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Pixel Art in Indie Games: Moving backwards on purpose

I’m sure you’ve noticed. It seems like pixel art is a popular element among indie games. The choice to use retro graphics can seem unoriginal at times, no matter how well done the artwork is. With today’s rapid advances in technology, video game graphics are getting more and more lifelike. So why is pixel art so common? Why are we going backwards? There are actually several reasons.

Resources

Usually an indie game is made by one or more people who don’t have the resources that a triple A development company does. Professional companies can hire people that have professional experience in 3D modeling or graphic design. If no one on the indie game team knows how to make photo-realistic video game graphics, it makes sense to just use pixel art.

3D modeling requires a pretty good computer with specific software. Pixel art only needs the built-in drawing software that comes with your operating system and almost any computer will do. These guidelines also apply to the player. A game with old-fashioned graphics is generally more accessible to gamers that don’t have the most high-end hardware.

Success

One of the most popular games of all time is Minecraft. One of the most successful video game Kickstarter campaigns is Shovel Knight. One of the highest selling games on Steam is Terraria. They all use those colored squares to make their visuals pop.

After enjoying games such as these, your mind begins to make a subtle link between your good memories and the pixelated graphics. While scrolling through a Steam sale, this style of graphics is more likely to catch your eye. I know this from experience.

Nostalgia

To build upon my previous point, your memories can really affect what you buy. Thinking back to playing the SNES as a kid or any similar game consoles can make anyone wish that they could revisit “the good old days”. That’s how they can get you.

Seeing a spiritual successor to a game from your childhood can really get you hyped, but it’s easy to remember things to be better than they actually are. At the same time, your memories could be completely accurate. It’s just hard to tell sometimes. Either way, it can definitely sway your decision about what your next video game purchase is.

Conclusion

Pixel art has plenty of benefits. When it’s done right, you can have some really beautiful characters and sceneries. Although it sometimes seems like a generic design choice, the designers most likely have a reason for it.

Totofire makes indie game reviews on YouTube. He is also working on video game development. He also thinks writing in third-person is weird. You can follow @totothegamer on Twitter, and on YouTube

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