There’s something really heartwarming about trudging knee deep in alien goo as you cut your way to the core of an alien nest. Actually, that sounds pretty awful. This first series covers a topic that I’m especially fond of: gigeresque aliens and alien environments in video games. I’m going to assume that if you’ve found this blog, you’re probably well aware of what I mean by gigeresque imagery. In a nutshell, describing something as gigeresque means that you’re likening it to the style of the legendary swiss artist H.R. Giger. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Giger is basically my hero. As far as this blog is concerned, he’s a God.
Again, I’m going to assume that most of you are more than familiar with Giger, so instead of going into a longwinded account of his life history, I’ll just quickly outline the visual tropes that roughly define his style. First, Giger loves to incorporate ribbed shapes into his art. When I say ribbed shapes, I’m literally referring to the look of a human rib cage.
This leads into another common element, which is the use of bone-like shapes. It isn’t uncommon to see skulls or spinal cord-like structures in Giger’s images.
Next, Giger’s art wouldn’t be what it is without the abundant use of phallic or yonic imagery. As I write this, I’m staring at one of Giger’s airbrushed paintings, and it’s actually just a penis entering a vagina, repeated six times. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t let her within five miles of Giger…
The next common theme in gigaresque art is the concept of an organic/metallic synergy, which Giger himself coined with the term “biomechanics”. To many people, the word biomechanical is most commonly associated with the style of tattoo that Giger spawned. How many artists can be directly credited with instigating an entirely unique style of tattoo? One day I may write a post on how I think that biomechanical tattoos rarely look all that gigeresque too me. They often rely on dagger-like shapes, which I’ve never seen in Giger’s art, but that’s a topic for another day. Back to the point, the biomechanical nature of Giger’s art translates into imagery that looks somewhat mechanical, or industrial, but has a very organic shape and flow that you rarely see in actual mechanical objects.
An important point to stress is that Giger’s art has a very organic feel. Every shape blends into the next, creating a structure that flows throughout the work of art. Finally, Giger’s artwork is almost always incredibly dark. It’s rare for him to use any color; meaning that the bulk of his work consists of various shades of grey (no, not those shades of grey…). So as a quick recap, gigeresque art often includes ribbed and bone-like shapes, relies on sexual imagery, has a biomechanical synergy, and is dark, like Giger’s heart. Giger’s a dark guy, and we like him that way.
Now that you’ve had a crash course on gigaresque aesthetics, let’s take a step back and see how this relates to the alien art design in the video games that this series will be covering. Giger’s real claim to fame were his designs for the movie Alien. As far as I’m concerned, the xenomorph is the most original and genuinely terrifying alien ever conceived by man. The dark aesthetics of Alien and its sequel Aliens influenced a generation of video game designers; not only in North America, but worldwide. Most importantly, from roughly the mid-eighties to early nineties, most alien designs in Japanese video games were directly influenced by these seminal films. Don’t believe me? This series will undoubtedly change your mind. The range of influence extends from almost blatant plagiarism, to subtle visual cues that evoke images of the hive from Aliens or the derelict’s corridors in Alien.
I should probably point out that many of the games that I will cover in this series may seem only vaguely gigeresque. My reasoning is that every organic alien environment in a video game owes a debt of gratitude to Giger. The design of the Derelict in Alien and the hive in Aliens (yes, I know the hive wasn’t designed by Giger), are the main source of inspiration for these types of environments. Therefore, there may be times when I’ll cover environments that don’t seem particularly gigeresque, but by virtue of the fact that they’re somewhat hive-like, I feel they’re at least indirectly inspired by Giger.
So what can you expect from this series? My plan is to start with the classics: Contra, R-Type, Gradius, Turrican and Metroid. Next, I’m really looking forward to delving into more obscure games. Expect to see a lot of coverage of japanese shooters from the mid-eighties to the late ninteties. And as always, if you have any suggestions for games that I should cover, please email me at email@example.com. Stay tuned folks!