If you ever had aspirations of being a full-time artist that were tragically placed on the backburner for whatever reason, this simulator by indie development studio Flamebait Games can fulfill your broken dreams. Passpartout: The Starving Artist is exactly what the name suggests: a game that puts you in the position of a struggling artist trying to simultaneously make ends meet and climb the treacherous steps of the art world ladder.
Abusing some silly clichés along the way, with the protagonist being a beret-wearing French painter whose costs are split strictly between rent, baguettes, and wine, the game manages to accurately portray the subjectivity inherent to art and aesthetics. Though you are in charge of making the paintings through an MS Paint-like window pop-up, your actual technical skill is of little importance. Each customer that whisks by your studio (initially a tiny garage with potential for expansion as your art career progresses), comes equipped with their own art preferences, and no matter how well you technically master the game’s digital painting, some will like your work while others will trash it.
“We wanted the art world of Passpartout to be accessible to many, so the game doesn’t look at art in terms of technical ability,” Mattias Lindblad, the CEO of Flamebait Games, tells Creators. “The drawing is of course one of the most important aspects of the game, but it’s more oriented around rewarding a good thought process rather than skillful drawing per se.”
While the notion of intelligent thinking trumping technical skill in art production may seem like the wizened reflections of an artist engaged with the art world, no one from the Passpartout team actually comes from such a background: “None of us have roots in traditional arts or art school,” Lindblad reveals. “But several similarities between the life of an artist and the life of a game developer inspired us during the making of the game. For example, Passpartout [the game’s protagonist] lives paycheck to paycheck, and we can’t help but draw comparisons with our own lives.”
The crossovers between starving French artists and Swedish indie game developers don’t end there: “People make their own interpretations when looking at a painting or watching movies and they also do this when playing video games, which for us is an interesting aspect of art and culture. We also thought it would be funny to watch people make MS Paint-esque art in a game that expects you to paint intricate masterpieces,” Lindblad adds.