Stacking’s Tim Schafer: For games to be art, you have to be able to see the artist behind them

Developer Double Fine’s just-released Russian nesting doll-centric puzzler, Stacking, is stuffed to its delicately painted gills with the studio’s unique design aesthetic. Like the previously released Costume Quest – the first of four THQ-published titles devised during a two-week brainstorming session dubbed Amnesia Fortnight – Stacking bears the distinctive creative mark of its makers, a quality that separates mere amusement from true artistry according to Double Fine boss Tim Schafer.

“If you’re going to make this argument about games as art, then I think they have to be an expression of the people who make them. Not just the person in charge, but the whole team, and the company who made them,” said the studio’s creative director in an interview with Gamasutra. “You should always look at them and be like, ‘There’s no one else who could have made that game, except for the person who made it. As opposed to a lot of games where they could’ve been farmed out to any work-for-hire developer.”

“You can definitely see the mark of Lee [Petty, lead for Stacking] or Tasha [Harris, lead for Costume Quest] on their games, and I think that’s one of the cool things.”

I’m most definitely with Schafer on this one – no matter how many people work on a game, or by extension a movie or a mural, if you don’t have a single artist’s vision at the heart of it, you’re going to end up with cookie cutter “hotel art.” Not to say the realization of a single artist’s vision can’t be a total flaming turd – *cough*Uwe Boll*cough* – but being able to see the artist behind the art is what separates the Ansel Adamses from that guy photographing burgers for the drive-thru menu, the Kandinkys from that chick painting 2-for-1 margarita specials on a Tex-Mex restaurant window, and the Banksys from that kid drawing dicks on the walls of the third floor girl’s restroom.