I like video games. And I'm guessing if you're reading this you probably like them too. I also like books; all sorts of books, but especially books about video games. Fans who have been following me for any length of time have probably heard me mention that a time or two, especially since I've blogged about them on a number of occasions. I have a blog about my favorite video game fiction books and non-fiction books and anytime I finish another one, I usually post a "book report" summary of it. Well, I'm back again tonight to talk about a specific type of video game book that seems to be gaining in popularity and frequency...

I have a few of them already...and have quite a few others I still want to get. I can't possibly talk about them all in this blog, so instead I'll talk about some of the ones I want the most and encourage you to search on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for others you might be interested in.

If you haven't guessed already or if the title didn't give it away, I'm talking about...

The Art of (insert name of video game here).

These books (normally hardback but some are available in soft cover) do an amazing job capturing the beauty and essence of the game in all of its stunning glory. Some of them show the entire gambit of artwork - from development to production including storyboard and sketches to actual in-game shots. I've never come across one I wasn't totally mesmerized by the beauty contained on the pages.

And the good news is... it seems to be catching on. When you look at the dates and titles of the games being featured in these styles of books, there has definitely been a spike in activity here recently. As previously mentioned, there are quite a few of these books I want and hope to get, but for the sake of this blog, I'll limit it to just a few... Okay, maybe five. In no particular order.

The Art of The Last of Us

Naughty Dog Studios and Dark Horse proudly present the essential companion to The Last of Us, a richly detailed and compelling game set in a post-pandemic world where humans have become an endangered species. Featuring concept art, character designs, and astonishing settings and landscapes, The Art of The Last of Us provides a unique look at one of the gaming world's most eagerly anticipated titles.

-Amazon (check it out here)

My thoughts: Many (myself included) are calling this one of the greatest stories ever told in a video game, so naturally this is a "must have" book for me. Don't be fooled by the game's dark, gritty subject matter and bleak setting. There are plenty of scenes and characters to behold that you might just find captivating. This game (and I'm guessing the art book too) reminds me of The Walking Dead television show, Season 1 - that shows the highway leading into and out of the city. On one side you have cars, bumper to bumper, now abandoned; and the other side you have a lone individual riding a horse. It's an amazing image illustrating the uncertainty of the world, or at least what's left of it...yet it is a powerful and fascinating image. There were plenty of scenes in The Last of Us worth including in a feature such as this and I can't wait to see which they chose to include, no matter how painful it might be.

The Art of Bioshock Infinite

In The Art of BioShock Infinite, delve deeper into the city of Columbia-the fabled floating metropolis that serves as a beacon of technology and achievement for the early 1900s! This deluxe hardcover features production designs and concept illustrations focusing on main characters Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth, and Songbird from the highly anticipated BioShock Infinite video game. See the evolution of the Heavy Hitters, the populace of Columbia, the Sky-Hook, vigors, airships, and much more! This deluxe hardcover also features an introduction from BioShock Infinite Creative Director Ken Levine!

-Amazon (check it out here)

My thoughts: Up until I started playing The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite was the best game I played so far this year and my early pick for Game of the Year. I might've changed my mind now, but the game is still amazing. One of the elements making the game so amazing is its beautiful environments. Imagine a utopian city in the clouds (but not Cloud City from Empire Strikes Back). I can only imagine the breath taking images they could draw from to include in an art book. The game also features some delightful characters I'm guessing could provide some equally impressive glamour shots, but I think it would be really neat if this book includes a lot of the imagery used kind of in the background of the city - some of the politically themed material. Regardless, I'm sure this book will be stunning.

The Art of Deadspace

The Art of Dead Space is the ultimate gallery of the Dead Space universe, with over 300 images including sketches and concept art by acclaimed artists from breathtaking spacescapes to terrifying necromorphs, character designs to creating a religion, plus commentary from the artists themselves. Includes art from Dead Space, Dead Space: Extraction, Dead Space: Ignition, and Dead Space 2.

-Amazon (check it out here)

My thoughts: I've held this one in my hands...and came really close to buying it. My local comic book shop had it, so I was able to flip through it and see some of the images first hand. Many of them are graphic and display the brutality of the game. Necromorphs are extremely shocking entities when they are chasing you down while trying to rip your limbs off, but seeing them not moving on the pages of a book is no less terrifying. There are tons of images from the game and the artists, but don't worry...they're not all scary. If you've played the game, you know how strikingly rendered space can be.

The Art of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Ballistic Publishing has partnered with Sony Computer Entertainment America and Naughty Dog, Inc., to produce The Art of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The biggest Ballistic Publishing art book to date weighs in at 272 pages and features some of the hundreds of drawings, paintings, and sculpts that began the process of making Nathan Drake's world real, and helped make Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Game of the Year. From concept art to character studies, environment art, character modeling, game art, cinematics, motion-capture, animation, and effects, The Art of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the ultimate companion to the award-winning PlayStation 3 game.

-Amazon (check it out here)

My thoughts: Uncharted is easily one of my all-time favorite video game series (right up there with Halo) so naturally I would have this on the list, since I don't already own it. Each of the Uncharted games visits cool places from around the world, and Uncharted 2 witnessed some of my favorites. Just reading the product description sold me on this book - I mean, 272 pages and "features some of the hundreds of drawings, paintings, and sculpts" - what's not to like about that. I haven't seen the book in the stores...haven't broke down and bought it yet...but there is no denying I want it.

Awakening: The Art of Halo 4

A glimpse at the beginning of a new trilogy in the massive global gaming franchise, featuring a stunning array of concept art, character sketches and much, much more.

Halo 4 is the next blockbuster installment in the iconic franchise that shaped entertainment history and defined a decade of gaming. Set in the aftermath of Halo 3, it marks the beginning of a new trilogy as the Master Chief confronts an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe.

Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 will give gamers an in-depth look behind the scenes at the creation of the stunning worlds of Halo 4, with commentary from the art director and game designers throughout. Concept art, character sketches, detailed environments and an additional section on the forthcoming multiplayer game make this the definitive guide to 343 Industries' take on the Halo universe.

-Amazon (check it out here)

My thoughts: I try to buy everything Halo, but with more games and merchandise being released on a near constant basis, it's getting more challenging. I have a few of the Halo art books, but I don't have this one...and I want it. They're gorgeous books...hefty, with tons of pictures...any fan of the series would love them. This will be a special one to own since it was 343 Industries first foray into the series. Yeah, I'll get around to buying it, one day, soon...I hope.

Honorable Mention - The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Hyrule Historia Art Book

Calling all Zelda fans out there! The wait for the 25th Anniversary of the famous game is over. This book is filled with action of your favorite hero that includes art work from the games, character profiles and concept designs, backgrounds, history of The Legend of Zelda, creatures concept designs, comic shorts, interview with the creator, and more. 274 pages. Original Japanese Edition. Japanese text. Colored and B&W. Hardcover with Dust Jacket. Published & Printed in Japan.

-Amazon (check it out here)

My thoughts: Okay, Okay...I know I said five and I meant it. I only include this one because the same comic book store where I saw The Art of Deadspace also had this and its companion on the shelf. I'm not a huge Zelda fan (gasp, I know) but if I were this and the The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia book would be "must haves" since they are pretty much the complete anthology covering the Zelda series (this one is in Japanese apparently, but the Hyrule Historia book is in English). I flipped through them, and even though I'm not a huge fan, I was still impressed by their content.

So, if you're curious about other "Art of" books, well other ones include Borderlands, Assassin's Creed, Remember Me, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, Darksiders, Tomb Raider, God of War, The Old Republic, Gears of War, Metal Gear, Oddworld, Resident Evil, Gran Turismo, World of Warcraft, Soul Calibur...and many others, I'm sure. Just go to Amazon or B&N and search on "art of" - you should have plenty of hits. Good luck choosing.

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." -Thomas Merton

Good Games (and art books)!