Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a longtime gamer and freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in business and marketing, he has written in the past for WRAL Tech Wire and GameArgus.com. He currently plays Xbox 360 and PC as well as Nintendo DS. For story ideas, tips and feedback, he can be reached via e-mail (ryannicksmith@gmail.com)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Epic Games’ mega-selling “Gears of War” franchise is a great showcase for game industry art talent. It has some of the most beautiful yet tragic set pieces and levels you will find in any video game. So it is fitting that Epic has put on a fan art contest through art mega website deviantART.

The grand prize winner goes to Aeonsend, with a masterfully done piece that shows both primary foes of the most recent Gears game: “Gears of War 3.” On the left it shows the creepy and highly evolved Lambent, while on the right it shows the physical might of the classic enemy the Locust. In the middle, as the target of both, stands a solo Marcus Fenix, the main protagonist of the trilogy, as a lightning bolt serves as the only illumination, a perfect depiction of the dark science fiction setting.

Epic judges would state it is “Somber, moody and just feels poignant,” with “cool lighting and composition” and is overall “stunning work.”

What did the grand prize winner Aeonsend receive? Nothing less than $10,000 cash, an Xbox360 limited edition Gears of War 3/console bundle, 8,000 deviantART points, a dA PRO Digital Artist’s Backpack, a deviantWEAR T-Shirt of their choice and a one-year premium deviantART membership.

To the second and third place winners went $1,000 cash, a copy of Gears of War 3, an Xbox360 4GB console, 5,000 deviantART points, a dA PRO Digital Artist’s Backpack, a deviantWEAR t-shirt of their choice and a 6 month (3 month for third place) premium membership to deviantART.

Second place went to user wwudesign, and is also a great depiction of the Gears of War setting, this time providing a great view of the typical landscape found on Sera-the planet that serves as home to the series-. A dark and overcast sky, filled with enemy ships, as Delta Squad stares thoughtfully at what they must overcome. Epic would describe it as “ominous, bleak and soul crushing, it fits great into the Gears universe.”

Third place winner Kapow2003 would give a different take on the Gears franchise, described by judges as a “very cool stylized take on the Gears world. Always great to see the characters and setting through another lens.” I am a big fan of this piece, titled “final stand” it not only gives a great impression of the Game, with Marcus, Anya and Carmine all fighting back to back, but also it is done in a more Steampunk Anime style to give it a unique feel.

Personally it is probably my favorite of the three, the Steampunk style gives it a unique flavor, but also showcases the characters and locations of Gears well enough to provide little doubt of what it is.

But it is no crushing defeat for the other 97 finalists in the contest, although they miss out on the bigger prizes and the prestige, they are still getting $200 cash and a $60 copy of Gears of War 3!

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