Science Program. Since 2000, he has led “How They Got Game,” a research and archival preservation project devoted to the history of digital games and simulations. His project includes Stanford’s contribution to a multi-university, interdisciplinary project called “Preserving Virtual Worlds,” funded by the US Library of Congress and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. His most recent publication is The Machinima Reader, published by MIT Press and co-edited with Michael Nitsche.

Eddo Stern

Eddo Stern is an artist, game designer and the director of the UCLA Game Lab.  He works on the disputed borderlands between fantasy and reality, exploring the uneasy and otherwise unconscious connections between physical existence and electronic simulation. He was the founder of the now retired art and technology cooperative C-level where he designed and co-produced the experimental computer gaming projects Waco Resurrection, Tekken Torture Tournament, Cockfight Arena. He is an Associate Professor in the Design Media Arts Department at UCLA, where he teaches courses on game development, design and culture in a art context. More about Eddo.


This event is made possible by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos