For this blog post, I will be discussing Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep and who the artist of this game is. The Kingdom Hearts franchise dates back to the very first game Kingdom Hearts released back in early 2002. KH BBS is the sixth installment of the KH franchise, developed and published by Square Enix, and directed by Tetsuya Nomura, and co-directed by Tai Yasue. It was originally released in 2005 for the PlayStation Portable (PSP), and later released on the PlayStation 3 (PS3), which is the console I played the game on.
The interesting thing about Kingdom Hearts is that it’s a collaboration of Square Enix and Disney Interactive Studios to create a different type of game.
The question is, who in this collaboration is the artist? That is a difficult question to answer as many people were involved in the making of this game. Square and Disney Interactive Studios were both involved in the creation of the game, however, there is one consistent name that follows each game within the franchise: Tetsuya Nomura, the overall director of Kingdom Hearts can be seen as the artist for the game.
Nomura was involved in every aspect of the game, from character design to how each world within the game should look. The aesthetics of the game follow Nomura’s overall direction. The game is an interactive experience. The controls are similar to the first KH games, but different in that there is more player-based interaction and reactive commands during certain elements of combat. With this, Niedenthal’s idea of aesthetics follows this player interaction, “Where hands, senses, bodies and the tangible qualities of games meet, the aesthetic meaning of games emerges” (Niedenthal, p. 7). The player interacting with the game is what creates the aesthetics of it. The game is an experience for the player. The story, the levels of the game, even the character design are all part of the aesthetics. This creates a special interaction of aesthetics for each player. Each player is going to have a different experience of the game, and through that experience of playing, the aesthetics come from that.
This game follows three main protagonists: Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. They are unique characters specifically designed for the Kingdom Hearts games, whereas some other characters, such as multiple Disney characters (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy), as well as Final Fantasy characters (Cloud, Sephiroth, Leon) are all in the game. Each character has a unique backstory or important part in the game that connects with the main story in some way, creating a new game universe. The game itself consists of multiple worlds in which the player can visit and interact with the characters on that world. Each world consists of a different Disney universe, such as a world exclusive to Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.
Becker focuses on Art Worlds and the collective activity surrounding each piece of art, “The forms of cooperation may be ephemeral, but often become more or less routine, producing patterns of collective activity we can call an art world” (Becker, p. 1). Becker believes that this focus on the collective activity is what makes art. Each KH game has its own worlds within the game itself that the player can travel to and interact with. This distinct gameplay is what makes the game. In this way, the game itself has elements of different game worlds. This is an interesting way of making a game, as most video games only have one exclusive game world in which the player can be.
More than this, Nomura was not the only person to work on the game. He is the main game designer and director of the game, but the collective activity that went into making the game created the individuality that the game consists of. Each world within the game was created by someone else, and the characters and story were all developed by different people. The game world that the people from Square Enix created is an interesting world, unlike any other, except for the other games within the Kingdom Hearts world.
Overall, Nomura is the artist for this game. This is an important aspect of understanding the game because he was the one who created the worlds in which players can play. The game has a distinct play style that is different from other games. It is important to understand that Nomura is the artist because he brought in the elements of the game that really made the game. He designed and oversaw the Final Fantasy characters, and those core elements from the FF characters went into the creation of the main characters in the game. The main characters could have easily resembled Disney characters, but with the FF characters, there was a mix between the two that created the characters specific to Kingdom Hearts.
Howard Becker. (1982). “Art Worlds and Collective Activity” in Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press: pp. 1-39.
Simon Niedenthal. (2009). “What We Talk About When We Talk About Game Aesthetics.” In DiGRA 2009: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory.