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Pixel Art in Games – Nostalgic or Indie Standard?
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As we move forward with publicity efforts for Windforge on Steam Greenlight, one theme seems to be re-occuring for many of the games I see succeeding the most: pixel (or other some derivative of “bit”) art. I mean, McPixel for example, even has it in the name (interesting looking game by the way, definitely check it out). Likewise for the Dev Log forums on TIGSource – many new projects are being made with pixel art.

Left 4 Dead Pixel Art
Imagine if you played through all of Left 4 Dead in pixel art! (Well, you can)

Pixel art has tended to be associated with indie games. It’s certainly a separate art form – and I would imagine it’s a little simpler to make awesome looking pixel art than it is to make AAA-level 3D graphics with a smaller (or even one-man!) team. Another consideration is when making a game – it’s important to keep the art quality consistent throughout and some people may find it easier to lower that quality bar instead of attempt to raise it incredibly high. Nevertheless, in some of Windforge‘s comments from across the Net, it feels like we’ve seen a lot of people asking for “more retro graphics” or straight “pixel art”. For me at least, it’s confusing. Sure pixel art looks cool and has a lot to stand on its own – but why are so many people set on seeing all indie games adhere to it?

In a few of the articles, blog posts and various rants that I’ve read on the topic – people simply seem to be into it for the nostalgia factor. It reminds them of the yesteryear of gaming – when 2D pixel art was the best many systems could produce and the period in which many people grew up as gamers. Proper two-way interpretation (both with the artists making sure graphics portrayed what they wanted, and players interpreting them properly) was an absolute requirement. Admittedly, this was the same period I “grew up” in, as far as games go – but maybe I was a bit quicker to jump onto the 3D graphics on the N64 and PlayStation instead of enjoying tons of titles on the SNES just a few years before.

Now don’t get me wrong, nostalgia can be fun – but at the same time, it can get old quick. Pixel art might start to become a whole lot less “unique” than developers are making it out to be. Does that mean we’re on the edge of an “indie art renaissance”? Probably not; that’s a lot to ask for. Is pixel art here to stay? Well, that’s still to be decided.

Where has the surge in pixel art come from? Why is it suddenly so popular?