The main purpose for most video games is to transport us to another world. To escape the mundane confines of our current existence and go somewhere where we can do things we couldn't/wouldn't do otherwise.
Movies, TV shows and books all do this to varying extent as well.
But what about the ability to transport us to a different world with just a glance. The best sci-fi art can reveal to us an entire universe unlike our own. The masters of this, like Syd Mead, H.R. Giger and Ralph McQuarrie, have inspired countless millions whose work is not as well known, but still magical in its ability to evoke emotion, and more importantly imagination. The type of image so good you want to know more. You want to step into that world to see more.
I couldn't hope to cover all the amazing sci-fi artists and illustrators out there, but here's five that do astounding work. Some you may have heard of, others perhaps not. Many, though, I bet you recognize by sight if not by name.
All of these artists have higher resolution versions of the images below on their websites, along with many, many other cool illustrations.
Stefan Morrell stefan-morrell.com
New Zealand digital artist Stefan Morrell creates elaborate and detailed worlds that are sometimes immaculate, idyllic and utopian, and other times more grungy, and perhaps a dystopian. Maybe "lived in" is more accurate. Either way, the detail and realism in his images is something of wonder. On his website you can see animations of some of these images that are even more incredible.
Dylan Cole dylancolestudio.com
Dylan Cole is a matte painter and concept artist with a resume that reads like a what's-what in Hollywood sci-fi. He's worked on Avatar, Tron Legacy, Lord of the Rings, and dozens of others. He's done art for games like Hellgate: London, Rise of Nations and Halo. He's also done concept art work for the upcoming live action Akira, which is going to need some kind of magic not to suck.
Magic, though, is a good word to describe the life-like nature of Cole's work. The photo-realism is what gets him so much work in matte painting for movies and TV. Fantastic stuff.
Gary Tonge visionafar.com
Conceptual artist Gary Tonge dreams big. Buildings that can be seen from space big. Buildings with spans that go for miles. He's done work for Eidos, Sega, Konami, Capcom and others.
Peter Elson peterelson.co.uk
Peter Elson, along with the next artist on this list, is legendary in the sci-fi community for his extensive cover art. His art (along with Chris Foss) helped inspire the design for the epic space RTS Homeworld.
Michael Whelan michaelwhelan.com
Michael Whelan is one of the pinnacles of sci-fi and fantasy illustrations, winning an unprecedented 15 Hugo Awards. He's done unforgettable covers for books by Asimov, Heinlein, and King and cover art for Meatloaf and others. Over 350 books and dozens of albums covers. He's one of the people most often cited by those discussing who got them into drawing. His work with King, on the Dark Tower series, is stunning. His cover art for Asimov's Foundation series was one of the things that got me into sci-fi.
Most of these artists have some of their images available for sale. Which is about a good excuse for the invention of credit cards as I've ever heard.