The fate of pixel art

The generations of gamers with a few decades on their shoulders have grown in close contact with pixelart , but with the evolution of technology this graphic style could almost seem relegated to productions with a nostalgic flavor, of difficult interest for younger players. What awaits us a future without pixel art?

Just take a tour on the most popular social networks to understand what has been happening for a month now: excluding a handful of exceptions, the whole world and maybe even someone on the moon – which is actually a film studio so let’s take away the maybe – is playing his majesty Elden Ring . At the same time as I write these lines, probably more than one is completing yet another run with a different class, someone else is intent on shattering the Guinness World Record for speedrun ( half an hour or less , if I’m not mistaken) and, in some dark place, some chemically unbalanced individual is throwing himself head down against the imagery created by From Software armed only with underwear and a lot of optimism. There is.


In fact, there is everything and its opposite in this case. Regardless of personal tastes, regardless of what you think of soulslike, the latest grind of the duo Hidetaka Miyazaki (not to be confused with the Hayao Miyazaki of the studio Ghibli, but what am I telling you to do?) And George RR Martin not it is only THE game of the moment, but also the most serious candidate for GOTY 2022, for the victory of the upcoming GF VIP and a couple of other secondary awards such as the Nobel and Oscar.

Now, I don’t know what your relationship is with illo but as far as I’m concerned I know that one day I’ll play it as it deserves. As an omnivore passionate about video games that I am but also as a non-fanatic of soulslike, I feel inside that I want-must-can do it and I will do it, I promised it to myself and I consider myself one who keeps his word. My Ancestral Ring digital edition is there on the Series X SSD , looking forward to the moment of our first real appointment, as if it were itself a boss against whom, when astral-domestic-working coincidences allow it, sooner or later. then I’ll have to deal with it if I’m really going to find out how memorable the view beyond the obstacle is. However, this is not the day, now it is time for something else for me.


To be precise, it is time for an avalanche of pixels and little monsters not terrifying to see, but above all for a light at the end of the gameplay loop tunnel that I would never want to reach because at the bottom where it is written that all addictions are bad? You will have to have some vice, right? Even Ned Flanders is a religion addict, come on. Thank you so much Brom for introducing me to that little gem that he goes by the name of Vampire Survivors . You know which game I’m referring to, right? You saw the recent live on TGM’s Twitch channelwith our Gabriel, right? If either or both of these questions are negative, stop reading right away, log into Steam, shell out the price of a couple of coffees and enjoy the state-of-the-art Bullet Hell concept. My rant in the form of an editorial can wait, I write UHT bullshit so there is no rush. Done? Good. Simply sublime, do you agree with me? Vampire Survivors is the essence of the term “video game” in its purest and most genuine incarnation. Among other things, this concentrate of gameplay is of our own workmanship, the author is Luca “poncle” Galanteand that adds an abundant hint of tricolor pride to the experience that certainly doesn’t hurt, a bit as if each of the many extremely positive reviews on Steam were about us rather than about Italian opera.

pixel art

Forgive me, I’m doing something again that I did, alas, all too well at school: getting off topic. We get to the point, this is also a promise, indeed let’s do it immediately because after all the reflection was born right after a session at Vampire Survivors. Beyond the undeniable strengths including – as far as I’m concerned – a maximum duration of 30 minutes per game stands outGod willing, the poncle game won me over with disarming ease also because it belongs to a vintage trend that has never gone out of fashion. As a good class of ’84 born with a passion for videogames, the graphic style of Vampire Survivors reminds me of a distant past in which anything interactive made up of pixels was all I needed to be happy. For those who lived at the forefront of the golden age of videogames and immediate surroundings, the 80s – 90s let’s say, I think it is impossible to look at a sprite in pixel art with eyes devoid of feeling.


Let’s get back to us. A few days ago, while I was urgently changing a diaper shortly after playing Vampire Surv … working on the PC , along with the hot water a question spontaneously arose: is pixel art destined to die with us? Let me explain better, although perhaps I could stop here, immediately after having launched the question like a boulder in a lake. In many years from now on, when entire generations of gamers raised on bread and pixels will be just the umpteenth layer of dust swept away by the scythe of the Grim Reaper and, of course, the sentimental videogame ties will be completely different, what will happen?


Pixel art, for many of us a sort of time machine dedicated exclusively to travels into the past, for others a current of thought rather than something vintage, will inevitably end up in the abyss of the oblivion of collective memory., down there where technologies made obsolete and obsolete by the inexorable flow of progress are amassed? It is a possibility, already. On the other hand, the relatively short history of video games is made up of periods of variable length influenced by the technological capabilities of the moment and by the intensity of the evolutionary escalation, not to mention trends or the race for the most profitable business. With all possible respect for its historical-cultural value, putting aside the emotional aspect for a moment, I imagine that if I showed Super Mario Bros. on NES to any ten-year-old boy it would be very difficult to entice him to roll up his sleeves to save Princess Peach, indeed it is possible that she will liquidate me with a look of compassion mixed with disgust and the word boomersince for him, rightly, now the standard has a completely different shape and sex appeal than the adorably raw one of the 1985 vintage plumber mustachioed (1987 in Europe).

I do not rule out being slightly biased, however I have great doubts about such a hypothesis. Pixel artists know how to treasure contemporary technologies to refine their technique and this is demonstrated by the remarkable aesthetic advances evident in modern productions such as Narita Boy or Dead Cells , just to mention the first two successes in pixel art that come to mind . I am not at all sure that pixel art will lose its vigor or perhaps disappear together with the last diehard members of the club “loyal to the squares”, when our place in gaming stations around the world will be taken by the gamers of the future who have grown up following canons. very different aesthetics.
I like to think that even in countless years, after the discovery of who knows what graphic engines with unimaginable potential for us who drool at the very thought of the next The Witcher in Unreal Engine 5 , there will always be videogame archaeologists willing to dig into the history of our medium to bring to light precious shelled fossils capable of conquering anyone who is sensitive to their most unique and rare personality. Unique and immortal as we know so well, boomers or whatever you think it doesn’t matter, that we will be tied to that charismatic style of expression until death do us part because, where some see the limits imposed by the geometric shape, we appreciate the skill of the artist in masking them by playing with chromatic gradationsbecause we arrived at those charming little squares starting from Asteroid vectors or even before, we never forgot them even when polygons, three dimensions, photorealism or Ray Tracing arrived and, I’m sure, we won’t even forget them after discovering all the wonders that await us around the next corner of life.

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