They create worlds: Pentiment

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

In the early years of video games, their aesthetics were limited mainly by technology: by the resolution of the graphics or the number of colours that a system could produce and display on the screen at the same time, or by CPU speed. The best programmers and artists could do wonderful things within those limitations, and you can enjoy great pixel art even today, when computers can produce real-time visuals that are vastly more complex.

These days, video game graphics are much less limited by the tech the games run on, so a lot of games – especially in the so-called AAA segment, i.e. the games with the biggest budgets and the largest teams of developers – aim for photorealism. At the same time, smaller developers who don’t necessarily have the resources to create virtual worlds that visually are getting less and less distinguishable from reality, have a vast range of possibilities to work with those very different limitations: they might create games that use different kinds of stylisation, that look like vintage animation or paper cutouts or jagged fever dreams. In modern games, we may find aesthetics that don’t harken back to the ’70s and ’80s, with their blocky pixels and four-frame animations, but to times when video games were entirely inconceivable.

Continue reading